Video Analytics Alter the Digital Signage Landscape

The intersection of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the embedded ecosystem is just one reason video analytics is energizing the digital signage sector.

congatec AG is an associate member of the Intel® Internet of Things Solutions Alliance and collaborates closely with Intel.

Editor’s note: Our thanks to Dan Demers, director of Americas, congatec, who recently explained how a number of developments are helping digital signage systems capitalize on video analytics.

EECatalog: Digital signage is certainly a growing market segment. Are there any technologies or market demands that are contributing to this growth?

Dan Demers, congatec: I think it is fair to say that by now we have all noticed the vast increase in LCD screens that provide us information—from those in grocery stores to roadside signs. The digital approach offers retailers and suppliers of information more options and increased flexibility when it comes to attracting and informing us. Adding to these options today is the field of video analytics, which is opening the next realm of possibilities for those companies trying to reach and understand consumers. Video analytics has a role to play as well in enabling companies to predict what it is we want to see and learn more about. An organization can also use video analytics to learn more about itself. As video analytics become more sophisticated, they will become a major vehicle for true communication between information provider and information receiver. Today’s embedded computer platforms are poised to provide the necessary backbone to make video analytics-based systems a reality on a large scale.

EECatalog: What are some of the key requirements for the technology needed by digital signage companies that participate in video analytics?

Demers, congatec: In the not so distant past, systems with the type of horsepower needed to execute video analytics software were quite expensive and often not ideal in size for many installs and applications. In addition, many platforms lacked adequate security features. However, today many silicon providers offer low-power, multicore processors that are much lower in cost and substantially easier to package in smaller, lighter weight systems. What’s more, many of these systems are much easier to package for extended temperature ranges, which opens up more opportunities for location installs of the signage. It is also common to see security features embedded in the silicon these days. When you step back and look at what is available in the embedded market for multicore, security rich, small form factor solutions, the number is quite high. For instance, COM Express modules that measure a mere 95mm by 95mm are housing the latest Intel® Core™ processors. That is a very small form factor that packs a lot of power, the kind of power needed for video analytics.

EECatalog: What other areas of concern can come into play for video analytics-based digital signage systems?

Demers, congatec: As mentioned previously, one area of concern can often be environmental. Not all digital signage systems are in temperature-controlled environments like shopping malls or doctors’ offices. In these cases consumer-derived systems are not going to work, at least not for long. Environmental concerns make a case for sourcing a truly embedded and ruggedized solution. In addition to the physical environment that the system resides in, the operation cycle is something that must be considered. If the organization is looking to install a system that runs 24/7, again a consumer-derived system will not be adequate. In both of these cases using a system that has a higher level of design concern is necessary.

EECatalog: How do embedded systems benefit video analytics based digital signage systems?

Demers, congatec: Unlike basic digital signage systems that often utilize consumer-oriented hardware, video analytics systems need robust and long-life product. Embedded systems, such as those based on Computer-On-Modules, offer flexibility and faster time to market. Obviously there is more than one company in the video analytics space, so like most industries, beating your competition to market with a product is always a desirable outcome. Embedded systems offer a nice base platform to build from in order to create that perfect fit solution. As I mentioned earlier, today’s embedded systems often take advantage of security features native to the silicon. So, this layer of concern is also addressed in embedded systems for the digital signage supplier.

EECatalog: Where do you see digital signage moving to in the future?

Demers, congatec: Video analytics really do open the door for a lot of additional information to be obtained. Based on that, I expect to see even more sophisticated video analytics features being integrated into digital signage. At some point, I would expect nearly all digital signage systems to have some form of video analytics capability. As the costs of components and embedded solutions fall and the capabilities increase we will see more opportunity for the proliferation of video analytics. Because of the sheer number of potential installs, I also believe silicon providers and embedded solution providers will focus more and more on this area. I once heard that the business goal for Coca-Cola was to have a Coke within arms reach of everyone on the planet. Not sure that was actually a goal of Coca-Cola, however, I got the point, instant availability. I believe the digital signage market has a similar goal. I am sure they would like to have digital signage in as many places as possible and be able to reach consumers and people in need of information as quickly as possible. As the cost of goods decreases, this opens up opportunities to put digital signage in places it does not exist today. We hear a lot about IoT these days. When you break down a digital signage system with video analytics capabilities it is obvious that this is a system that can heavily benefit from IoT features found in the embedded space. We are talking about low-power, long-life, secure and flexible solutions. All based on platforms that have proven IoT track records and don’t mandate that the digital signage supplier recreate the wheel.

demersDan Demers is Director of Marketing for the Americas at congatec Inc. He holds a B.B.A. degree in International Business from Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids, Michigan and an M.B.A. from Ashford University, Clinton, Iowa. Demers has over 13 years of experience in embedded computing having worked with Fortune 500 companies in the medical, military, and communications markets.

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