Android For Digital Signage: A Closer Look At BroadSign Xpress
April 15, 2013 by Dave Haynes
This is the third 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.
My last full-time gig was with BroadSign, more than four years ago now. Even back then we were talking about how small, cheap processors and lower display costs were going to eventually change the business. After a pretty rough financial patch that saw the Montreal-based company go through the Chapter 11 process (business is now booming, I am told), a much leaner but re-building team has been developing a product specifically built on ARM and Android.
BroadSign Xpress, as it has been dubbed, is a little box with a lot of power under the hood.
As I noted a few weeks ago after Xpress was announced at DSE in Las Vegas, VP Technology Bryan Mongeau is a bear when it comes to development and Quality Assurance, and went through almost 50 different Android media playback units before finding one he felt was both stable and sufficiently spec’d out to do the job.
His team also wrote scripts designed to jackhammer the players and see if they combusted, melted or ceased up. The one settled on will have at least a three year warranty because Mongeau’s team is confident that with no moving parts and proper design, it will just run and run and run.
The thing that the BroadSign is steadily reinforcing is that Xpress is not BroadSign Lite – something that does some but not all that a Windows or Linux-driven BroadSign player can do. It’s a native application that does all that a box running on an x86 Intel or AMD PC would do. I have had the unit in my hands but not seen it running. However, the specs are solid and (as noted) Mongeau and his guys would never settle on “getting something to work” and calling it a product.
BroadSign is heavily (not not solely) focused on the Digital OOH sector, and my guess is network operators with a lot of sites and a higher than normal need to keep capex costs down will welcome this product.
BroadSign and Android
[table id=5 /]