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Technology Showcase: Turnkey Digital Signage

Jun 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles

All-in-one systems simplify digital-signage solutions.


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Cisco Digital Media Player

Cisco Digital Media Player

The digital-signage arena has seen explosive growth — and now there is a solution to meet every budget, strategy, and hardware preference. Every conceivable configuration has been marketed from software-only to hardware displays with entire playback and network interface circuitry built into the chassis. For clients who wish to use only the lightest and simplest local play-and-control system, there are units that include the display, media storage, and programming interface in one bolt-in-and-go package. More sophisticated and capable options include units that can operate in a single, local mode and expand as needed with network connectivity and centralized control, content creation, and scheduling capabilities.

The number of companies offering solutions within this vast range has also expanded exponentially, presenting something of a challenge in defining manageable criteria for inclusion in this survey. We look here at those turnkey digital-signage solutions that include both a hardware and a software component in the system. In some of these, the software is the media player and the hardware is the display device. Others have embedded software in hardware devices and market a software application that functions as a controller, scheduler, and/or content producer and editor. In an industry in such a state of flux, it probably pays to examine systems that offer expandability within the client's chosen hardware/software mix. Also, consideration must be given to the method of distribution because there is a huge variety of options here as well. Twisted-pair carrying local network or general IP traffic, RF on coax, wireless, and other methods all offer an initially confusing but ultimately custom-fitted solution for any signage need in retail, academic, medical, and other applications.

THE MARKET

AdMart Custom Signage offers a whole range of solutions for digital signage including networked and standalone systems. The All-In-One system is a self-contained, standalone unit available in a variety of screen sizes from the DM7 7in. LCD screen with 640×480 resolution up to the 18in. DM18 with 1280×1024 resolution. Programming and content are recorded onto memory cards, which are inserted into the display. AdView Dynamic Messenger then turns a series of JPEG images on the card into a digital slideshow. Full-motion MPEG video files may also be used. Each of the models has built-in speakers, remote, and password protection.

AGN Professional oneBox HD

AGN Professional oneBox HD

For standard- and high-definition AVC/H.264 and MPEG-2 playback files, Adtec Digital offers the edje 4111 HD digital media player and mediaControl configuration and control software application for Windows or Mac. The 4111 HD has an 80GB internal disk storage capacity and playback aspect ratio of either 4:3 or 16:9. Video output is composite or DVI-I audio outputs include S/PDIF digital audio (RCA female) and unbalanced analog stereo audio (1/8in. female). Control options include Ethernet and RS-232. The mediaControl application includes List Builder and Configuration functions.

The oneBox HD rackmount digital-signage appliance from AGN Professional plays a number of MPEG formats along with AVI, WMV, and MOV formats and .mp3, .wav, .aif, and .wma audio files. The unit has a built-in web-based content-authoring and -management system that can create multizone layouts in 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratios with text, graphics, movies, animations, RSS feeds, and live TV/video in resolutions up to 1900x1280. Storage is handled by an 80GB internal 7200 RPM SATA II hard drive and a DVD-RW. There are also USB and FireWire connections.

Amptronix markets more than half a dozen different industrial-grade advertisement LCD systems in its AD Series. The largest of these is the 32in. AD320M, which uses a 1366×768 TFT active-matrix LCD with support for a wide range of memory cards. The unit can display JPEG; AVI; and MPEG-1, -2, -3, and -4 files. The programming can generate automatic slideshows with multiple transition effects and adjustable screen time. There is a remote control included and a USB interface option. Built-in speakers and a tough chassis make the AD Series ideal for outdoor applications such as gas stations and drive-throughs.





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