Barriers to Digital Signage Ubiquity Keep Tumbling
It’s increasingly a “look ma, no seams!” world for Digital Signage, with chips that conserve power, GPUs that can do the heavy lifting, automated software platforms and mobile device interaction—to name but a few of the technologies involved-—all playing a role.
“Seamless” is a word that found its way into more than one of our digital signage round table participant’s responses, as you’ll note in what we’ve shared here and in the longer online version. For instance, AMD is putting its embedded family of accelerated processing units (APUs), system on a chips (SoCs) and discrete GPUs to work for digital signage. Katie Eckermann, Visual Embedded Senior Marketing Manager in AMD’s Embedded Solutions group, believes digital signage “ will become a seamless part of our everyday life, to the point where we may not even realize it’s ‘classic’ digital signage.”
Hussain Ali, Principal at Houston Dynamic Displays, brings up “seamless” in a slightly different way, describing technology advances that can bring four individual media players together into “one seamless canvas.”“Unexpected” also made more than one appearance. “Digital signage will emerge in all sorts of places, from the displays we’ve become used to viewing daily, to those in unexpected situations,” says Product Manager Jody Smith at digital out-of-home (DOOH) software solutions company BroadSign International. Navdeep Reddy, CIO & Co-founder, Enplug, agrees. “Digital signage is due for an explosion in some unexpected places as the forward march of technology continues to cause the cost of chips and displays to plummet,” believes Reddy.
Following are edited excerpts from our participants’ responses.
EECatalog: How do the solutions you offer leverage high CPU performance-to-power ratio and/or how do they leverage other supporting technology strengths?
Katie Eckermann, AMD: AMD’s scalable portfolio of integrated System on Chips (SoCs) and discrete graphics solutions address the varying performance levels of digital signage and point of sales (POS) products. By leveraging high-performance x86 cores and world-class graphics technology, AMD offers SoC and discrete graphics solutions that can drive multiple 4K displays and hardware acceleration for video codecs like H.265 (HEVC) in a power-efficient environment.
AMD Eyefinity technology helps to simplify the software by creating a Single-Large-Surface (SLS) for complex multi-display solutions. These technologies combined together help to drive the next generation of rich, interactive digital signage and POS offerings.
Navdeep Reddy, Enplug: Enplug’s device currently uses the Exynos 5422 SoC. This is an octa-core ARM based processor manufactured by Samsung, better known as the chip that powers the Galaxy S5 smartphone.
Since its original design specifications were molded around a flagship smartphone use case, the chip is built to use relatively little power (for battery life), while still offering high levels of performance for media-intensive tasks like high definition video playback and gaming.
All the same factors that make such a processor great on a smartphone make it great for digital signage. The form factor is small, the low energy use translates to low TDP, and the media capabilities allow for beautiful, dynamic signage.
Hussain Ali, Houston Dynamic Displays: Four years ago we were doing some animation and using flash, and the processor we recommended at that time was an Intel® Core™ i5, which had just come out, and we were thinking should it be i5 or Intel® Core™ i7. Today if I have to create that same rendering, we are pretty easily running that on an Intel Celeron processor just because we are using HTML 5. It is an amazing transition that has happened over the years. Before, anybody who wanted to do video would look at higher CPU power, because for animation we were limited to using Adobe Flash, which is CPU-intensive as well—those things are in the past. Now we are looking more and more toward how a GPU can accelerate the animation and graphics processing by virtue of the GPU effectively taking over from the CPU nearly all the burden of calculation involved in graphical rendering. When a browser detects the need for more complex calculations, it switches from CPU to CPU-and-GPU operation.
Within HTML 5 developments are happening that are pushing the envelope even further. Let’s say for a video wall solution I have to display native resolution for each display, I would use a media player that would have four outputs for each one of those screens and I would need a really high-end machine to run all that content at that resolution. With HTML 5 I can do four individual media players and sync them together to provide one seamless canvas at native resolution.
Software technologies can affect how we utilize hardware on our end. With regard to the CPUs, AMD took over the GPU performance lead from Intel back in 2011. But Intel has since worked hard to close that gap significantly, while AMD Eyefinity technology expands the traditional limits of desktop computing by multiplying your screen area, which is also an added benefit for digital signage.
EECatalog: Where we will we see what we have been categorizing as “digital signage” technology pop up? What will fuel its spread into new markets?
Jody Smith, BroadSign International: Being a versatile medium containing a host of capabilities, digital signage will emerge in all sorts of places, from the displays we’ve become used to viewing daily to those in unexpected situations.
To fuel the expansion of digital signage into new markets, familiarity is key. One way to familiarize the public with the medium is by making it attention-grabbing and relevant. Achieving this is a breeze with the right digital signage CMS. By using an automated software platform, campaigns can be scheduled with ease and relevant content can be dynamically generated. During this year’s Olympics, for example, location-specific medal counts played on digital displays helps attract attention by educating viewers in a fun way.
Digital signage is full of tech surprises, enabling media owners to delight viewers with interactive displays, engage the audience with cross-platform mobile integrations and implement social media campaigns.
Reddy, Enplug: Digital signage is due for an explosion in some unexpected places as the forward march of technology continues to cause the cost of chips and displays to plummet. As early as 2012, Entertainment Weekly was able to afford embedding what amounted to an entire Android phone into its print magazine to display video and live tweets. With the strong hardware trend supporting IoT applications, look forward to even more low cost displays of all sizes, and to even more creative signage applications.
Eckermann, AMD: Digital signage, which traditionally has been a static one-way method of advertisement, will likely in the future become a seamless part of our everyday life, to the point where we may not even realize it is “classic” digital signage. As new processor and software technologies emerge, it will bring a new wave of higher definition content, reduced form factors and increased user interactivity that will drive new ways the technology can be used.
Good examples of that today are the new ways being explored that mobile devices can interact with digital signage to drive personalized user experiences and help bridge the online to brick-and-mortar store divide. This trend has the potential to drive innovation into the traditional digital signage world.
“Telehealth is an area of technology that is helping to bring healthcare access to remote locations around the world and to individuals who live far away from primary healthcare facilities. By leveraging and combining the same technology found in kiosks, consumer devices, and medical equipment, companies are looking to enable more accessible and accurate healthcare for remote locations and for remote monitoring. The ability of processor technologies to drive rich video conferencing capabilities, with hardware assisted encoding and decoding of HD video streams, while also providing high performance computing capabilities in very low power envelopes, is helping create a new generation of healthcare technologies and requirements.”
— Katie Eckermann, AMD
EECatalog: How is mobile changing POS and what is the best way to capitalize on this?
Ali, Houston Dynamic Displays: The concept of being able to order online has shifted to the point that mobile has taken center stage. People took the idea of ordering online and said, “Hey, might as well set this up for my entire store. And now I have this mobile-based ordering system, which is not only valid in-store, it’s also valid online; it’s valid when somebody walks into my store, and I have a tablet. It’s valid when somebody’s standing behind the station. Because it is all online, all my menu information is in one place and I can utilize that in a lot of different ways.”
There are companies that not only do online POS systems, they also allow you to present menu information to your customers via tablet in-store—that same menu information can be integrated with your website; your mobile website, or in an app. And they are displaying that menu information in the store on larger displays as digital signage. You can walk into a busy McDonald’s and say, “Hey there is a long line, but there is a kiosk, let me just put my order through the kiosk.”
So now that is the norm and the online POS is taking center stage because it did not start there—people were adding on the online piece, adding on the other options to their typical POS systems, and doing the integration. But that is the old way of doing it and the question was asked, “Why are we doing it via integration [instead] of just creating a product?”
The concept of omni-channel marketing is taking hold in retail and will drive more and more mobile point of sale systems in a much deeper way than we see now.
Eckermann, AMD: Mobile POS is changing the experience expectation of POS, and is transforming the art of selling as well as the act of buying. It is bringing more of the consumer experience to the process of purchasing, and is a gateway for more tablet-like technologies and different form factors, while also widening the number of POS suppliers due to the number of POS applications in various app stores. It is also an enabling tool for assisted selling, allowing a sales person to provide multiple options and information prior to the final purchase.
Smith, BroadSign International: Mobile is changing the POS landscape by doing exactly what its name implies—allowing consumers to be mobile while paying. Convenience encourages consumers to make immediate purchase decisions and receive instant gratification. Mobile reduces a big barrier to purchase: the queue and its associated wait time. Moreover, it enables remote purchases, increasing efficiency and accessibility for the consumer.
Retailers can capitalize on this trend by implementing mobile and POS integration in their retail locations. Whether it’s enabling shoppers to pre-purchase items remotely, then pick up in-store (we’re already seeing this at Starbucks) or allowing customers to skip the line at the brick-and-mortar by purchasing the desired items through mobile, the main goal is to ensure the consumer’s path to purchase is made as smooth and barrier-free as possible.
All that said, even the best mobile POS technology is irrelevant if users are unaware of its existence or don’t know how to use it. This is where digital signage can be used to increase adoption and awareness.
EECatalog: Do you see momentum continuing for digital signage in educational applications?
Eckermann, AMD: Technologies leveraged for digital signage, such as 4K displays, eye-catching graphics, rich multimedia content, and interactive capabilities are well aligned for office and education collaboration tools. The rise of the interactive whiteboard market is a great example of this, particularly when coupled with video conferencing capabilities to enable remote learning. The same processor technology that drives advanced digital signage is also well suited to drive next generation collaboration devices. Plus the technology has advanced to a point where these devices can now fit into a school, university, or office environment from a power, performance and cost standpoint.
Digital Signage Federation
The Digital Signage Federation is the only independent, not-for-profit trade organization serving the digital signage industry. The DSF supports and promotes the common business interests of worldwide digital signage, interactive technologies and digital out-of-home network industries.