Intel's new open pluggable spec for digital signage gets mixed review from Iadea

November 4, 2010 by Dave Haynes

One of the featured presentations a few weeks ago at the Digital Signage Expo Industry Forum was done by Jose Avalos, Intel’s main guy on all things digital signage.

He talked about several things (and ran a very cool video at the end that I still can’t find online). But the big thing was an announcement about the company’s open pluggable specification for digital signage – essentially a spec for a slot-loaded PC that could be hot-swapped in and out of the back of a big flat-panel display.

The idea of an embedded player is not new and I can remember years ago seeing panel guys with slot-loaded players of some kind. But this was/is the biggest chip-maker around defining a spec and standard that everyone could work to.

“The Open Pluggable Specification was created by Intel to address fragmentation in the digital signage market and simplify device installation, use, maintenance and upgrades,” said Jose Avalos, director of retail and digital signage, Embedded and Communications Group, Intel. “With the specification, digital signage manufacturers will be able to deploy interchangeable systems faster and in higher volumes, while lowering costs for development and implementation.”

Jose let me grope a demo unit, and we promised to get on the phone and chat about it some more after the forum. But from what I know of Jose he is rarely at a desk and hard to reach, and what I know of myself is I am no engineer.

Slot-loaded? Peachy! But all the propeller-head thinking around this spec is best left to the analyses of engineering people who eat, drink, breathe this stuff.

Happily, Iadea has weighed in. The Taiwan-based PC-maker has mixed opinions.

The spec delivers these features beneficial to digital signage applications (no where mentioned the spec; IAdea hereby grants Intel the right to use these lines if it wishes to):

Actually, the last point also means that a lot of digital signage features are left “to be defined.” We will try to help in the next section.

The spec does not define any x86-specific features, so potentially competing chips from AMD or even non-PC hardware decoders can be running a pluggable module fitting the specs. This is good for the industry.

The spec does define the physical dimensions of the module, as form factor is important to make sure the modules are really swappable for easy maintenance. However the specs constrain the box to fit within 200 mm x 118 mm x 30 mm (7.9″ x 4.6″ x 1.2″). We are unsure if any of the existing digital signage PCs can be quickly adapted to comply. If not then it can take months before we see any company come up with a real compliant product.

Suggestions for Future Revision

We think the OPS is not impressive as a “digital signage”-specific standard. The simple list of features above hardly conveys any “insight” into the hardware needs of the industry.

Iadea goes on to explain what should be added to the spec. It’s not overly technical and makes a lot of sense.

Leave a comment