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Technology Showcase: Turnkey Digital Signage Systems

New out-of-the-box solutions simplify signage.

Technology Showcase: Turnkey Digital Signage Systems

Jun 1, 2009 12:00 PM,
By Jay Ankeney

New out-of-the-box solutions simplify signage.

Helius MediaSignage

If you want a digital signage system installed soup-to-nuts, most people have traditionally gone to systems integrators or value-added retailers who can consult on their needs, know all the best-of-breed components available, and can oversee the whole installation based on their years of expertise.

It’s a wonderful service and very valuable for institutions that can afford it. But in these difficult economic times, some smaller operations or those with pinched budgets are turning to turnkey digital signage systems that can be installed without mounds of paperwork or advanced outside technological support. Setting up your own turnkey signage also avoids the cost of SaaS (software as a service) hosting fees of managed systems—but then again, when flying on your own, you have to chart your own course. (More on SaaS.)

Digital signage systems have come to be known by many names including “captive-audience networks,” “narrowcasting,” and “place-based media.” Fans of The Simpsons will enjoy the fact that it has also come to be known as “digital out-of-home,” abbreviated as DOOH, which Homer would probably accompany with a head slap. But these days, highly intelligent turnkey digital signage systems are bringing this personalized communication technology into the reach of even modest enterprises.

Digital signage, which has the advantage of directly communicating with potential customers and audiences seeking information, is experiencing healthy growth despite our anemic economy. According to ABI Research, a worldwide market-research firm covering the digital signage industry among other digital media market areas, the United States’ total digital signage market revenues (including hardware, software, installation, and maintenance) in 2008 were in the range of $630 million to $670 million. ABI Research predicts that 2009 looks even better, with the overall digital signage market in the United States expected to grow by about 33 percent.

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There are many reasons for this trend, including the decline in the appeal of traditional advertising media and the ability of digital signs to be updated in realtime to accommodate late-breaking news as well as the changes in their situational installation. In an emergency, people look to the nearest digital signage display for help. In addition, the costs of the technology behind them including display, software installation, and media distribution are falling compared to mainstream advertising and other informational venues.

On the other hand, an extensive digital signage network can be expensive to install, and that investment is mostly upfront. That is one reason simpler, turnkey digital signage systems have been gaining recognition in the marketplace—although their overall impact has yet to be determined.

A very valuable innovation, however, has been the development of technologies that can enable even turnkey digital signage systems to quantify their ROI. For example, TruMedia Technologies has become a leading provider of automated realtime audience-measurement solutions for the out-of-home-display industry. The company’s proprietary analytics technology actually measures viewers’ visual attention toward posters, digital signs, TV monitors, display windows, and in-store product displays. It can also automatically change the display’s content based on the number of viewers, their gender and age, and other factors.

The system is so simple, it can be installed without specialized help even on a turnkey digital signage system. Basically, you mount an 8”x2” box containing one or two cameras above or below the digital display, and it sends its information to a passive iCapture smart-box, which records data about the viewer. Then a user can configure its operation via a web portal and get realtime feedback on who is watching your on-site display so you can tailor its information to best suit the viewers’ needs.

It should be noted that TruMedia uses totally anonymous face tracking and nothing is ever recorded, so it obviates concerns about privacy invasion. This technology is so safe it is even permitted inside hospitals without violating the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations.

Starting just this month, Samsung will be shipping TruMedia iCapture sensors (manufactured by Samsung) for audience measurement and PROactive Merchandising (PROM) feedback.

Turnkey digital signage systems can range from a simple PowerPoint presentation on a commercial TV screen to highly evolved graphics displays incorporating eye-catching live video feeds. Although it’s still an amorphous sector of the nonbroadcast information display field, here is a look at some of the most interesting turnkey digital signage offerings from companies that are leaders in that field.

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Technology Showcase: Turnkey Digital Signage Systems

Jun 1, 2009 12:00 PM,
By Jay Ankeney

New out-of-the-box solutions simplify signage.

Adtec Digital signEdje

The turnkey digital signage solutions based on Adtec Digital’s more than 23 years of experience in media distribution and control start with its signEdje and mediaManage server. Customers simply place signEdje units at end-point locations, and each unit then sucks content down from the mediaManage server in a paradigm common to many companies. However, what is not very common is Adtec Digital’s iptvManage server, which distributes content over IP. Content is then distributed throughout the IPTV system with inexpensive set-top boxes being used to watch the content emanating from the signEdje. In addition, if high-definition video and graphic content emanating from the signEdje (or any other signage solution) has to be distributed over a coaxial cable system on a digital tier, Adtec Digital offers its pioneering DTA-3050. “Few people use this distribution method at this time, but most every institution will do so in the future,” the company claims.

The turnkey iCompel SD 2GHz digital signage offering from Black Box Network Services comes ready for use out of the box with software pre-installed and tested, and it can be used either as a standalone or networked signage system. In fact, multiple iCompel units can be set up as subscribers for a publisher iCompel unit. iCompel SD 2GHz supports streaming of live TV or video and recorded content, and you can locally update its screen content to instantly add text messages, issue alerts, or select content for specific audiences. The system is Linux-based, and it offers a high level of security thanks to a built-in firewall.

Chyron Axis

Since Chyron has been a leader in video for 43 years, the company’s ChyTV digital signage players boast powerful HD and dynamic video-playback capability. Chyron has also moved into the content-creation space with Axis, which provides a massive library of content, templates, and simplified applications to make graphics and video creation extremely easy. Now even nonskilled personnel can create new content with just a web browser. Axis is also a hosted media platform that allows third-party partners to contribute their applications online and interface with Axis Graphics. The combination of Axis digital media templates, hosted applications, and make for one of the most powerful end-to-end solutions in the digital signage market.

Enseo Cassini

Enseo’s Cassini is a reliable and flexible HD appliance for all your digital signage needs. Cassini is an IP streaming device, an RF tuner, a multizone graphics overlay appliance, and a store-and-forward device all in one. Cassini makes it easier than ever to have dynamic content on any screen, and in the format and resolution of your choice. Enseo’s Cassini is available in three models, configured with either solid-state memory (SSM) or hard-disk drives (HDD). Cassini provides full support for industry-standard IPTV streaming protocols, and its built-in triband tuner decodes broadcast television signals over satellite or cable. In addition, Enseo’s Author software is a user-friendly screen/theme-creation package that allows users to create themes with scaled video, graphics, text, and web elements. They can then upload the theme and content to a USB thumb drive or FTP site and easily download via sneakernet or network into the Cassini.

The iDS (Interactive Digital Signage) software platform from Four Winds Interactive turns LCD and plasma displays into a flexible, reliable, easily operated digital signage network. IDS lets anyone blend rich multimedia, web, and live-data content types to create visually stimulating, dynamic, and compelling digital signs. In fact, after training in hours instead of days, iDS empowers owners to manage the complete workflow of a digital display network—including design, scheduling, deployment, playback, reporting, and system monitoring. IDS can be expanded from single-sign installation to enterprise-wide implementation.

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Technology Showcase: Turnkey Digital Signage Systems

Jun 1, 2009 12:00 PM,
By Jay Ankeney

New out-of-the-box solutions simplify signage.

Helius MediaSignage

From network setup to central management and deployment of content, the HeliusMediaSignage system is easy to use, yet powerful enough to meet any digital signage need. MediaAuthor from Helius is a software program that works with Microsoft PowerPoint and allows anyone to create professional digital signage content and layouts in a matter of mere minutes. With Helius MediaAuthor, users can select from a variety of digital signage templates; add video playlists, graphics, RSS content, weather and news displays, text, and animations; and then instantly publish them from PowerPoint to a Mac mini for immediate viewing on regional screens. MediaAuthor’s intuitive system lets you avoid long and expensive content development cycles for digital signage displays.

All of the MagicBox digital signage systems—including VIP, Memo, and Aavelin—work the same way. They have composer software for creating and scheduling the content and a dedicated player that sits on an IP-addressable network to deliver it. The company’s flagship turnkey digital signage and video-messaging system is Aavelin, which lets you use the tools and digital backgrounds included with the Aavelin Composer or create and import from common graphic programs to feed multiple digital displays. MagicBox’s new optional E-Blast software allows you to remotely access multiple systems from one location to insert urgent or emergency messages in crawl lines or as full pages.

Omnivex Display 3 preloaded on a TTUFF Technologies MPE-201

Omnivex offers a turnkey digital signage system that is bundled with one of its partners, TTUFF Technologies. The bundle includes Omnivex Display 3 software preloaded on a TTUFF Technologies MPE-201, one of the most trusted digital signage PCs in the industry. Omnivex Display 3 also provides wizards to help walk customers through the process of creating content, scheduling it, and distributing it over their networks. When you receive your MPE-201 digital signage package, mount the TTUFF PC on the back of your display, connect the VGA and RS-232 cables (optional) between the PC and the display, and turn it on. Omnivex even includes background templates to help get you started. Omnivex Display 3 allows you to see your content as you create it with no complicated scripting or file conversion.

Stratacache ActiVia

Sony has stepped out of its renowned broadcast arena to provide an out-of-the-box, ready-to-go, digital signage solution called SimpleSign. The SimpleSign kit includes a choice of 26in. or 32in. LCD display, a BKM-FW50 digital signage card, Sony Creative Software Vegas 8 content-creation software, a CompactFlash card, a CompactFlash card reader, and a Quick Start Guide. The SimpleSign system is preconfigured to operate with no setup. You just save content to the supplied CompactFlash card and insert the card in the SimpleSign slot, and the content will play back automatically. With green considerations in mind, Sony also wants you to know that its LCD technology consumes 30 percent less power than equivalently sized plasma displays.

At April’s NAB Show 2009, Stratacache spotlighted its ActiVia digital-media-management and -control platform and OmniCast, its recently upgraded solution for reliable, efficient digital-media distribution. With ActiVia for Media, companies can deliver dynamic, rich media and video directly to any remote location. ActiVia for Media IP-BTV can also be leveraged to deliver business video, distance learning, and mission-critical information directly to employees without going through the clutter of layers of management. For distribution, ActiVia uses the proven OmniCast content-distribution engine for efficient delivery with a seamless, user-friendly interface. OmniCast’s award-winning one-to-many media distribution system can securely and efficiently move media at up to 500Mbps across satellite, terrestrial, wireless, or hybrid networks.

X2O Media Xpresenter Xe

At the Digital Signage Expo 2009 in February, X2O Media introduced Xpresenter Xe, an all-in-one, standalone digital signage system. In a single-chassis configuration, Xpresenter Xe features better-than-broadcast-quality video output, up to 1080p, powered by a graphics-rendering engine used in the broadcast industry. In order to get users up and running, Xpresenter Xe includes an easy-to-use configuration screen, point-and-click content-management tools, and links to live data. Any day-to-day updates to the screen’s content can be made quickly via a web-based control screen. Actions include the ability to quickly display breaking news, add new video clips to the playlist, and display welcome messages and alerts. With its professionally designed templates, no high-level technical knowledge is needed to install and operate Xpresenter Xe.

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