Even Samsung intended its debut of Smart Signage Platform at ISE 2013 to be something of a ‘soft launch’ the new System-on-Chip technology was the talk of the show. Last month, an event marking the official UK introduction of the solution was held in London – perfect time then to consider the capabilities and limitations of the technology.
The origins of Samsung Smart Signage Platform lay in a project started last year to look at further applications of the company’s Smart TV range. From the first major public of the Smart TV range at IFA 2011 it was obvious that Samsung had more ambitious plans than simply allowing consumers to watch reruns of Corrie. Add to that the company’s access to mobile phone chipsets and what you have is the potential to deliver content to a screen and play it out in virtually any location – ideal for digital signage.
From these early stirrings, Samsung’s plans developed rapidly leading to the decision to build Smart Signage Platform technology into more than 30 models in the company’s display range. In order to do this, the company has scaled down the hardware to a very small chip set so as not to affect the overall appearance or dimensions of the display. This System-on-Chip technology is the logical next step in a process that has seen a progression from standard PCs driving digital signage, to small form industrial PCs and, most recently, solid state media players.
On the chip
The Samsung Smart Signage Platform features a 1 GHz dual-core CPU, 512KB cache and a 1GB, DDR3 dual 32-bit memory, high-performance video processing codec and a choice of 4GB or 8GB of storage. In effect, this is an embedded, high-performance media player, allowing users to play back content without the need for a separate PC or set-back box. By eliminating the need for external devices, the Samsung Smart Signature Platform offers a clean and simple installation.
A ‘Plug & Play’ feature allows content to be loaded and the device to be controlled via USB, in addition to supporting various video and audio formats, including WMV, MP4, H.264 and more. For software, users have a choice of Samsung’s MagicInfo Premium S (which allows users to manage content and devices remotely or via a remote control) or a number of third party applications.
To support development around the Smart Signage Platform, Samsung has released a Software Developers’ Kit (SDK) for signage software, which the company says is the first-ever SDK for the commercial display market. This allows software partners to develop customised signage applications suitable for an array of business and user environments.
The first third party software developer to really embrace the Smart Signage Platform is signagelive (although Scala is also a partner). CEO Jason Cremins that he has scaled up his organisation in order to sully support Samsung’s global roll-out of Smart Signage Platform. While it’s very early days, Cremins told AV News that the market has already reacted positively to the announcement of Smart Signage Platform, with proposals under discussion for installations of several hundreds of screens.
One of the first application areas to attract interest is that of digital menu boards. Signagelive has demonstrated QSR solution that enables the restaurant owner to change prices, take items off sale and to change information about ingredients quickly and simply using a browser based dashboard. Products are managed in a cloud-based database including pricing, nutritional information and product grouping. From a simple update on a mobile or tablet or database, price changes will dynamically appear on screen using HTML5 playback technology.
In addition to publishing the content to Digital Menu Boards, the Signagelive QSR solution can output content to mobile devices, tablets and shelf edge displays. Cremins says the Samsung Smart Signage Platform offers considerable benefits over alternative PC based solutions, including; savings in purchase cost, reduction in energy costs and ease of installation and maintenance. Cremins concedes that there are limitations on the content and applications that can be handled by the Samsung Smart Signage Platform, but that the advantages of lower costs, ease of installation and simple operation will take digital signage into new markets.
With so much interest in Samsung’s new technology, what will the effect be on the channel? Will it add incremental business, or simply replace existing solutions with lower cost technology? At the entry-level, those involved in development of the Samsung Smart Signage Platform see some digital signage business migrating to mainstream IT and even end-user installs. The ‘Plug and Play’ design requires comparatively little expertise to install and there is, of course, no integration required beyond accessing the software.
As the complexity of projects increase, the suppliers of traditional digital signage solutions are comfortable that System-on-Chip solutions will have relatively little impact in the short term. Jeff Hastings, CEO of BrightSign explains:
“The launch of System-on-Chip digital signage players integrated into one manufacturer’s displays is an interesting development. It continues to endorse BrightSign’s long held view that the market is moving away from the PC as a playback platform. Building the Digital Signage player into the screen, however, can be quite inflexible as technology evolves. A standalone player like the BrightSign unit can be used to connect to any LCD screen on the market – any size, any format.”
“The customer can choose to pay top dollar for a superb premium price screen or economise by buying a lower cost product that still fully meets his or her needs. Screen and player technology is improving continuously, and with separate units, customers can upgrade either part of the combination as required.”
“In terms of the player itself, standalone solid state digital signage players have now evolved to the point where they match the capabilities of PC players in terms of features and performance. Full specifications of system on chip products are not yet available with technology roadmaps from both the hardware and software sides will be key to the long term viability of the solution.”
It is our belief that there is huge potential for digital signage in the SME sector which is not currently being addressed by current solutions, and that System-on-Chip will certainly address this latent demand. As to whether it will be adopted further up the value chain, we would point to the general trend in just what can be integrated onto a chip. It’s just a matter of timescale and economics.