A little lost in the blizzard of gadget announcements coming out CES in Las Vegas this week was word from Intel of a new family of NUC computers and a new credit-card sized computer moduls that could very conceivably plug into a flat panel display to use in digital signage.
Intel was showing the propeller-head crowd in Las Vegas the first NUC mini-PC equipped with a Kaby Lake processor – which will have an i3 version to start but will follow this year with an i5 and i7. Another lower-priced version will have Intel’s Apollo Lake processor. I won’t pretend to know what Kaby Lake is all about, other than to say it is quite new and, as these things tend to work in the computing business, that means faster and better.
NUCs were introduced a few years ago as small form factor desktop PCs for office and home entertainment use, but a lot of digital signage software and solutions companies use them as players. The first versions – from what I saw – were woefully underpowered and bad ideas for 24/7 use, but I’m told by industry people they’ve come a long way since their introduction. Liliputing says 2/3 of NUCs are used for business purposes, like signage.
The physical look of these new NUCs is pretty much the same as earlier versions, but there are some tweaks. You can read more in the Liliputing report from CES.
Meanwhile, Intel also announced something called the Compute Card – arguably a followup to the Compute Stick. It’s a computer module that in size reminds me of a laptop hard drive or, if you are old enough, old external modem cards for laptops.
It is a computer with an Intel Intel Core vPro CPU, and has memory, storage, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It has a “USB-C plus extension connector” that enables data connectivity, as well as HDMI and DisplayPort, for the device it hooks into.
Why this is interesting in the context of digital signage is that Sharp is among the companies that are listed as developing products using the card. Sharp has so far been a holdout in the adoption of embedded devices for commercial displays. Samsung, LG, Philips and Panasonic all have system on chip “smart” panels while NEC has recently debuted panels that have bays to load in Raspberry Pi computer modules.
Pure speculation on my part, but Sharp could come out with a panel that has an optional slot – kind of a 2017 version of the Open Pluggable (OPS) spec – to integrate a fast, latest-gen PC module that could be swapped out in a couple of years, if needed. One of the arguments against embedded SoC displays is that the smarts are built-in and that hardware can’t be upgraded – at least not on-site and easily.
These modules are just at the announcement stage and will be out mid-year, says Intel.