Focus on Digital Signage: Dynamic Digital Signage
Aug 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By Jay Ankeney
Digital signage is infusing all aspects of our lives. Consider the fact that on many college campuses, if there is an emergency, the administration no longer relies on radio or TV to alert their students. Increasingly, they put warnings up on campus-wide digital signage systems.
During his opening remarks as chairman of the Super Monday digital signage program at InfoComm 07, Lyle Bunn of Alchemy International, a division of St. Joseph Content, and an industry leader in the creation of digital signage display systems, said, “Digital signage is exploding faster than industry analysts had predicted. In November, research house InfoTrends identified that 2005 industry revenues had exceeded the $1-billion mark. At the same time, they adjusted their projections upward by 35 percent annually to forecast a $3.4-billion digital signage industry by 2009.”
As Bunn put it, “An estimated 20,000 individual display locations in North America might include 20 large networks of 500 or more locations, a further 100 networks of 50 or more locations, and more than 700 networks of five or more locations. A further 20,000 single-location digital signage systems, being served by a complete on-location media management player, may exist, although no statistics exist for this. Each of those locations might have one to 20 or more displays.”
One trend driving this is the increasing viability of the Internet as a communication source, and most new digital signage systems are capable of being controlled and sending out their messages via IP. This has simplified the installation, management, and content distribution of digital signage systems in every environment.
Digital signage installers are also finding a growing call for portrait orientation of their screens, because the horizontal or landscape positioning looks too much like widescreen television. Again, their clients are finding that information on anything looking like a TV is of diminished interest to their potentially captive audience.
Overview of Systems
New Network Edition version 3.5. software from 3M Digital Signage can distribute and play back media files, schedule playlists, and monitor a network of digital signs from any networked computer. The 3M Network Edition 3.5 release includes the introduction of new server class Network Edition software products for flexible network management options, expanded and enhanced Active Information modules for dynamic content creation, and augmented network management and security features. One of Version 3.5’s highlights is Network Edition—Full Server, which enables users to host their own networks and allows full Network Edition functionality behind users’ firewalls.
Adtec Digital’s new DisplayMate provides unattended playout of high-definition video for digital signage, kiosks, and tradeshows. The DisplayMate features MPEG-2 and AVC/H.264 high-definition up to 1080i, and standard-definition file playback from solid-state storage and IP stream decoding. The DisplayMate includes a built-in command interface and scheduler that can play a list of files and loop indefinitely or be triggered from external control systems from the parallel or serial ports.
Adtec Digital also offers its Edje 4111 HD, a digital media player for AVC/H.264 and MPEG-2 high-definition and standard-definition file playback. Its IP stream decoding can automatically scale the content to match an output resolution up to 1080i for outstanding HD playback. The Edje HD includes a built-in command interface and scheduler that can play a list of files and loop indefinitely. Media and schedules are managed on the server with the included MediaControl application, which also directs the playout. Adtec Digital’s Edje 4111 HD digital signage system can tune in and decode multicast HD content over IP with fallback playout of stored content in case of failure.
The BroadSign Suite workflow from BroadSign International adopts the ad space booking/selling process practiced by the traditional media industry, and its software generates proof-of-play reports for every screen, not just per playback PC. The BroadSign Player and BroadSign Administrator modules, available on Linux or Windows, provide complete flexibility in configuring a network and determining which targeting criteria to assign to each screen, area, site, location, or market. BroadSign’s services are used by digital signage network operators in 25 countries worldwide.
MediaStar Evolution, the latest release from Cabletime, is a range of versatile products that deliver TV, multimedia, and digital signage to a wide audience over IP networks. For corporate installations, the EvoNet 760/2M enables one-to-many multicasting, including live TV channels, specific training programs, and flexible messaging. With IP browser/RS-232/USB v1.1 control interfaces, the MediaStar Evolution encoder, built around a dual-core computing engine running under Linux, can generate either a single MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 “Dual Output” encoded streams. To accommodate differing content requirements and network parameters, MediaStar Evolution MPEG-2/-4 streams can be configured to run between 500Kbps to 8Mbps.
Cisco Digital Signage is a comprehensive digital signage system for simple, flexible, and centralized management and publishing of compelling digital media across networked digital displays. The Cisco Application and Content Networking System (ACNS) has a comprehensive set of streaming media features to stream live, multicast, or on-demand video, resulting in improved content access response time and user experience, minimized WAN usage and costs, and increased network scalability and capacity. Because impact on the network is minimized, Cisco ACNS allows for the deployment of more effective and timely delivery of video content to multiple digital signage, corporate communications, or e-learning displays.
Chyron recently brought out its new ChyTV HD 100 graphics information display system, now offering high-definition output. The ChyTV HD 100 uses Chyron’s familiar ChyTV Tools utility to manage the content and projects, and it is completely compatible with existing ChyTV products and features 3D dynamic text and effects, 3D animated objects, and clip playout. In addition, when used with the ChyTV HDVC (HD Video Compositor), the HD 100 enables high-definition digital signage to be combined with live HD or SD video.
SignStream Media Express software from Contemporary Research integrates media playback, display control, and integrated event scheduling into one web-based application. And, at InfoComm 07, Contemporary Research announced a new generation of SignStream browser-based software that integrates media playback, display control, and event scheduling into one easy-to-use application. The scheduler can freely assign playlists during the day, turn on displays, change HDTV signage channels, lock out local display user control, and launch emergency alerts facility-wide. Low-cost controllers manage displays over the same pathway, eliminating the need for added control wiring, Ethernet bandwidth, or dedicated display-mounted servers.
The Denon Professional DN-V755 network audiovisual player requires no software to install or schedule, and it can be accessed with any web browser. Once connected, the Denon DN-V755 acts like a website. MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 video or WAV, MP3, or MP2 audio media can be added to its 40GB internal hard drive with simple drag-and-drop techniques.
Digital View’s ViewStream 200 is a digital video and audio player designed for the playback of MPEG-1/-2/-4 and still images on existing TV and video monitors directly from a solid-state CompactFlash memory card up to 4GB in size. Video tracks play according to a playlist created with DV Studio Advanced or in alphanumeric filename order. A range of interactive options is available, including a touchscreen, buttons, and innovative switching options. The ViewStream 200 has an optional RS-232 serial port for interfacing with a barcode reader.
The HD FrEND plus players (MS9500 and the new MS9500GL) from Electrosonic allow digital signage networks to economically send dynamic HD video, graphical, and editorial content to hundreds of digital signage displays located anywhere. HD FrEND plus systems allows any combination of video, graphics, and text in one video image. The players can be mounted in a kiosk or directly to most displays, and they support ATSC-compliant formats, HDV, and MPEG-2 in multiple resolutions. Using a 10/100BaseT Ethernet network infrastructure, the MS9500 series devices can live anywhere on the network.
The FirmChannel product line from Eliquid Media International is completely scalable for both the number of screens and the number of locations. With a 3.02GHz Core 2 Duo Intel CPU, the 4GB Enterprise ES-100 automated content distribution and management system from FirmChannel uses a simple web-based interface to control content on displays anywhere in the world. The FirmChannel ES-100 server is designed to scale up to a 10,000 FirmChannel SP-100 server player system. It supports widescreen 16:9 mode, standard 4:3 mode, and vertical 9:16 poster mode; allows export and import of playlists to and from any SP-100 system; and includes a built-in photo editor.
Enseo’s new Galileo HD MPEG server was designed specifically for multichannel video-on-demand or scheduled near-video-on-demand applications that are using either high-definition or standard-definition MPEG audio/video. Galileo is based on Enseo’s Alchemy HD MPEG decoder subsystem and Linux Video Suite software that combines digital video and 32-bit graphics along with robust applications software, while providing simultaneous decoding of four independent streams of high-definition or standard-definition MPEG.
Enseo’s Author/OTA software suite consists of two separate applications, Author and On The Air (OTA), that allow for targeted presentations at individual locations without having to send separate information to each server. As evidence of its platform’s scalability, Enseo is the digital media engine behind the TV Guide channel.
Focus Enhancements software, slated for a September release for the Mantis line of digital media players, will let you create an instant playlist or file playback using a keypad, providing a simple and direct file trigger without using an additional PC or show control. It will also empower auto-content-upload from external hard disk drive, which can serve as an alternative high-speed upload for large amounts of HD content that saves time and cost, particularly for a non-networked environment.
Focus Enhancements has also launched an enterprise-level server software called Dart that can manage all of Focus Enhancements’ players from single-channel to multiple-channels players, including both SD and HD models. Content can be loaded through Dart for all players, a specific individual player, or multiple players based on a user’s definable attributes.
The Helius MediaStream SST-Mi is a HD MPEG-2/-4 playback device that is actually an Apple Mac Mini with Helius software installed on it. By combining the Helius MediaStream SST-Mi with the Helius MediaSignage and the Helius MediaWrite software packs, users can quickly create a flexible and scalable digital signage network solution. MediaStream SST-Mi features a 1.66GHz Intel Core Duo processor, built-in 54Mbps AirPort Extreme wireless networking (based on 802.11g standard) and MPEG-4/MPEG-2/Flash/JPG/GIF/PNG support. Helius has just debuted the MediaStream SST-Si, which uses solid-state memory to eliminate the need for fans.
The newly released IQ Box HD from the Impart Media Group is a high-definition digital signage player/server that includes bundled, ready-to-go software (Impart IQ Producer and Impart IQ Link) and standard, secure interface tools already available on the Web, empowering users to manage their network from anywhere in the world. The Impart IQ Box HD digital signage player/server’s built-in management dashboard allows operators to monitor the operation and performance of each of the Impart IQ Box digital signage player/server on a network.
MagicBox has just released its Aavelin 1080p playout system, jumping over 1080i to go directly to full-HD display. Aavelin 1080p supports resolutions of 1920x1080 in landscape and 1080x1920 in portrait mode. Aavelin 1080p will support all of the current options available within the Aavelin product line, including weather display, database integration, and RSS feeds. Magic Box Aavelin Composer software lets you create and import images from common graphic programs, and then pick your transitions, schedule pages, and publish from just about any software. MagicBox’s optional new E-Blast software allows users to remotely access multiple systems from one location thanks to built-in networking along with support for modems and removable media, including USB flash drives.
Display 3 from Omnivex is designed to manage any number of displays from a central location with a “what you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG) interface, letting multiple content assets be combined on the screen and tailored to the requirements of each specific display. Omnivex Display 3 is a store-and-forward system, meaning all of the components (content, layouts, playlists, and schedules) are assembled at the central management location and delivered once to the remote players. To monitor the status of remote PCs within a digital signage network, Omnivex Control 4 receives realtime information directly from each display device, and it can be configured to automatically react to any conditions.
Rise Vision has just released version 1.4 of its Rise Display Network display control center software, which adds emergency alert notifications and improves usability for non-technical users. It also boasts an enhanced online Media Library for managing video files, Flash files, and images to be inserted into digital signage presentations. Now with unlimited user accounts, the Rise Display Network with version 1.4 software is a web-based content management system that enables users to quickly, easily, and cost-effectively create customized content for a network of large-format public information displays. Clients can choose live content options—including stock ticker feeds, sports scores, and live news—and incorporate their own custom information for a simple subscription per video output.
At InfoComm 07, Samsung introduced MagicNet Pro, the next generation of Samsung’s proprietary MagicNet software designed for signage applications, which now includes a thin, built-in Windows XP hardware client onboard each screen. MagicNet allows users to show different content on different displays at different times and schedule content up to a month in advance. The upgraded MagicNet Pro-enabled models are equipped with a dual-core CPU processor and embedded Windows XP that can display a range of multimedia content, including photographs and video files. The MagicNet Pro-enabled DXn series also features 512MB of memory and 4GB Flash HDD. The MagicNet Pro is also equipped with a professional, multidocument user interface, which offers enhanced flexibility and ease of use for the network operator.
Scala InfoChannel 5 introduces the InfoChannel Content Manager together with other significant authoring, network management, and playback enhancements. The InfoChannel Content Manager features streamlined interface/workflow; rapid template-based content authoring; and sophisticated content management, including new channel planning/scheduling modules; 3D-based rendering engine for improved visual quality and performance; and multiple independent output channels per remote InfoChannel Player PC. InfoChannel 5’s realtime rendering at the point of playback ensures smaller file sizeswhich, coupled with intelligent file transfers, dramatically reduces network bandwidth requirements.
Because it fits directly into a flatpanel display, the ICS-FW40D network media player from Sony provides an affordable and flexible method for HD MPEG-4/-2, H.264, and WM9 streaming media delivery. Based on a card controller with a 60GB hard drive, the ICS-FW40D’s embedded web server provides a convenient way for configuration and control of the unit via standard Internet browser located anywhere on the network. Playlists may contain a mixture of remote and local video, audio, or graphics files. The ICS-FW40D is also ID-Talk compatible and can be controlled with Ziris Manage software.
Symon’s TargetVision digital signage systems, now with new version 9.2 software, include the Symon Enterprise Server (SES), Symon Design Studio, and the Symon SDA series of network video appliances. Symon Design Studio software transforms workstations at any level of the organization into powerful messaging centers, benefiting from pixel-by-pixel control of the placement, position, and size of elements. Symon SDA network appliances receive, store, and broadcast this information to the proper range of video displays throughout an enterprise.
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