Way back in a DSE 2011 booth about the size of an Airbus 320 washroom, I saw a Taiwanese company (whose name escapes me) showing a flat panel display running video and coming off a little ARM (mobile phone) processor and using Android as the operating system.
That was really the only sign at that show, a year ago, of Google’s open source operating system being put to use for digital signage on a non-PC media player. Signagelive had earlier announced Android support, but on PC-based gear.
I was thinking that might change this year, and the first sign is an announcement by Toronto-based Capital Networks, which will be showing a variant of its software platform using Android and pushing out video off a unit that’s more networked media player than PC.
Powered by the Android operating system and able to display content on Android tablets and phones, says Capital in a release, the new Audience for Android digital signage solution provides a high quality, low-cost alternative to traditional digital signage deployments.
The latest addition to the Audience software platform will allow users to create, control, distribute and display targeted digital signage displays for a wide range of applications.
There are two important, potentially disruptive things to note here:
- Non-PC networked media players have been around for a few years now and some hobby-level efforts have been made to turn things like the Popcorn Hour into a digital signage box. But now a very well-established company with more than a decade in this space has taken a crack at it, and felt comfy enough to make it a product.
- The cost of these units, in volume, is sub-$100, including solid state memory. No they are not Intel or AMD-based and won’t have the remote monitoring/remedy capabilities of PCs. But they are single-purpose, solid state devices that just play and play and play. Capital’s long-time owner Bil Trainor tells me his technical crew tested the hell out of several units and they just don’t go down.
I know from chats with some other smart CEOs that they are also testing devices that are being banged out by the container-load by companies in Shenzen, China. These are not, to be clear, the sorts of units to do sophisticated, multi-windowed, triggered and data-driven work that mark some signature projects we see in public spaces and retail.
But there are a lot of digital signage projects that just need a few pieces of video to be played over and over and over, reliably, and switched out now and then. If you are a software developer and not looking at these things, you probably should be.
Go on to something like Alibaba and you’ll find a pile of networked media players running Android 2.2 or 2.3, and capable of 1080P video. Think the size of the little Spinetix boxes, except about 10% of the price.
Looking forward to a direct demo in a few weeks.
Picture from Alibaba (not the Capital Networks product)
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.