Closer Look: Panasonic’s Android-Centric Smart Signage Play

panasonic-openport

It took a little chasing, but I’ve managed to track down a Panasonic contact familiar with its recently announced OpenPort program – which is System on Chip commercial digital signage displays running Android.

The program was announced and shown at the big ISE show a couple of weeks back in Amsterdam, but it was hard there or after the fact to get much more than the bare essentials, in terms of information.

Here’s what Rudy Vitti, a senior product manager at Panasonic, has to say about OpenPort.

It will be out in North America by April (target). The SoC is on the LF8 series of panels – in three different sizes (42″, 49″ and 55″). That’s three of 34 pro displays that Panasonic markets.

The OpenPort Platform displays have an ARM A9 Cortex 1 GHz quad-core CPU media processor, 1 GB of memory, and 8 GB internal storage. They also have a Micro SD slot for more onboard storage. The units run Android 4.4.3. They have 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi and also have an Ethernet jack.

panasonic-openport2

The idea behind OpenPort and Android is that many companies have developed web or native Android players for other devices, like small players and HDMI sticks, and this provides an easy “port” of those players on to all-in-one panels. “Our goal is to minimize or eliminate the need for additional software development from the CMS point of view,” says Vitti.

By comparison, the System on Chip programs marketed by Samsung and LG run proprietary software and full integration for a software company would involve weeks or months of specific development. However, it’s also possible to get a very basic set-up going – essentially pointing to a URL – very quickly on either.

The company has already lined up a series of partners, including:

  • Capital Networks
  • Grassfish
  • m-fusion
  • Net Display
  • PDC
  • Scala
  • Smartsign
  • Videro
  • Wondersign

In most cases, these are companies with web players who were able to add OpenPort as an option, as opposed to making SoC a prime focus. The software applications can be installed by USB drive or SD card, or over the network using Panasonic’s apps server.

Panasonic is providing an API that enables the expansion of application functions, allowing things like the display to be controlled remotely without need of an RS232 connection.

One interesting note is that while the SoC is an embedded module like those from other displaycos with SoC, Panasonic is weighing the option of a snap-in SoC module. THAT would be cool, as one of the worries that comes up with all-in-ones is if the processor dies, the whole panel has to get taken down and repaired (and usually shipped somewhere).

That said, I wonder how often SoCs actually die. My guess is rarely. But a snap-in module would mean if there is a problem, the fix could be done on site, probably in minutes.

That makes at least two original display manufacturers offering SoC on Android, the other being Philips (which also announced at ISE). 

Dave Haynes

Dave Haynes

Editor/Founder at Sixteen:Nine
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for more than a decade. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He's based near Toronto.
Dave Haynes

@sixteennine

Decade-old blog about digital signage and related tech, written by industry consultant and shit-disturber Dave Haynes.
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