Ubuntu has long been one of, if not the, go-to variants of the Linux operating system for digital signage media players, but that’s been on “real” x86 computers. Now there’s work underway to pair the new Internet of Things-focused version of the open-source software with Raspberry Pi micro-PCs, and run a digital signage platform off it.
Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, has announced a partnership with Screenly to build out its signage content management system player using Snappy Ubuntu Core. – the argument being that Ubuntu Core gives customers a stable platform that is secure, robust, simple to use and manage, on a $35-$45 Raspberry Pi.
Ubuntu Core, says a press release, offers a production environment for IoT devices. “In particular, this new “snappy” rendition of Ubuntu offers the ability to update and manage the OS and any applications independently. This means that Screenly players will be kept up to date with the latest version of the Screenly software, and also benefit from continuous OS updates for enhanced security, stability and performance. Transactional updates mean that any update can automatically be rolled back, ensuring reliable performance even in a failed update scenario.”
Canonical describes it this way:
A new, transactionally-updated Ubuntu for IoT devices, clouds and more.
Snappy Ubuntu Core is a new rendition of Ubuntu with transactional updates – a minimal server image with the same libraries as today’s Ubuntu, but applications are provided through a simpler mechanism.
“Furthermore, Ubuntu Core devices can be managed from a central location, allowing Screenly users to manage a globally distributed fleet of digital signs easily, and without expensive on-site visits. A compromised display can be corrected immediately and the security of devices that are in public sphere is drastically improved.”
“Ubuntu Core enables us to be more flexible,” says Viktor Petersson, CEO of Screenly, “and to focus on our software rather than managing an OS and software distribution across our large fleet of devices.”
Ubuntu Core also offers up a standardized OS and interfaces, available across a variety of chipsets and hardware. That means companies like Screenly can expand beyond Raspberry Pis without the costs traditionally associated with porting software to a new architecture.
“In terms of hardware, it can run on multiple hardware platforms and therefore if one of our partners requires a different hardware platform, the need to rebuild and retest our whole solution for a new OS goes away,” says Petersson. “This takes away bargaining power of the hardware vendor and gives the power back to the service providers, which for us means we’ll see greater innovation in this area.”
“Ubuntu Core is perfectly suited to applications in digital signage. Its application isolation and transactional updates provide unrivalled security, stability and ease of use, something vital for constantly visible content,” says Mark Shuttleworth, Canonical’s founder. “We’re pleased to be working with Screenly, whose agile approach is a perfect example of innovation in the digital signage space.”
This stuff is generally way the hell over my head, but I believe Screenly and a lot of the marketplace that has been monkeying with Raspberry Pis has been using Raspbian, a variation of Debian Linux, another open source operation system.
So why does this matter?
Well, there’s a lot of interest (and I assume activity) out there involving the low-cost Raspberry Pi devices. I have had well in excess of 100,000 page views on this site for a post about Raspberry options for digital signage. There’s a market out there, and as the Pi evolves (v3 has a lot more get up and go than earlier versions) and this gets on an IoT-centric, well-supported platform like Ubuntu, that market could grow.
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.