Digital Signage Expo 2016 claims to be the world’s largest trade show and educational conference dedicated to digital displays, interactive technology and digital communications networks. This year’s Expo provided a showcase for new ultra-thin, high performance media players with capabilities that: enable leveraging Internet resources; support for HTML5 code; swiping and multi-touch functionality; and the ability to stream live video.
Impact and relevance are the key to audience engagement with digital signage, and ultimately Return on Investment. The relationship between digital signage and the cloud has paved the way for increasingly complex and sophisticated solutions, with developers integrating new sources and content which will might see the end of signage screens displaying inappropriate broadcast TV and not much else.
Much of the discussion at the recent Digital Signage Expo 2016 revolved around two major trends – the emergence of HTML5 as a development platform and a growing interest in streaming video to digital signs. In the past, streaming and other Web 2.0 content would have demanded proprietary plug-ins for some signage solutions, inflating development costs and deterring owners of signage estates from deploying some of the most relevant and effective content
The good thing about HTML5 is that it isn’t proprietary, which means that specialist developers can work with it affordably. It is also cross-platform, so similar code can run on smartphones, tablets and smart TVs. HTML5 is designed to do everything you’d want to do online within your browser, without additional plug-ins.
But for those new to HTML5 perhaps we should start by explaining the significance of the advance in coding technology. Remember the old Flash versus Apple punch-up. HTML5 was touted by Apple as the ‘Flash-killer’. The standard was published in October 2014, by the World Wide Web Consortium, to improve support for the latest multimedia standards while maintaining consistency in the ways that different devices interpret the code.
It was promised that HTML5 would result in more interoperable implementations, particularly cross-platform mobile applications, because it includes features designed with low-powered devices such as smartphones and tablets in mind Among the new features are: native handling of multimedia and graphical content; support for scalable vector graphics (SVG) content; and enhanced support for high resolution video (but see the box below on format compatibility), and audio content.
HTML5 can also be used to write applications that work even when the device is not connected to the internet. For mobile applications is also location-friendly, informing websites where users are physically located.
Today, there are more HTML-competent web developers than Flash developers; more available help resources and code samples; and supports a more collaborative style of development. In short, the collection of technologies behind HTML5 can deliver everything Flash can – but it is platform independence: This is all good from a digital signage perspective, but how have these new capabilities been incorporated by signage developers?
Navori Labs was among the first to fully embrace HTML5 and, at DSE2016. The company showed a user interface based on the standard for its QL Manager. This features a template and media preview capability to improve the design experience, along with a more responsive user interface to simplify content creation and management (see the box below on ‘Data feeds for increased relevance’). New meta tags support playlists and rules-based scheduling, enabling more effective targeting of content delivery across signage networks.
The new QL Server SDK, can serve as the backbone for an entire digital signage infrastructure across content management, distribution, playback and monitoring. It will allow management and control of QL Professional from custom third-party software, providing a seamless interface to ad booking, media planning and other systems and applications.
Systems integrators, resellers, network operators and end users can customize the QL user interface according to the customer’s requirements and profiles. The QL Server SDK is compatible with both the new HTML5 and Silverlight user interface. QL Professional is multi OS, multi-tenant oriented and manages automated data integration.
Leading software provider Signagelive’s cloud-based software platform is written in HTML5 and provides full support for different content formats including static images, HD video, web pages, IPTV, multi-zoning for different media types, image layering, RSS feeds, portrait support and screen on / off control. It also comprises enterprise-grade management of SoC commercial panels, optional proof of content and delivery functionality for better network and campaign management.
“Interactive functionality provides retailers with an extremely powerful marketing tool,” comments Jason Cremins, CEO of Signagelive. “Using Smart Signage displays powered by Signagelive’s SoC software, well known high street brands can cost effectively take their digital signage networks to a new level by giving consumers the ability to interact with displayed content though assistive PoS applications, thus increasing brand loyalty and driving overall sales.”
HTML 5.0 and video format compatibility
While HTML5 standard supports high resolution video, there is no agreement on which format(s) to support. Different browsers support different HTML 5.0 video formats. There are three leading contenders: Ogg Theora, supported by every browser except Internet Explorer (Safari support requires a manual installation); H.264, supported by all except Firefox; and VP8/WebM, which is supported by all (but Safari and Internet Explorer require manual installation).
This year’s Digital Signage Expo Expo provided a showcase for new ultra-thin, high performance media players with capabilities that: enable leveraging Internet resources; support for HTML5 code; swiping and multi-touch functionality; and the ability to stream live video.
Data feeds for increased relevance
Digital signage is evolving and nowhere is this so evident than with content. The days when you had to manually research and repurpose your content to suit your digital signage solution. Screen networks are now powered by social media and content that is delivered in real-time, saving countless hours of manual data collection, manipulation and updates.
But what about other feeds from within your customer’s organisation? News and information generated within the organisation can often be among the most effective at grabbing viewers’ attention.
Early on, all we had was text-only news feeds. While they were limited, they did provide a content solution that was very easy to implement. News tickers generated in this way provided a means of provided a means of super-local and specifically relevant content. In response to demands for more exciting rich media content, we got Media RSS. This combined text with links that point to images and video stored on remote servers.
Linked media and text are can be updated without any user interaction, making this content totally maintenance-free. For those who want to beef-up their signage content, but lacking the means, a number of third party content providers offer Media RSS feeds from commercial sources but tailored to the user’s industry or activity.
These raw data feeds are delivered in a common format such as XML but you can also get fully rendered content that includes professional transition effects and graphics. The feeds are updated by the service provider and there is nothing else required from the operator’s end.
For the next step in the advancement of genuinely dynamic content. We have to turn to social media. Pushing real-time news and information has never been easier and adding a corporate Twitter feed to your content portfolio makes a lot of sense, but it still requires somebody to do something.
As a result, there is growing interest in the automatic generation of content from other corporate data sources. Examples include: production and sales statistics; call volumes and time to response; and room, seat and table reservations. In retail environments, ERP, CRM, POS and logistics systems can be used to trigger promotions. Microsoft SharePoint can be used as a content source and Microsoft Dynamics data can be used to create real-time business intelligence dashboards.
In the past, publishing social media content or media RSS feeds required some custom programming and data manipulation. This involved building a custom application format the feeds or the data., because not all social media sites publish data in a standard way, like XML. There are therefore additional steps required before these feeds can be displayed in a digital signage system.
Navori QL users can use media RSS and social media without undertaking any extra programming or external manipulation. They can publish maintenance-free content very cost effectively because there is no need for further development.
Top trends at DSE 2016
1. High-bright displays for outdoor applications
Recent months have seen a move to higher brightness levels by the major display levels both in indoor and outdoor applications. NEC Display Solutions expanded its portfolio of high brightness displays with the launch of a 75-inch display. The X754HB large format display offers a reliable and consistent solution for environments where lighting conditions are changeable but the information on the display always needs to be visible. Whether a menu or information board – where detail is important, or images that add to the retail experience – where colour is key. The 75-inch display intelligently adapts to its surroundings, using an integrated ambient light sensor. During the day, the display provides a bright, clear image regardless of the lighting conditions. At night, it dims down, reducing power consumption. Samsung has introduced a line of outdoor displays that are weather-sealed, ready to operate in anything from -30 to 50 degrees Celsius, and pushing out 2,500 nit brightness. These panels also have the built-in capability to increase or decrease brightness dependent on time and ambient lighting conditions.
2. Indoor direct LED
Digital Signage Expo this year signalled the future rise-and-rise of fine pixel pitch LED modules for indoor use. For those used to the old low-res direct-view LED displays. today’s fine pixel pitch displays with individual LEDs as close as 1.5 mm from each other, the new fine pitch models will be a revelation.The big attraction is shape, as these units stitch together like wall tiles, unconstrained by specified widths or heights. “They can fill a wall, or a support column or a building’s bulkhead.” Fine pitch LEDs eliminate perceptible seams and deliver a richness and consistency of colour that other display technologies struggle to match.
3. Transparent OLED
Samsung unveiled the industry’s first Mirror and Transparent OLED display panels for digital signage. The new Samsung Display OLED panel technology provides a digital viewing platform for making the consumer purchasing experience more visually engaging. When Samsung’s OLED display technology is integrated with Intel Real Sense™ technology, a visually compelling, interactive closet or “self-modelling” wardrobe is created that can enable consumers to virtually “see” clothes or other retail items. Together, the two technologies create a “virtual fitting room” that will be used to help consumers see themselves wearing clothing apparel, shoes or jewellery that they might wish to buy. The Intel technology takes human-computer interaction to the next level of visualization, which combines consumer-grade 3D cameras with an easy-to-use, automated library of stored “perceptions” to simplify camera enhancement efforts of software developers.
The Samsung Mirror Display may also replace home mirrors in the future, providing digital information services to sophisticated consumers in the same space where they now just have a traditional mirror. Like the Samsung Mirror Display, the new Samsung Transparent Display will visually accentuate the gesture and voice control of Real Sense 3D-rotatable viewing systems, with OLED’s vibrant Full HD video playback. Collectively, these features will enhance consumer-facing displays in car dealerships, and other innovative signage applications in public information and transportation environments.
Samsung unveiled the industry’s first Mirror and Transparent OLED display panels for digital signage.
4. System on Chip
It was just three Digital Signage Expos ago that Samsung debuted its Smart Signage Platform, a line of professional displays that featured system-on-a-chip (SoC) embedded computers built into the units, removing the need for and cost of an external digital signage player. Since then, the Smart Signage Platform has been expanded across virtually the company’s entire range of digital signage displays, from tablet-sized to some of the largest panels on the market. The capabilities of these SoC displays has matured with technology advances and software partner feedback, expanding the market for digital signage applications.
5. Beacons and sensors
When a shopper picks up a product, a sensor-based solution from Stratacache identifies what has been moved, and displays relevant product information on an in-store screen. ‘Responsive Merchandising’ allows complex data or marketing messages to be displayed on cue. A fully immersive experience, ‘Responsive Merchandising’ provides retailers an opportunity to seamlessly connect the digital and physical retail environments by pushing relevant information and product offers directly to shoppers’ mobile devices driving both product and brand awareness. By allowing customers to engage with retail products through the ActiVia for Media software platform, users can provide a unique and interactive way to inspire consumers during the path-to-purchase. Better in-store environments resonate with shoppers and keep them coming back for more. Signagelive has incorporated Near Field Communications (NFC) tags and Beacon technology into its SoC (System on Chip) and HTML5 software, enabling its customers to take static smart signage networks into the interactive world.
6. LED wall mounting solutions
Peerless-AV announced the industry’s first Universal Modular LED Wall Mounting System. Featuring a quick and easy pop-out mechanism that can be adapted to support various brands and display sizes, Peerless-AV’s LED Wall Mounting System also offers a modular design enabling custom installs for specific configurations. The universal nature of the LED Wall Mounting System will give installers infinite choices as they look to specify more full-colour, high brightness, big viewing angle LED displays in their projects. Key features of the Universal Modular LED Wall Mounting System include a clean and aesthetically pleasing installation based on a slim, space-saving design. The pop-out mechanism extends the mount 30 inches from the wall, providing ample space for a technician to service and maintain the LED displays. Its universal design can be easily configured to support most LED brands and sizes by simply changing out display-specific adapter plates.