This is the second 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 Memphis, TN and San Francisco, CA, Park Media is the antithesis of some of the more marketing and social media-happy software companies in this sector. They’re just quietly doing their thing, and have built up what sounds like a decent amount of business with enterprise-grade companies focused mainly on retail.
Company president Brad Trotter contacted me a few months ago, did a web demo, and a few weeks ago sent me a little white Android player box that’s been ticking away since then on my desk (that’s it in the pic), playing out a string of videos I loaded through the web-based portal. It can do multiple zones and stupid ticker crap, but’s a don’t even go there thing with me, so why bother. The demo content that was pre-loaded shows that all works well, but technically capable is different from logical.
In short, little unit just plays and plays and plays, and the software was sufficiently intuitive I mostly figured out how to load, schedule and distribute without training. The interesting thing is how deep the software is for a low-cost device, going well into the weeds on the important stuff like remote device management management.
I asked a technical guy whose opinion I completely respect, whose company uses Park’s product (among others). He says it’s stable and does a good job.
Here’s the breakdown on Park Media’s Android offer, based on a standard set of questions sent to those companies selling Android/ARM solutions.
Park Media and Android
|Question||Answer and Description|
|Company name?||Park Media|
|Where is company based?||San Francisco, CA and Memphis, TN|
|Android product name?||Software is "Sign Center v5.1" -- Android Media player is the "PMA-100"|
|When released?||September of 2012|
|Product page online (link)||2 links:
|OS version?||Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich|
|Native player or browser-based player?||Native|
|Highest video resolution fully supported?||1080p|
|Flash support?||"technically" Android is supported through Flash 11, but using Flash is not advised due to both poor performance and obsolescence|
|Remote monitoring, diagnostic and recovery capabilities?||Yes / remote hardware monitoring, management , alerts, and reporting features within Sign Center are extensive and available to both Android and Linux device clients|
|Remote control capabilities, like RS-232 screen control?||yes / USB to Serial adapter included|
|Remote upgrade capabilities?||yes|
|Browser pop-up controls?||not necessary|
|Video file support, ie .mp4, .wmv?||PMA-100 hardware optimized for H.264|
|Player side API, so you can work with sensors and other triggers?||yes|
|Multiple content zones?||Yes / No limit to content zones and layout design within Sign Center and the PMA-100 ships with a demo schedule that includes dynamic video, banner, weather, newsfeed, and background content areas. As with any content strategy ,the number of zones employed should be tested for both value/efficacy and hardware compatibility.|
|Support for live data feeds?||yes|
|dynamic NFC tag emulation||no|
|Advanced Scheduling||Yes / Sign Center is a mature enterprise-grade content and network management platform. The platform supports very sophisticated and complex scheduling requirements whether Linux or Android players are used. Dayparting, advance scheduling, asset pairing, schedule automation and more are all standard and available out of the box.|
|IP video streaming||yes|
|targeting||All devices within Sign Center are uniquely addressable.|
|Interactivity||yes -- to-date interactive applications have been limited to 3rd party manufactured tablets running the Android version of our Sign Center player software|
|Describe the cost of the hardware and software, whether bundled or itemized||Player software is bundled with the PMA-100 -- MSRP $249 includes player, software, and all connectors. Player software is also available stand alone for installation on a 3rd party device (Android or Linux) -- MSRP $129 (note that there are currently several pilots using Samsung Galaxy Tablets as a hardware solution). Annual subscription fees depending upon volume and device type variables apply and some set-up fees will apply depending upon whether a customer is a direct end user or chooses to work with one of our VAR partners.|
|Descriptions||Sign Center 5 allows DOOH Network Operators and Services Providers to leverage Park Media’s proven enterprise-grade DOOH software platform for use with both PC and Android‐based media players from any manufacturer – all from a single server, and with the same back‐end features and capabilities available to players running on either operating system. Park Media also offers the PMA-100 Android Media Player, which includes the Sign Center 5 software, and provides a lowcost, low maintenance alternative to traditional PC-based media players. Its reliable solid state design and small form factor allow easy installation and serviceability for digital signage, kiosk, menu board, and a host of other applications. Powered by the Android 4.0 OS (Ice Cream Sandwich), the PMA-100 delivers support for Full 1080p HD video, HTML5 content, multizone screen layouts, alpha compositing, external content feeds, and other media playback capabilities. Additional features include:
Built‐in WiFi and Ethernet
HDMI/YPbPr/CVBS video out options
SPDIF/HDMI/RCA/Coaxial audio out options
2 USB ports
Support for RS232-based display and peripheral control
|What’s next||More supported 3rd party devices including Android Tablets and TVs|
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.