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Many people think of fans as essential components for cooling heat-generating electronics devices such as digital signage media players. Fans are loud and make devices bigger than they need to be, but they’re a necessary evil, right? Wrong! As far as media players are concerned, they are actually completely unnecessary and a telltale sign of inefficient design.

I am a firm believer that fans should be avoided at all costs. Why? Let me count the ways… First of all, a fan is a moving part, therefore a potential point of failure. When a fan does fail, you probably won’t know until the entire device overheats and fails. Second, the fan itself requires power, which generates additional heat. Lastly, fans are not an essential part of electronics if the device is designed properly. They add no operative value – they’re simply a cooling system. That’s why you’ll never find a fan inside a BrightSign media player – a policy that I am passionate about. Our Series 3 players are more powerful than ever before, yet still there are no fans.

Specifically in digital signage, there are simple ways to avoid the need for a fan. Start by designing products that produce less heat in the first place. Product designers should be sure not to use bigger processors than necessary. Although it’s counter intuitive, using a lightning-fast general-purpose processor may slow the system, rather than speed it up. Using appropriately specified processors with efficient, dedicated software can enable all the functionality required. A purpose-built, commercial-grade OS (rather than a consumer-grade OS, like Android or Windows, which is multipurpose and clumsy) can drive low-powered efficiency. Use fast, solid-state storage that can be returned to a low-power idle mode quickly. There are many strategic ways to produce less heat and creative methods to dissipate heat that do not require a flimsy, breakable fan.

If you are considering a player or SoC that needs a fan to cool it, be sure to also consider the potentially much higher TCO as a result of the fan breaking and the system overheating. That’s simply not a risk we’re comfortable passing on to our customers.

 

Jeff Hastings

Jeff Hastings

Jeff Hastings joined BrightSign as CEO in August 2009. He brings a wealth of experience in digital media and technology. Prior to BrightSign, he served as Corel’s president and general manager of digital media, responsible for developing and implementing all aspects of the company’s digital media strategy. Prior to joining Corel, he served as general manager at Pinnacle Systems, the consumer division of Avid, where he was responsible for all aspects of the company’s global operations. Prior to joining Pinnacle, Jeff Hastings was COO of M-Audio, another Avid company. He was responsible for taking M-Audio’s highly regarded tools for computer-centric musicians and professionals and expanding their reach into the consumer market. Before this, he served as president of Rio, the company that pioneered the MP3 space by introducing the industry’s first MP3 player. Jeff Hastings holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Purdue University and holds eight U.S. patents.

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