Android For Digital Signage: A Closer Look At AdServe
June 25, 2013 by Dave Haynes
It has been a little bit since we had a close look at a new Android-based digital signage platform, but rest assured they just keep coming.
The latest in our running series of closer looks at Android-driven digital signage solution providers is AdServe, which is an Aussie company with some development ties to South Korea.
Some 32 companies and counting have introduced products based on the open-source Android operating system, all of them using CPUs based on ARM reference designs. Most smartphones and tablets use ARM processors. 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.
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Like a lot of companies in this sector, this software development company found its way into this space based on a client request. The roots of AdServe are in web development, and the product grew out of an original request almost 10 years ago from a client wanting something that would put raffle information on displays in a club.
That grew and evolved with more clients and, by what AdServe says was largely an accident, “we had created the world’s first cloud computing digital signage program in 2005.”
Company director Adam Ridley says the shift to Android was also somewhat by happenstance.
Three years ago at a trade show in Taiwan, “I spotted something that really made me stop and think,” he recalls. “A tiny Android PC powered by USB that was plugged into a standard computer monitor via VGA. It was underpowered at the time and could only do simple things, but I could see that this was the future of everything.”
Ridley says the company decided almost immediately to start development, but found it tough slogging to juggle the existing system and shift to a new one that was going to have to work on a low-powered mobile chipset.
“In a completely left field move, I relocated to South Korea in March 2012 intent not to leave until our system was running perfectly on mobile chipsets, and our entire internal/customer wish list of the last eight years was ticked off. An office in Sinsa-dong, Gangnam (yes, he laughs, THAT Gangnam) was established, and a bunch of merry men and women with a depth of talent in mobile hardware/software unavailable in most of the rest of the world was set to work turning out the AdServe Android system for the world market.”
Ridley says they went through something like 20 devices from China before settling on a tiny stick the development team liked and trusted. “It was the hardest part, that and getting the dance of the video playing processes in the Android device just right. Being in Korea was an advantage, I had DHL packages coming from China daily.”
The one they settled on does all that’s asked, and has WiFi that locks in and stays up (something he says is an issue with many of the little Android players from China.
“I did go the route of trying to get many devices to work with my software initially but really it was only after getting the software right that it all worked. I am using all native Android media playing processes and no flash or any other interpreted languages. We also do all the heavy lifting of timing and content rendering on our servers, the devices work via push not pull. I want to keep the units as dumb as possible so that future upgrades can all be done in the cloud.”
The company has released what Ridley says is a solid version with all the core features needed to run a sign network, but says many more features are being added. He couldn’t wait for all of them to re-launch because of the number of competing products coming on the market in the last few months.
For $500, you get a player, one year of services, support and warranty. It is $20/month SaaS after that. The cloud services run off the giant Amazon server farm.
Interesting stuff. The demo is not all that polished but Ridley does a nice job of walking a viewer through what the service does and the ease of set-up and use, as well as the mobile integration.
AdServe For Android
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