Aperture provides a window of opportunity

Silver Curve estimates that a combination of Raspberry Pi and Aperture could save a customer £675 compared to a PC-based solution

Silver Curve estimates that a combination of Raspberry Pi and Aperture could save a customer £675 compared to a PC-based solution

With more than 15 years’ experience in digital signage software development and integration, three-year-old company Silver Curve has this week completed an investment whip-round of £200,000 using crowd equity platform Seedrs for its new product, Aperture. Aiming to disrupt a relatively crowded marketplace, Aperture acts as a graphics engine specifically purposed for digital signage. It isn’t a player, nor is it a content management platform; instead, it sits between the player and the operating system, drawing rich content and rendering it at full, broadcast-ready HDMI.

“So far the digital signage industry has had either high performance, high cost devices, such as the ones from MediaVue or AOpen, or low cost and low performance options like the ones offered by IAdea,” states Bryan Crotaz, Silver Curve’s chief executive and the internationally respected integrator behind the device. “With Aperture, we are opening the game to a low cost, high performance solution.”

Using a Raspberry Pi micro PC and Aperture, Silver Curve has created a digital signage solution can match the processing power of a PC-based solution, requiring less cooling and only 4% of the power. Though the pocket size Pi is a Linux computer, Aperture allows Pi to run any Windows-based signage software. Having been developed to maximise the graphical processing power of the Pi, Crotaz says that it has the processing ability of the original Xbox.

“Aperture works as an equivalent to part of the operating system,” explains Crotaz. “It drives the available silicon on the chip and uses it in the most efficient way possible to obtain outstanding graphics and motion images. Aperture knows about content layers, zones, loops and it can create the beautiful effects that digital signage demands today.”

With Aperture HD content, a 60 frames-per-second rate for video and animation – until now only available using high-end DS products – is available for about £200.

“With Aperture, software vendors won’t need to change their product prices to obtain the best display performance,” explains Crotaz. “Any signage software can use Aperture and the work needs to be done only once. The existing user interface is familiar and easy to use, and because the vendor software is the same on PC and Aperture, an existing rollout can be extended seamlessly.

“From the hardware vendor side of things, devices powered by Aperture allow you to replace the PC player, retaining the same render quality and flexibility of graphics at a radically lower price.”

A competing technology in this area is Android, although it is an OS rather than a graphics system. “Android was designed for consumer devices,” says Crotaz. “When a company uses Android OS, the first thing it needs to do is to change the default behaviour to allow it to work in a professional environment. Android also works slightly differently on different devices, so software companies must redevelop their software for each piece of hardware.”

There are cheap Android technology-based products that compete with Aperture on applications where simpler graphics and content is sufficient. P and C Dension recently launched its CPX-1, which uses Android with cloud-based technology from Signagelive. The total cost for the unit to distribution is £130 and it has HDMI input for player-in-player support in multi-zone layouts.

Jason Cremins, Signagelive’s chief executive officer, believes Aperture and Android will co-exist. “Android is accessible as an OS to any software developer and on any supported hardware, whereas Aperture running on the Pi is a unique proposition that offers great potential if it is embraced by digital signage software and CMS providers such as ourselves.

“We are working with Silver Curve in the same way as we worked with Dension,” Cremins continues. “We have given them access to Signagelive’s API player; there is room for both propositions on the market.”

Customers have different needs; some DOOH networks need to be multi-user, some standalone. Some would be happy with cloud, while for others this would be prohibitive. Aperture provides customers with a choice – one that, so far, has not been available in the digital signage market.

First published 23 August 2013 – Output

Watching and waiting: European Sign Expo

European Sign Expo will co-locate with FESPA 2013 at London's Excel – but who is actually exhibiting?

European Sign Expo will co-locate with FESPA 2013 at London’s Excel – but who is actually exhibiting?

European Sign Expo will co-locate with FESPA 2013 at London’s Excel – but who is actually exhibiting?

European Sign Expo (ESE), organised by FESPA and the European Sign Federation (ESF), will open its doors in two months. But who will be on the show floor?

For those outside the print market, FESPA is a global federation of wide-format print associations with events running world-wide. In November last year it teamed up with ESF to launch ESE. FESPA acquired Screenmedia Expo (SME) at the end of January, adding digital signage to its new mixture of print and signage systems. Resultantly, it will now form part of the main FESPA/ESE colocation at Excel on June 25th to 27th, expecting to welcome 23,000 visitors; the majority will be print-related but 28 percent of those pre-registered have expressed interest in the new zone.

Neil Felton, managing director of exhibitions and events at FESPA, says the show will demonstrate the full spectrum of print and non-print display technologies, giving exhibitors the chance to reach a new key audience not addressed by other events. He also emphasises FESPA’s role as a not-for-profit and, therefore, an educational entity. This sounds like a promising proposition – so what support has there been from the digital signage side?

BroadSign has been confirmed as platinum sponsor for the event, and Felton says more than 20 digital signage companies have already signed up, with some 15 more in the pipeline. However, this is not yet apparent when looking at the floor plan: only BrightSign and Barco add to the list of heavyweights. A further dozen offers everything from embedded computers to digital scoreboards – products which may appeal at the lower end, but none is a major name.

For Brant Eckett, director of marketing EMEA at Christie, there is one concern that overrides all others. “In these cost-sensitive times, tradeshows need to deliver not only brand promotion and opportunities to educate the market – they need to deliver new business,” he emphasises.

Steve Robinson, product manager for Onelan, notes that the digital signage market is changing rapidly. “Once the hardware and services are fully commoditised, I strongly feel that digital signage will simply become part of the wider digital marketing landscape,” he warns. “If the ESE and FESPA can fulfil their goal of bringing ‘marketers, advertisers, brand owners, buyers and specifiers of advertising’ together, then this will be great for Onelan and the industry as a whole.”

Denys Lavigne of Arsenal Media is also cautious, but for a different reason. Arsenal Media was an exhibitor at SME but works broadly across the visual communications spectrum, and is a company indicative of the target audience FESPA and ESE both would like to attract. “I haven’t seen any event where print and digital have truly been successful together as an integrated solution context,” he says. “I think it hurts the digital side to be too closely associated with print because of the culture shock and different market interests.”

For two years in a row DOOH taxi-top creator Eyetease exhibited at SME, but its chief executive, Richard Corbett, doesn’t believe that a marriage with print is the way forward. “DOOH is a powerful medium and holds a key position in the consumer’s daily journey,” he states. “We should encourage the association of DOOH exhibitions with online and mobile – rather than with print.”

Jason Cremins, chief executive of signagelive, was one vendor ‘disappointed’ with last year’s SME; he says his company will wait to see how the new show performs. Others, however, are more positive about the combination – including NEC’s Northern Europe vice-president Simon Jackson, despite his company not intending to be present. “The purchase of SME makes some sense for FESPA, as the print world is rapidly being absorbed by digital media,” he says. “It will be interesting to see how many of the brands on board [with SME] migrate to the FESPA show.”

These observations from key stakeholders are ones that FESPA may very well answer. However, it has two other challenges. The NEC Showcase, now in its fifth year, lists 44 sector-relevant ‘solutions partners’ as exhibitors. Marketing Week Live, which runs at the same time as ESE, has added a new out-of-home section and appears to be more in keeping with the type of interplay the digital signage sector is looking for.

Digital signage vendors are looking for a real business proposition, and ESE must meet this in order to succeed. So far, the event hasn’t projected a clear enough profile or thorough understanding of the market to convince the major
screen, media player and software manufacturers onto the show floor.

First published 25 April 2013 – Output

Facilitate and innovate: driving acquisitions and partnerships in digital signage

Mergers and acquisitions can be powerful for growth in a young market, but must address market demand first and foremost (© Fotolia / alphaspirit)

Mergers and acquisitions can be powerful for growth in a young market, but must address market demand first and foremost (© Fotolia / alphaspirit)

Companies have two ways to grow: organically, where they expand into new markets, launch new products and take on more people; or inorganically, through mergers and acquisitions (M&A). The latter can bring expertise and market share without having to re-invent the wheel.

Whether the software or hardware involved is intended for transit, retail, internal communications or out-of-home, the key to M&A in this young industry is to create easier ways to implement a digital signage solution. With so many options on the market, interoperability and ease of use are driving both innovation and acquisition in order to appeal to new markets and applications.

This is a driver behind many recent investments and moves. In mid-December last year, USA-based SCG Financial Acquisition Corporation (SCG), which is in the process of merging with RMG Networks, unveiled a letter of intent to acquire digital signage and communications company Symon Communications.

HH Global is a world-wide marketing company working in a variety of markets to deliver cross-channel communications strategies. Digital media development director Chris Heap considers this acquisition: “SCG/RMG/Symon could make real sense. Companies that embed others to improve their overall offering may make good business sense if it makes it easier for the client to buy – on the basis that the relationship makes sense in the first place.”

But Heap sees some other alliances are more confusing – including that announced by Samsung, signagelive and Scala at ISE. “For instance, when you are working on a project, who recommends which platform makes sense for an end user – Samsung? And do allies compete with each other within Samsung’s ecosystem?”

Every merger, acquisition or alliance needs three questions answered, according to Heap. Is the combination helpful? Will it add value? Will it drive down the cost for end users?

”The issue is that most companies don’t really have a clear vision regarding where they’re going and what the customer wants,” he argues. “Partnerships and acquisitions are somewhat confused and predicated on existing tech, not on the new services they can create once brought together. My personal view is that the market needs to become much more service-orientated than product driven and I didn’t see a great deal of services being offered at ISE – just more product, albeit, arguably, slightly advanced over last year’s offering.”

An example of this focus on services was in last year’s acquisition of LCD display manufacturer Hantarex by Global Display Solutions (GDS) from Sambers. GDS stated that this deal would give its customers the benefits of international competitiveness, but with the responsiveness and flexibility of a local contact point.

In spring 2012 we also saw these principles exemplified in the joining of Israeli companies YCD Multimedia and C-nario. YCD’s Retail Advertising and Merchandising Platform (RAMP) was paired with C-nario Messenger digital signage software to provide a multi-display playback engine with a user-friendly graphical interface – a web-based solution that has been developed for marketing professionals. Digital signage specialist and ThinkAndMake founder Giuseppe Andrianò comments: “Incorporating the market knowledge of C-nario with the power of YCD (especially using the RAMP solution) offers a very new and innovative approach and solution to the market.”

YCD built on this approach at ISE 2013, announcing with BrightSign an integrated digital merchandising solution, combining the latter’s media players with RAMP. The move furthers the merged YCD vision: to provide easy and cost-effective digital signage solutions based on application-specific demand.

Microsoft’s interaction in this sector has seen it adopt both approaches. During his Reddit AmA (Ask Me Anything) session, Bill Gates used an 80″ (203cm) Perceptive Pixel (PP) touchscreen to show off the native touch capabilities of Windows 8. Microsoft bought large-scale, multi-touch hardware and software developer PP last summer, hoping to unlock new collaboration and productivity opportunities. However, it is Samsung that currently manufactures the behemoth’s multi-touch table Surface, now known as PixelSense.

It’s not just manufacturers that acquire: diverse media and store experience company Mood Media has been at it, too. Recently it brought acquisitions BIS Group, Technomedia Solutions, GoConvergence, multi-sensory outfit DMX and the eponymous Muzak under a singular brand, Mood. This demonstrates that economy of scale is up to each company to identify and assess, and mergers and acquisitions are a process, not just an event. However, they must always bear the end user in mind if they are to create a successful rationalisation of the portfolio – and we are likely to see more of the same in this sector.

First published 22 February 2013 – Output

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

Android: digital signage for the masses

Caption: Android might offer a cheap route into digital signage - but is that its only advantage? (cc Compfight // Kham Tran)

Caption: Android might offer a cheap route into digital signage – but is that its only advantage? (cc Compfight // Kham Tran)

Both players and software have developed significantly during the two decades that digital signage has existed; technology has become smarter, smaller and cheaper and this has, in turn, driven adoption. A new surge is starting now thanks to Android, the Linux-based operating system owned by Google. Yet, while often identified as a cheaper alternative, Android’s real strength doesn’t lie in its price.

“Many DS software companies have launched support for Android and in some cases, bundled their software with Android HDMI sticks and boxes,” explains Jason Cremins, chief executive of Signagelive. “The vast majority of these devices were intended for the consumer market and, even with optimised software, were never built for unattended 24/7 use in digital signage.

“The reliability and robustness of the player being managed by Signagelive is hugely important to our reputation and the ability to scale our business globally with minimum support issues. For this reason, we have decided against re-branding a cheap Android device as Signagelive. Instead, we created a player API that enables reputable device manufacturers, such as Dension, to develop dedicated Android devices from the processor up that work with our Signagelive platform and replicate the capabilities of our Display Edition licence.”

Martijn Bakker, sales and marketing manager at Dise, corroborates that being obsessed with Android as a low-price option can backfire: “Sure, there are big savings to be made on player hardware – but you get what you pay for.”

Dise has been eyeing Android up for a few years. Its small form factor and fanless designs allow installation flexibility, but it was the operating system that really enticed the Swedish software developer. “The open source approach gives us as a software vendor a sense of confidence, since problems are easier to investigate, solve or circumvent than with proprietary operating systems,” adds Bakker.

Dynamax’s founder and director Howard Smith agrees, identifying the simpler operating system as a major reason for his company taking the Android route in September last year. “The biggest challenge has been finding a hardware solution that is robust enough for digital signage, and cost effective enough to make a real difference,” he comments.

But Android doesn’t present an obvious development path for every manufacturer. After initial research, BroadSign realised that it could have a hardware conundrum on its hands. “In 2011, BroadSign decided to invest time and money testing several dozen Android devices,” recalls Brian Dusho, the company’s chief executive. “We quickly saw that we had a decision to make: either we built a universal app for Google Play, or we integrated with a small list of certified hardware devices. It was necessary to modify the firmware, so we abandoned the App Store approach and settled on the device direction.” Coinciding with the company’s tenth anniversary, it launched, this April, its own Android-based player, applying functionality from other products to create a more affordable but nevertheless fully-featured option.

An Android-enabled device, however, is not enough. As screens increase in resolution and size, sharper images are a must; the hardware needs to have at least 16GB of hard drive storage, play 1080p HD full motion video and the latest Adobe Flash and HTML5 content. Plus, wifi is not always available, or reliable enough, so devices must include an ethernet port as a redundancy.

“Android, as an operating system, is not designed for digital signage,” Dusho continues. “It’s missing basic configuration parameters that allow you to set it, then forget it. These include hiding the task bar, dedicated boot into the signage player and administrator access in order to perform auto-upgrades. All of these require modifications to the firmware. Due to Android’s security model, you cannot modify the firmware from an App and that is why you shouldn’t install digital signage software from the Google Play Store [which provides apps for Android].”

Yet Israeli company NoviSign wants to prove this theory wrong. It promises to make any Android-based device digital signage-ready; end users can buy into its media player app for $15 (£9.30). Avi Vashkover, founder of NoviSign, says that Android opens up digital signage to everyone: “Until now, digital signage has failed to provide a simple, cost-effective solution for SMEs. We believe SMEs should enjoy almost the same capabilities as the big players, such as McDonalds, but at a fraction of the cost. Android is the answer.”

Android-based digital signage hardware connected to mobile technology can provide a more fluid communication with customers using GPS locators, voice recognition, face-detecting cameras, wifi hot spots, 4G connectivity and gyroscopic sensors, thereby changing the industry rapidly and for the better. We have only seen the beginning of it. It’s not just about cheaper options – it’s also about the wide range of choices and applications that Android has to offer.

First published 3 October 2013 – Output

NRHA invites industry to Rethink Retail


BrightSign's digital signage has been used in retail environments including FNAC stores in France

BrightSign’s digital signage has been used in retail environments including FNAC stores in France

This week, the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) is holding its Rethink Retail Conference in Las Vegas, addressing two hot topics: digital technology for retail, and loyalty marketing. The focus on technology is not surprising, in particular since the association’s recent studies show real increases on sales when digital signage is used in shops.

The NRHA has published the results of research that compared sales of specific products in stores that used digital signage for promotion against stores that did not. For the research, the NRHA teamed with BrightSign customer Aubuchon Hardware, a large hardware retail chain with 130 stores in the USA. The results of the NRHA test confirm that product sales increased when interactive digital signage is used.

Aubuchon Hardware branches saw unit sales rise by 23 percent for interior paint, 45 percent for smoke detectors and a remarkable 178 percent for air filters in stores with BrightSign-powered digital signage promoting specials on those products, compared to Aubuchon stores without digital signage.

“The information we’ve received shows every hardware retail location using our BrightSign players reported significant sales lift,” said Jeff Hastings, BrightSign chief executive. “The hardware store trials clearly support the fact that highly visible product information with moving graphics and streaming content creates a measurable ROI for store management. When you see such a substantial increase in sales of paint and air filters, certainly not what you would consider impulse buys, the impact of digital signage over printed signs becomes obvious,” he emphasised.

For the test, Aubuchon placed Endcap digital signage displays powered by BrightSign players in six stores and ran interactive presentations produced by the NRHA for one month. The sales results were then compared to six other stores in the chain that historically had similar sales for the products tested.

Intel Digital Signage Endcap Concept is based on second generation Intel Core processor technology, and uses the Intel AIM Suite built specifically for anonymous audience measurement. Endcap works two ways: not only does it provide retailers with valuable information about its customers, but it also allows them to send offers, recommendations and promotions to smartphones, PCs and other devices.

BrightSign is making waves in the market. In April it launched smaller, lower cost HD solid-state digital signage controllers. The new HD line comes in three flavours: BrightSign HD120 – a basic interactive model; BrightSign HD220 – networked looping model; and BrightSign HD1020 – a networked interactive model. The company will be exhibiting at Screenmedia Expo in Earls Court, London on May 16th and 17th.

Back in January, BrightSign and signagelive announced their collaboration. Jason Cremins, chief executive of signagelive explains: “We selected BrightSign players for their proven reliability, advanced features. BrightSign range of networked devices can be integrated with signagelive to provide a solution that rivals the technical capabilities and stability of more expensive PC-based solutions.” Screenmedia Expo visitors can also see how BrightSign works with cloud-based digital signage solutions from signagelive on the latter’s stand.

First published 3 May 2012 – Output

Head in the cloud: digital signage and cloud computing

As digital signage grows and companies implement it, the big question they face is: should we have our solution on the premises or should we place it in the cloud instead? Having your system in the cloud means taking a scalable computer resource and placing it outside of your organisation, rather than having it inside your own network. It represents a shift in the way companies allocate resources for IT, integrated security, recovery and increased capacity or capabilities. It allows remote content and software updates.

The cloud can offer advantages for digital signage network owners

“Before, customers’ only option was to purchase expensive servers, install software and employ the skills necessary to configure and manage an on-premises digital signage network,” explains Jason Cremins, chief executive of cloud-powered digital signage solutions provider signagelive. “Now, thanks to the internet and cloud computing, customers can purchase a range of internet-enabled digital signage devices that are preloaded with the necessary software to play back full-screen and multi-zone digital signage. Alternatively, many cloud-based digital signage solutions, such as signagelive, also offer a software only option, so that you can install the software on any PC with the operating system of your choice.”

There are five main advantages offered by a cloud-based digital signage solution: scalability; lower cost; stability; flexibility and enhanced security.

An example of a familiar place where one can get cloud services is the huge online retailer Amazon. Attila Narin, senior manager of Amazon Web Services (AWS) EMEA, says of scalability and security: “AWS has companies of every size and in virtually every industry. Today we have hundreds of thousands of customers in over 190 countries – both start-ups and large companies – including many in advertising and digital signage.

“One company using AWS is digital advertising and marketing firm Razorfish. Razorfish uses AWS to run big data analysis to better target consumers with advertising-based on data from online browsing sessions. A common issue Razorfish found was the need to process gigantic data sets which resulted from holiday shopping traffic on a retail website, or the sudden, dramatic growth on a media or social networking site.

“Normally crunching these numbers would take Razorfish two days or more. By leveraging on-demand services such as Amazon Elastic MapReduce, Razorfish is able to drop its processing time to eight hours. As there was no upfront investment in computing hardware, no procurement delay, and no additional operations staff needed, Razorfish is now able to increase its return on ad spend by 500 percent.”

But what type of security can companies get on AWS? Narin expands: “AWS provides the same, familiar approaches to security that companies have been using for decades. Importantly, it does this while also allowing the flexibility and low cost of cloud computing. There is nothing inherently at odds with providing on-demand infrastructure while also providing the security isolation companies have become accustomed to in their existing, privately owned environments.

“We often find that we can improve security using AWS. Amazon’s scale allows significantly more investment in security policing and countermeasures than a smaller company could afford. We have also completed certifications such as ISO 27001, FISMA, SOC-1 (formerly SAS-70) and PCI. We’ll continue to pursue certifications that are important to larger customers and those in the federal space.

“With AWS,” says Narin, “customers have full control over their data – they own it, not us; they choose where to store the data and it doesn’t move unless they choose to move it. They can encrypt their data at rest and in motion, and regardless of whether customers choose to encrypt or not, we never look at the data.”

Cremins points out another advantage: “Our cloud-based offerings are provided as a service, which means that signagelive customers will get all the support they need from trial to full roll-out.”

OK, but how much does it cost? While signagelive offers free trials, AWS has a free Usage Tier to help new businesses get started, which gives anyone free access to an Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) Micro Instance for one year. This includes free Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), Amazon Elastic Block Store, Amazon Elastic Load Balancing and AWS data transfer. In January this year Amazon extended the Free Usage Tier to include Windows Server Instances.

First published 3 April 2012 – Output