Digital Signage Technology Showcase

Not very long ago, billboards, posters, fliers, and banners were relied upon heavily to capture people’s attention and direct their focus to the company or product being depicted. 12/07/2010 5:54 AM Eastern

Digital Signage Technology Showcase

Dec 7, 2010 10:54 AM, By Mike Keadle

AMX Inspired XPress IS-SPX-1000

Not very long ago, billboards, posters, fliers, and banners were relied upon heavily to capture people’s attention and direct their focus to the company or product being depicted. Today, those attention-getters have all but been replaced by plasma, LCD, LED, and even projectors displaying similar content. The digital revolution not only changed our entertainment and presentation methods, it changed marketing and advertising displays as well.

Digital signage has grown into a huge industry today. Nearly every store, mall, or business that we enter uses some sort of digital signage display for attracting customers, promoting products, or driving sales. It is so common now that it is almost unusual to find a business that does not rely on digital signage to communicate with customers and even employees.

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The advantages of digital signage are huge. Yes, there is sometimes a hefty upfront cost, but the price to change content and update displayed materials is virtually nonexistent for all future use. Going digital provides quick and easy updates and customizations of signage displays as they are needed. It enables content creators to change the look and feel of a display on the fly, and even personalize the display if so desired.

With the growth in digital signage adoption, an equal growth has occurred in the number of manufacturers that offer digital signage products&emdash;hardware, software, accessories, and even displays are now targeted for this market. Here is a guide to the offerings of some of these companies.

AMX is long known for its control offerings in our industry. Its Inspired Signage products have helped AMX to become a leader in digital signage as well. The Inspired XPress IS-SPX-1000 signage player is small in size but loaded with features. It measures just 1”x6.25”x3.25”. It has no internal moving parts and requires only 2W of power. It offers live video support, HDMI and VGA outputs, and even metric collection capability. The built-in web interface offers the ability to display a snapshot of exactly what is playing on the display for reporting needs or to determine status.

Inspired XPress software is easy to use and offers administrators the ability to create custom content for display on IS-SPX-1000 players. The software supports multiple languages and multiple graphics and video formats (JPEG, PNG, GIF, SVG, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264, WMV 9, and PowerPoint). It offers drag-and-drop creation of schedules and playlists with the ability to view upcoming day, week, month, or year.

The Inspired Signage XPress IS-PLAYER-200 server supports resolutions up to 1080p at 60 frames per second and the processing required to simultaneously display HD video, images, text, and Internet feeds. Local VGA, composite video, and S-Video inputs are added with the IS-PLAYER-200LM.

Additional accessories are also available for the Inspired Signage line including mounting brackets, additional software license kits, and educational and corporate template packages to help in content creation.

Apantac’s line of MT Hood CATx extenders, splitters, and switches offer a solution for almost any digital signage distribution and delivery situation. The line offers VGA, DVI, HDMI, USB, and even touchscreen extenders run over inexpensive Cat-5 or Cat-6 cabling. Switches and splitters in the same variety are available. All offer high-quality, high-resolution signal transmission. Distances range from 35 meters to 300 meters, depending upon the unit and resolution of the signal.

The Mazama line of fiber extenders picks up where the MT Hood line leaves off. Both DVI and HDMI models are offered in the Mazama line, each with a preassembled fiber cable. Lengths up to 500 meters in the DVI line and 100 meters in the HDMI line are available.

Aurora Multimedia XPC Media Pro HD

Aurora Multimedia XPC Media Pro HD

Aurora Multimedia offers a perfect solution for a digital signage PC in its XPC Media Pro HD. Built upon the Intel Atom processor, the XPC Media Pro HD product is a small form-factor PC optimized for multimedia applications such as digital signage. Features and benefits include 2GB RAM; HDMI, DVI, and VGA outputs; integrated LAN and Wi-Fi; fanless cooling; a solid-state drive to reduce moving parts; and a power button lockout to prevent accidental power off. Windows 7 comes standard, and an option for Windows XP is also available. The XPC Media Pro HD offers flexible mounting as well. Mounting options include VESA, DIN rail, and wall or surface mounting.

Aurora Multimedia also offers HDMI and DVI extenders for those situations where a PC cannot be located near the display. Distances up to 200ft. can be achieved through Cat-5/-5e/-6 cabling.

In those remote situations, control of the display can also be a concern. That is where Aurora’s IP Control Port extenders come in. They offer an IP-addressable method of device control through an existing control system or through a built-in web server.

Digital Signage Technology Showcase

Dec 7, 2010 10:54 AM, By Mike Keadle

The iCompel digital signage product from Black Box provides an easy-to-use signage solution from an industry leader capable of supplying everything needed for a successful deployment. iCompel products work right out of the box. All software is installed, and no additional licenses or recurring subscriptions are necessary. The hardware supports most video formats, photos, Flash, HTML, RSS, MPEG, QuickTime, and PowerPoint. The iCompel product is also available with a built-in video capture card for live video display within the signage content.

Setup is easy with iCompel. Simply plug the unit into the network to obtain an IP address, and then access the IP address through a web browser. Content loading is as easy as dragging from your PC or Mac and dropping to the iCompel device’s media folders. Upgrading from a single iCompel unit to a multi-unit deployment is made easy by using one unit as a server to deliver content to all other units. Black Box also offers all necessary video splitters and extenders to allow routing of the signal from the iCompel device to its accompanying display.

BrightSign’s line of digital signage hardware offers a wide range of features and value. All of the signage players are physically compact for ease and flexibility in mounting. They all offer full HD video quality and are all solid-state devices. The players range in features from supporting simple looping playlists to fully interactive and networked solutions.

One benefit of BrightSign solutions is that everything needed for a professional signage implementation is included—the hardware, software, and networking capabilities. The BrightAuthor software is intuitive. It allows displays to be created using familiar file formats (templates are even provided) and either loaded to a standard SD memory card plugged into the controller or sent to the controllers over a LAN. Scheduling, synchronization, and display zones are also easy to manage through the software, and all are included as part of the BrightSign package.

ChyTV offers a full digital signage creation, management, and display solution. It also offers additional features not found on some other signage solutions. ChyTV offers both standard-definition and high-definition players. Each uses ChyTV Author software for simple what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) content authoring and management. Content may be created in layers including live video, clips, text, and graphics. The display output is also selectable between landscape and portrait modes, allowing even more customization of the content layout.

ChyTV Tools provides the management portal for ChyTV hardware. It allows control of multiple devices over IP or USB and creation of pages using standard applications or through the supplied templates. It also offers seamless integration with other applications through the use of Microsoft’s .NET architecture. Additional features include Elements, an add-in for PowerPoint, and Dynamo, which enables logos and Flipbooks from standard graphic file formats.

ChyAlert integrates a video source along with a locally generated message. It is an ideal solution for public-space television and other implementations where the use of the system for emergency and security alerts may be beneficial. Enseo is a pioneer in the digital signage industry. 2010 marks the company’s 10th anniversary offering signage products. The company continues to expand and improve its offerings each year. The Author software and Cassini players are a prime example of this.

Enseo’s Author digital signage software provides a user-friendly GUI interface for creating digital signage content. It allows windows to be created for both broadcast and IP video. Window video channels may be changed without changing the rest of the content. Themes may also be created and saved. The saved themes may be assigned to a virtual channel, allowing themes to be changed without changing content or video channels. Author software works in conjunction with the Cassini Digital Signage Player and the Cassini Streaming Media Player.

Cassini players are available in three models with either hard-disk drives or solid-state drives. Built-in RF tuners decode ATSC, NTSC, and QAM signals. RS-232 display control is also built-in. An RS-232-to-IR adapter is available for displays without RS-232 control.

Cassini Streaming Media Players offer IP streaming of all standard- and high-definition video formats. They offer the same channel and theme capabilities through Author software as the Cassini Digital Signage Player.

Digital Signage Technology Showcase

Dec 7, 2010 10:54 AM, By Mike Keadle

Exhibio offers digital signage solutions for any size implementation. The M-400 multimedia player provides single-zone content display including video, pictures, Flash, HTML feeds, RSS, and database integrated content. It offers both landscape and portrait display modes in resolutions up to 1920x1200. The X-800HD builds upon the M-400’s offerings by adding multizone support and advanced scheduling capabilities.

New to the Exhibio line is the Enterprise series. The Enterprise series is comprised of the Enterprise Server and the ST-100 Smart Terminal. The Enterprise Server allows content creation and management on a broad scale to multiple devices and zones anywhere on the LAN. It allows hundreds of individual displays to be created, or it allows content sharing among multiple displays. Scheduling and deployment is easily managed through a web interface accessible from anywhere on the network.

The ST-100 Smart Terminal receives feeds from the Enterprise Server. Each ST-100 can display any combination of video, pictures, Flash, HTML feeds, RSS feeds, and live TV. Up to 250 ST-100 devices may be managed from a single Enterprise Server.

Extron Electronics offers many hardware accessories that are often used in digital signage installations. The primary offering used in signage applications are the company’s line of analog and digital video and audio extenders. Multiple series are offered to fit different needs. Lineups include the VT Series, TP series, MTP series, and the new Fox and FoxBox series.

Extron’s extender lines are available to support any video format: S-Video, VGA, DVI, and HDMI. Audio transmission is available on select models. The extenders range from single Cat-5/-5e/-6 solutions all the way to fiber extenders. Transmission distances range all the way up to 2 kilometers for the FoxBox lineup, ensuring that no matter what the signal type or distance, there is an Extron extender that will provide the solution needed.

Gefen has developed two new digital signage products: the EXT-DSC Digital Signage Creator and the EXT-HD-DSP HD Digital Signage Player. The EXT-DSC Digital Signage Creator provides an economical method of scheduling, combining, updating, animating, streaming, and displaying various video, audio, graphic, and text content. It offers HDMI output up to 720p resolution and VGA output to 1024x768 resolution. USB for external storage and RS-232 for display control are included standard. At only 2W, its uses much less power than a typical signage PC. All software and licenses are included with no recurring subscriptions.

The EXT-HD-DSP Digital Signage Player provides both portrait and landscape display modes and resolutions of up to 1080p output. A mini stereo audio output is also provided to allow audio routing to an external amplifier if necessary. The player comes with brackets for mounting behind the display or on the wall.

Hall Research DVI and HDMI-over-UTP

Hall Research DVI and HDMI-over-UTP

Hall Research is known for its UTP transmission products. Its current offerings fit into the digital signage realm very well. The line of DVI and HDMI-over-UTP offers solutions for any mounting situation, in-wall, surface-mount, and standalone transmitters and receivers. Models are offered for single- or dual-cable transmission and cover distances up to 200ft. For those situations where VGA is still needed, Hall Research offers VGA-over-UTP extenders with RS-232 for display control. Select models also offer stereo audio transmission and a loop through outputs to allow daisy-chaining of multiple receiver units off of one transmitter. Transmission distances range up to 1000ft., depending upon the model.

Harris offers a full digital signage suite of products. The InfoCaster Suite provides software for all aspects of digital signage implementation. Creator allows creation and editing of content, Manager provides administrative function such as permissions and scheduling for player devices, and Player synchronizes and delivers content from multiple sources to all remote displays. InfoCaster Player devices range from single-channel small form-factor players (the DS500) all the way to multichannel rackmountable systems (the R4100).

All of these products team up to make the InfoCaster line easy to use, reliable, flexible, and scalable. Additional tools offered include the Punctuate software, which allows targeted messaging based upon display location attributes, and InfoCaster Online, which allows remote updates to players on a network through a web interface without any software installation.

Digital Signage Technology Showcase

Dec 7, 2010 10:54 AM, By Mike Keadle

Mitsubishi is recognized for its lineup of high-quality LCD monitors. The new MDT series is no exception to this recognition. The MDT series of LCD monitors was designed for digital signage displays. The company offers resolutions up to 1080p, and the models range in size from 42in. to 65in. diagonal. The features of the MDT series are what help to set it apart. It offers a built-in Cat-5 receiver and comes with the accompanying transmitter to allow cost-effective cabling at longer distances than standard cabling allows for. They also offer both front and rear ambient light sensors to allow automatic brightness control based upon the ambient light in the display area. Power Save mode allows the monitor to be powered on and off based upon a schedule programmed into the unit. All of these features are backed by the Mitsubishi Express Monitor Official Service (MEMOS), which eliminates shipping cost and provides an express monitor replacement.

Mitsubishi is also now offering digital signage bundle packages. The packages are based upon the resolution chosen&emdash;480p, 720p, or 1080p. Each package includes a Mitsubishi LCD display and a RISC-based IAdea signage player. The players offer basic functionality and are Scala-enabled for connection to existing Scala signage systems.

NEC has been in the display industry for years. The company has always been a leader in the digital signage display arena. The current E series display lineup continues this tradition. The E series display line offers resolutions up to 1080p and 120Hz refresh rate. They run on very low power to minimize the total cost of ownership. Multiple HDMI inputs are standard, as are an RGBHV, S-Video, and composite video. NTSC and ATSC tuners are also standard. Built-in low-profile speakers offer superb sound for any accompanying audio. The E series offer great features for any display, but the price point they fall under makes them an exceptional value in the signage market.

Omnivex Moxie software offers content creation that is virtually unlimited. Moxie is designed to allow true WYSIWIG content creation. It simplifies both 2D and 3D graphics by offering automatic scaling so that one design will fit multiple display resolutions. Content can be created in layers, and any aspect may be changed independently and automatically. Additionally, any visual aspect may be tied to live data.

Moxie’s playlist manager allows creation of intelligent playlists, which play at the appropriate times and right locations, eliminating the need for manual playlist scheduling. Moxie’s network management offers autosensing and remote configuration of Moxie systems. It provides secure encryption, permissions, and authentication to protect data, and full system monitoring and recovery. It also provides bandwidth and energy-use management to reduce operating costs. Integration to Microsoft Active Directory for users, groups, and permissions is also included.

Premier Mounts is a recognized leader in mounting solutions for the AV industry. The company is also a leader in offering mounting solutions for digital signage. Premier’s Gearbox line of products offers storage for digital signage players, video extenders, amplifiers, or any other equipment that must be mounted in some fashion.

The Gearbox line includes ceiling-mounted storage boxes to allow equipment to be installed near a ceiling-mounted display (or in the ceiling above a wall-mounted display), as well as offering new integrated wall mounts for displays with built-in storage boxes attached. The storage boxes are fully vented to minimize heat buildup and are easy to access, yet provide a clean and finished look to the installation.

QVS is known as the connectivity specialist. The company’s line of HDMI and DVI extension and distribution products lends itself well to digital signage connectivity. QVS offers HDMI and DVI extender kits in either of two Cat-5e configurations. DVI extenders provide up to 130ft. of transmission distance. HDMI extenders provide up to 200ft. of transmission distance. HDCP is supported in both lines.

QVS also offers a unique HDMI distribution method: HDMI over LAN with broadcast capability. The HDMI-over-LAN solution kit contains an HDMI-over-LAN transmitter and an HDMI-over-LAN receiver. By adding a LAN switch, unlimited additional displays are available by adding additional HDMI-over-LAN receivers. The transmission distance when using a LAN switch is up to 300 meters at 1080p resolution.

Scala offers a multiplatform approach to digital signage. The simplest solution uses an electronic photo frame to display signage information. This option uses MPEG-4, JPEG, and MP3 file formats and is limited to 800x600 resolution. Stepping up from the photo frame, the Scala SD Media Appliance is offered. It offers additional file format support and resolutions up to 740x480 NTSC. The Scala HD Media Appliance offers even further file format support such as H.264 and WMV 9. It is capable of output resolutions up to 1080p. Additionally, Scala can use both low-end and high-end PCs to display content.

Scala’s Content Manager and Designer software work seamlessly with whichever display method is chosen to allow customized content creation and management.

EX Modules allow features such as video inputs, weather feeds, and RS-232 control of displays and video switchers.

Scala also offers Scala Advantage, a premier software maintenance program. Scala Advantage provides software updates including additional features, improved functionality, and associated application compatibility. It also offers solutions for bugs found in the software.

Digital Signage Technology Showcase

Dec 7, 2010 10:54 AM, By Mike Keadle

Sony’s Ziris line of digital signage products is composed of several different divisions. Ziris Create software is the content creation portion of the Ziris suite. It works with almost all media types and offers a powerful Timeline tool to allow display of content in daily or weekly schedules.

Ziris Manage monitors and reports devices on the Ziris network. It measures performance and playout of devices and screens through an easy-to-navigate tree-like interface. This allows quick inspection of the Ziris network and also allows tracking of the playout for advertising clients.

Ziris View is Sony’s digital signage player software. It turns any Windows Vista- or Windows 7-based computer into a high-performance digital signage player. Ziris View can display most media formats including Flash, and it can even display material from live websites.

Ziris Transfer distributes content on larger networks. It prevents the Ziris Create application from being bogged down in performance due to heavy file transfers. Transfer also provides functionality such as automatically retrying failed transfers and allowing content delivery within a given time to further reduce network impact.

Ziris Edge allows content caching on a Ziris network. It allows players to pull content rather than store it locally, and it helps to eliminate issues with firewalls through the use of HTTP. Edge also works with dynamically changing IP addresses.

Spinetix offers the world’s first Hyper Media Player, the HMP100. The HMP100 is an alternative to traditional PC-based signage devices. It is based upon open protocols and formats, which allow straight-forward and cost-effective integration with standard web-based skills and freely available technologies. The HMP100 only uses 2W of power&emdash;about 50 times less than the average digital signage PC, which uses around 100W. The HMP100 unit does not require a server; it is a standalone device requiring no recurring license fees. It also boasts time synchronization with other networked devices. This feature allows a videowall to be constructed and managed without the headaches of trying to synchronize video images.

Hyper Media Director is the software used to create content for the HMP100. It uses a simple user interface to create and manage content on a single device or multiple devices across the network. Spinetix will also be launching a new digital signage product alongside the HMP100 in the near future.

SVSi’s voLANte line distributes high-definition content over Ethernet and fiber networks. It is ideal for digital signage networks with multiple displays because it allows easy distribution through a LAN switch.

VoLANte Conductor management software allows control over multiple content distribution modes that allow live and stored content to be displayed on demand, by scheduled timings, or by emergency interrupt mode.

Tightrope Media Carousel

Tightrope Media Carousel

Tightrope Media’s Carousel digital signage line offers a simple, secure, and economical signage solution for any size project. Tightrope’s content creation is designed to provide quick and intuitive layouts by allowing the user to select from a number of templates. The message is simply inserted into the template and then uploaded to the players. Content can be reorganized at any time by simple drag-and-drop editing. If a preset template does not offer the layout needed, Tightrope can also custom design a template based upon user specifications.

Tightrope’s Carousel line offers hardware solutions that range from the simple Solo 230 and Solo 300R series standalone signage players to networked players such as the Player 230 or Player 300R receiving content from the Carousel Server or taking advantage of the multichannel capabilities of the Carousel Pro Server.

All Carousel hardware and software devices are designed to work together seamlessly. There are no hidden subscription fees, per-seat licenses, or software add-ons. Everything needed to fully integrate a signage solution is included.

The Visix AxisTV digital signage solution is composed of three basic parts: the AxisTV software, a content manger, and media players.

AxisTV software provides a simple-to-use interface. It offers continuously updating previews, clear click-through directions, and a comprehensive help section covering all of the user screens and options. Messaging is created by filling out a simple form. Media files are imported by following instructive prompts, and scheduling is done through a calendar-based layout.

AxisTV content management uses intuitive controls to manage all aspects of content layout: bulletins, backgrounds, audio and video files, and layouts. Even hardware, users, and roles can be managed. The content management is browser-based to allow management from anywhere over the LAN.

AxisTV players are available in form factors to suit any installation, from an extremely small form factor capable of mounting behind a display to a large rackmount unit providing additional functionality.

To complement the AxisTV lineup, MeetingMinders are small touchscreen display panels that show a room’s schedule, allowing a quick visual indicator of the room’s availability. It also allows a walk-up room reservation to be made with just a few touches to the screen. The MeetingMinder panels may also be used to display other content, such as weather feeds.

X20 Media Xpresenter

X20 Media Xpresenter

X2O Media’s Xpresenter 3.0 digital signage solution is the latest generation of the award-winning Xpresenter platform. It is designed to make creating and managing digital signage content extremely easy. Xpresenter offers broadcast-quality video and graphics, PowerPoint-based content and templates, Microsoft Office add-ins, and rule-based playlists for automatic scheduling. Smart content is also featured. Smart content allows screens to automatically adapt to changing data conditions such as the time of day or the weather. This allows content to be directed toward the intended audience while minimizing the time spent on content management.

Xpresenter Xe is a digital signage system designed for those who do not need the full feature sets available in the Xpresenter Enterprise platform. It is still built upon the Xpresenter platform, which means that even though some of the complexity and unnecessary features have been eliminated, the same quality is still inherent. Each Xpresenter Xe is available as a turnkey package, including all necessary player hardware and software.

The X2O Enterprise Communication platform is based upon Microsoft Sharepoint. It allows the same broadcast-quality video, PowerPoint creation tools, and live data feeds as the Xpresenter series, but it also builds upon this functionality and scalability by allowing realtime messages to be sent to any screen by accessing Sharepoint’s role-based permissions.

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