Hardware habits: digital signage changes shape at ISE 2013



Curved screens were amongst the hardware innovations at IS

Curved screens were amongst the hardware innovations at IS

Digital signage at ISE 2013 in Amsterdam occupied three halls and had 273 companies exhibiting. But DOOH also extended beyond it. Big players such as Samsung, NEC, LG and Christie took large stands showing their display propositions to a record 44,151 attendees – an eight per cent rise on last year’s numbers.

The focus on the end user experience was apparent throughout the show, with companies presenting new smartphone interactivity applications, multi-touch surfaces, transparency and unusually shaped screens.

Also following end user habits, there was a big Twitter presence. Prysm, Scala and NEC all used twitter feeds to populate their screens with content. Prysm’s 3D graphic twitter shuffle tower in the press office was particularly clever; the company partnered with software developer X2O Media for this application. Meanwhile, Scala presented an interactive screen communication solution that consumers can manage using mobile and tablet devices, also integrated with Twitter. There were more than 7,000 tweets generated at the show on the official hashtag, #ISE2013.

Screen shapes no longer need to be rectangular. On display we saw the beehive shape of Eyevis’s rear-projection modules, Distec’s triangular TFT models and elongated rectangular displays, like LG’s. More flexible arrangements, such as Mitsubishi’s OLED and Prysm’s Laser Phosphor Display (LPD), allow for curved screens.

The emphasis on shapes didn’t end there. Size factor is increasing, not just in terms of the individual display but also in combined displays and videowalls for larger format installations used to stun the passerby and capture their attention. A solid example was the array of screens on Samsung’s stand, arranged at an angle and creating a virtual wall without actually being mounted. NEC also featured the Pixel Machine – a videowall of 23 X55UN displays, powered by Hiperwall.

The main thing to consider for these large and creative displays is that the requirement for a decent image at this sort of scale takes us beyond full HD. There was a lot of talk about 4K resolution (or Ultra) for large video walls. 4K is commonplace in cinemas, but it’s still to come to signage – although some manufacturers, including Planar, launched screens to anticipate this need.

On their search for life-like experiences screen manufacturers have been investigating colour-accurate displays. An example of this is the SpectraView range from NEC, some of which is Fogra-certified. Simon Jackson, vice-president at NEC Display Solutions in Northern Europe, explains: “Being able to show exactly the same colour on screen as the one displayed at a store is very popular amongst retailers. The customer can see a sweater, for instance, and at the same time a screen will show a model wearing it.”

Even though 3D is still not widely spread in DOOH, many companies were showing 3D technology with and without glasses. These included Eyevis’s 3D active stereo rear-projection display OmniShapes, Alioscopy’s 42″ (106cm) thin bezel screen and Phillips, which had increased viewing autostereoscopic viewing angles since ISE 2012.

There were also some interesting box displays using translucent screens and interactive technology: SiComputer showcased its Explora Vitra and Crystal Display Systems set up a massive 70″ full HD, TFT LCD panel with touchscreen interaction via IR.

Gesture-based interaction and multi-touch were also popular in both vertical and horizontal configuration; leading the way on ease-of-use are kiosks solutions such as Pyramid Computer’s Polytouch models, capable of detecting 20 simultaneous touches at an ultra-fast 10 millisecond response time, now with modular auxiliary functions, such as swipe card and receipt printing. ISE had its own interactive pathfinder touchscreens, but they were slow and not very intuitive. Omnivision provided the software and Prestop the hardware, but they’ll have to try harder for next year to win over visitors.

New partnerships included the news that content outfit ComQi has given hardware company Kramer exclusive rights to manufacture, sell and market its media distribution products; ComQi will also be able to market and distribute the Kramer range. Scala’s collaboration with StreamAlot will see music incorporated into its solutions, while it is also integrating its enterprise software with the plug-and-play Samsung Smart Signage Platform. Signagelive is also working with Samsung in a new bid to offer off-the-shelf applications. AOpen announced its OpenService, a consultancy model previously launched in North America, hoping to deliver custom digital communications to provide better interconnectivity and an improved end user experience.

There was nothing totally new at ISE: we saw, in the main, advances of what’s been tried and tested. Moving forward, the industry needs more thought leadership and cross-platform standardisation to allow more effective project deployment.

First published 8 February 2013 – Output

OpenSplash: adoption and opportunity

OpenSplash's only requirement is that its logo be displayed clearly for three seconds at start-up (image © Sergej Khackimullin / Fotolia, adapted)

OpenSplash’s only requirement is that its logo be displayed clearly for three seconds at start-up (image © Sergej Khackimullin / Fotolia, adapted)

It’s been over a year since Ayuda’s open-source digital signage player, OpenSplash, was donated to the industry. OpenSplash is a free, multi-platform media player designed to be driven by any network-based content management system (CMS). A few companies, including ComQi, Onelan, X20 Media and signagelive, have taken up the opportunity that this player offers. But the question is, why aren’t more businesses adopting it?

Andrew Neale is a digital signage expert who has been involved with OpenSplash from the very beginning, and Marc Benson, chief technology officer at cloud-based digital signage software provider signagelive, are both members of the OpenSplash steering committee.

“At signagelive we see OpenSplash as an opportunity for vendors, system integrators and most importantly innovative minds to create differentiating and engaging solutions using a solid foundation,” Benson explains. “OpenSplash contains all the core functionality expected of a media player whilst enabling developers to customise and extend virtually any part of the application.

“Although that sounds a bit like ‘techie marketing’, having a high-quality core solution enables new ideas to be delivered quickly and with confidence, knowing that your application is built on a solid foundation that can be connected to any CMS provider. This must be a compelling proposition for anyone looking to build a solution.”

The idea with OpenSplash is that companies will be able to use their content management system and build a quality media player without having to reinvent the wheel. Having a common player platform could also promote standards for within the digital signage industry, which would be highly beneficial, with the added benfit of making it easier for legacy networks to migrate into new, more sophisticated networks.

Neale points out: “One obvious benefit that has emerged when talking to vendors and network operators is that there is a need for standardisation. This is especially apparent when mergers and acquisitions mean that operators end up with running a number of platforms to manage their assets. This is inefficient and unnecessarily difficult to manage successfully.

“Because of the modular structure of OpenSplash, any migration process from one CMS to another would be much easier as there would only need to be an update to an existing OpenSplash player, rather than having to replace the player completely. We heard of a case where the operator had to deal with over ten legacy platforms in one portfolio.”

Interoperability and standardisation are two factors that have brought other industries forward, enabling better collaboration between businesses and reducing development costs.

“OpenSplash is not the first attempt at standardisation within our industry, and I doubt it will be the last,” says Benson. “However, I don’t believe we have yet seen the out-of-home industry fully embrace OpenSplash. I think this can probably be attributed to most vendors having a fear of losing control of the end point, but this fear is unfounded.

“Conversely, many screen manufactures bundle poor-quality software solutions to enable them to sell their panels as the software is free. By bundling OpenSplash, the consumer has choice of CMS to fit their needs – whether they opt for a commercial platform, such as signagelive, or a free platform.”

signagelive has invested heavily into ensuring that as much functionality as possible is available to any unit connecting to its platform, no matter how simple the end device may be. Benson continues: “Later this year we will be releasing our Player API that will enable any media player to connect to the signagelive platform. As part of this initiative we will add an open-source connector for OpenSplash and signagelive, which we hope will drive further innovation.”

Neale concludes: “Because the software is open source and freely available to anyone to use, we don’t know how many or who exactly is using the software out in the field, but we hope that people will give us feedback that we can announce publicly. There have been a number of interesting discussions that we have heard about, and we hope to be able talk about them soon.”

Benson’s parting tip: using Mono ensures that any solutions developed on OpenSplash have the potential to be delivered across multiple platforms, including Windows, Linux, Android and iOS.

First published 23 October 2012 – Output