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By Greg Galvin,  – ComQi

As everyone knows, TV and display manufacturers have for years been marketing and producing Smart TVs for the consumer market.  These TVs were built around the concept of a System-on-a-Chip (SOC), a simple solution that allowed manufacturers to integrate all key computer components into a single integrated circuit that could be embedded inside the device.  This advancement paved the way for Smart TVs to be an entertainment hub (at home) and fundamentally changed the user experience for everyone.

It didn’t take long for the same technologies to be adopted within the commercial digital signage space with numerous companies offering displays with integrated media players.  This of course initiated the rumors that traditional “external” media players would become obsolete, since an embedded SOC solution was substantially cheaper than an external media player.  So where are we now, more than 6 years after some major screen manufactures came out with their SoC digital signage offerings?

Looking across the spectrum of digital signage solutions and media players, we see a fractured market with major screen manufacturers selling various SoC technologies, each running proprietary operating systems, such as Samsung’s Tizen, LG’s WebOS, and other android based offerings. Although this approach allowed these companies to offer simple all-in-one digital signage solutions, it also had some limitations:

  1. Users are required to use the manufacturer’s digital signage software in order to realize it’s cost benefits. If this software isn’t sufficient for their current and future signage needs, additional costs were incurred though licensing other software or even the purchase of a more powerful external player.
  2. Large Video Walls and Multiple Displays are not supported, as SoC technologies were designed for a single display.
  3. It restricted a user’s ability to upgrade, customize or extend the media players capabilities for their unique signage requirements, putting limitations on a client’s ability to offer rich user experiences.

As a result, external media players are still a major component within digital signage solutions.  It’s true that an external media player is listed as an additional priced component of the solution, but the overall cost isn’t substantial compared to the trade-offs. Network Operators have to remember that SoC technology does come at a cost, it’s just included with the cost of the screen.

Intel®, which has long been a dominant player in providing the “brains” within media players answered these SoC shortcomings in 2017 with their Smart Display Module specification and reference architecture (Intel® SDM).  This specification defines a SoC device but with a key difference: it offers a plug-in interface; giving users the flexibility to purchase and/or upgrade a key component in any digital signage solution, similar to how users can update network cards or graphics cards in traditional PCs.

Image Source – Intel®

ComQi sees this technology becoming a vital component of digital signage solutions in the near future.  With its reference architecture and specification, this solution allows manufacturers to produce different lines of media players with different performance characteristics and capabilities, such as supporting peripheral devices (i.e. camera’s, I/O, sensors) to enhance the user / signage experience.  This, along with the increased adoption of SDM among display manufacturers (such as AUO), will allow companies like ComQi to continue to offer the best solution for our customers. And not be constrained by the system limitations of an embedded media player.  No one should be required to replace the most expensive aspect of digital signage, the display, when all that may be required is a simple upgrade to a small, but critical component – the media player.  After all, it’s the mind that powers your digital signage solutions and everyone’s mind needs room to grow.

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