This is the first in a series of closer looks at digital signage solution providers who have started working with the Android operating system and low-cost, ultra-small ARM processors.
At least 20 companies have introduced products based on the open-source Android operating system that is very widely used for smart devices like handsets and tablets, all of them using CPUs based on ARM reference designs. Most smartphones and tablets use ARM.
It is likely that much of the industry will shift to ARM-based devices using Android or Linux in the next 1-3 years because ARM devices now rival the processing power of lower cost x86 personal computing devices, but at a fraction of the cost and, in most cases, size.
Based in suburban Toronto, Canada, Capital Networks has been in business for more than 20 years and supplying digital signage solutions for more than a decade. The firm was arguably the first well-established, well-known digital signage software provider to recognize the opportunity and invest the dollars in Android and ARM. Capital showcased a demo unit at Digital Signage Expo 2012, and then released that product a few months later.
The unit selected came out of a test pool of more than 20 low-cost devices manufactured in China. Now the company is released a newer, faster version. (Disclosure: Capital is a 16:9 advertiser, but any companies with legitimate digital signage Android products will be profiled if they provide the needed information).
I have also known these guys FOREVER, and it is an incredibly stable crew from management through development and ops. When I saw the product at DSE a year ago I was surprised to see this was much more than “getting something to work” on a low-cost Android box. It was a full product. From the correspondence I have received and my own chats with Capital’s Jim Vair, this is a major product focus for Capital in this sector, and that product is evolving.
Here’s the breakdown on Capital’s Audience For Android, based on a standard set of questions sent to those companies selling Android/ARM solutions.
Capital Networks On Android
|Question||Answer and Description|
|Company name?||Capital Networks Limited|
|Where is company based?||Markham, ON|
|Android product name?||Audience for Android|
|Product page online (link)||http://www.capitalnetworks.com/products/audience-software/android|
|OS version?||v1 - Android 2.3.1 - v2 Android 4.0.1|
|Native player or browser-based player?||Native application|
|Highest video resolution fully supported?||v1 720p / v2 1080p|
|Flash support?||v1 yes v2 no. Flash no longer supported on Android|
|Remote monitoring, diagnostic and recovery capabilities?||Web status page generated by player. Remote restart. Status automatically updated back to server.|
|Remote control capabilities, like RS-232 screen control?||Yes, full TCP/IP device control. Serial, IR, and contact closure via TCP/IP wired / wireless adaptor.|
|Remote upgrade capabilities?||Additional scheduling, presentation and control functionality can be remotely added/upgraded.|
|Browser pop-up controls?||Solution is a native application, browser pop-up controls not required.|
|Video file support, ie .mp4, .wmv?||h.264|
|Player side API, so you can work with sensors and other triggers?||extensive command and control API, including REST and player generated web page.|
|Multiple content zones?||as many as 7|
|Support for live data feeds?||yes|
|Dynamic NFC tag emulation||Yes, content on screen can send links to any NFC capable phone/tablet|
|Advanced Scheduling||playlist hierarchal scheduling including day of week, day parting, date ranges. Page scheduling including day of week, date ranges, time ranges, and plug-ins (conditional playback)|
|Extensibility||scheduling and control capabilities are extensible by plug-ins, that can be distributed to players remotely. Plug-ins provide advanced, logical extensions of scheduling and presentation.|
|IP video streaming||Support for H.264 RTSP video streams|
|Targeting||One zone can override the schedules of one or more zones to play content related to the base zone.|
|Interactivity||zones can be assigned interactive 'buttons'. Buttons can access the full power of the Audience command and control API. Buttons are both touch screen and mouse compatible.|
|Emergency Messaging||High priority messages will activate as soon as an external emergency message is issued from a 3rd party system such as Amber alerts. REST based command and control allows 3rd party emergency systems to override scheduled content.|
|Describe the cost of the hardware and software, whether bundled or itemized||V1 - bundle (hardware and software) $699/player, which includes software and three years of support. V2 - $899.00 bundle hardware and software. Software only sales available - for tested and approved client provided tablets/media players.|
|Descriptions||We offer high-performance native application on Android OS and offer it as an enterprise (non-hosted) solution. Seamless integration with entire existing Audience suite of products - providing customers/resellers a platform to learn, and stay within, and meet a wide variety of different digital signage opportunities. Advanced real-time scheduling. Expert data automation. Experienced company with strong reputation for professional launch and technical support. Three year total support plan with purchase.|
|What’s next||With v2 just released, our development roadmap will take direction from feedback from recent/pending deployments|
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.