The Rise Of The Digital Signage Device

April 10, 2012 by Dave Haynes

We are finally starting to see the expected transition of digital signage applications from being PC-based to smart device-based.

We first saw a commercial product in the SpinetiX solid-state networked media player about three years ago, but it has not had a lot of take-up in the market because the price of the unit was insanely high for what it did. The little aluminum box with the Texas Instruments media chip inside was and is really nice, but not at $1K or more. I think they largely blew their early mover opportunity with the pricing strategy and the market has now caught up.

Good luck Sony in re-selling it now.

We’ve seen a few attempts here and there of other non PC-based units, like a RISC-based Advantech unit two or three years ago. IAdea has several non-PC media player appliances in the marketplace.

Now we have BrightSign broadening its line of non-PC digital signage players and offering a new networked player up for $350 MSRP. That’s a lot lower than the others, but it’s probably just a starting price. Bear in mind the  company is closely tied to Roku, which has media streaming HD players available in your local Best Buy for sub-$100. Undoubtedly, there are some technical differences (like storage) and lower sales and production volumes. But you are still looking at little boxes that are networked and designed to play video files.

“We’re excited about the new players because they deliver the same robust features, signature reliability and ease-of-use our customers require, but at prices that are now lower than ever before and on an updated platform that delivers even better media handling capabilities,” says Jeff Hastings, BrightSign’s CEO, in a news release. “It’s unusual to be able to significantly improve products and, at the same time, reduce the cost; but that’s exactly what we’ve done.”

Hastings explained that the new HD players are integrated with a next-generation microprocessor that allows BrightSign to deliver improved media playback performance as well as save on manufacturing costs and pass the savings on to its customers.

Using power-efficient technology, the new players deliver consistently high performance and reliability – even for 24×7 applications. All of the models in BrightSign’s new product line also feature Full HD quality for flawless video playback, solid-state (PC-less) reliability and free BrightAuthor signage management software plus a variety of networking options.

The guys who run two of the largest companies in this sector have flat told me they are working on ARM-based processors (the CPUs that drive virtually all smartphones). The current generation have the same kind of processing power as an Intel Atom-based PC right now, and the ones on the immediate horizon are as fast at Intel I5s, which is more than enough for many digital signage jobs. You are probably looking at fanless, solid state 1080P capable media players, running Android, for sub $200. Expect an announcement on one of those this spring.

We have already seen at DSE a couple of smaller (but still well-established) companies like Capital Networks and FirmChannel (apparently new ownership and money in) showing Android-based players at DSE last month. In the case of Capital, I know they tested a bunch of players from China and were showing one that worked like a champ, and had a single unit cost of $118.

There will likely always be a place in the market for Intel and AMD x86-based PCs, but my guess is that will increasingly be for higher end, almost niche jobs like big data-driven walls and multi-zoned displays. But an awful lot of what runs in retail and advertising is only ever going to need something that reliably (meaning no moving parts) play a set of files over and over. If solid-state non-PC devices can do that, and reduce both the capital and maintenance costs, that’s where the market will go.

  1. Dave, great article. By the end of this year Windows based digital signage devices will be surpassed in capabilities by non-pc devices at greatly reduced prices.

    As you are aware, we have launched support for the BrightSign networked devices using our signagelive cloud-based digital signage platform for $300 MSRP for a 3 year licence including support and updates.

  2. Eric Schmidt says:

    It is definitely interesting to consider the role that mobile based devices are beginning to play as well. Increasingly small format signage projects are beginning to crop up, and the new tablet technologies are finally making them affordable. In addition, innovations built off the same platforms (Such as FXITech’s Cottoncandy device) may enable low-cost solutions for retrofitting signage to anywhere a panel has been placed…

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