Taiwan-based VIA Technologies recently launched a 4K-ready version of its commercial-grade Android digital signage player – a unit that supports HTML5 and H.265 video compression.
The nerdy H.265 thing is important, as 4K video files can be huge, but the relatively new compression standard nicely shrinks the sizes down so they can move around networks in the way standard HD files do now.
I did some work with VIA in the past, so I know this product has been on the horizon for at least a couple of years. It is a successor to earlier digital signage players that are touted as safer options for software developers working with Android for digital signage.
Many of the early stabs at using Android in signage were made using set-top boxes out of China that were never intended for 16/7 or 24/7 use, so there were lots of field failures. The other big challenge was product life cycles, with the hardware and specs differing even within the same shipments from suppliers.
VIA’s pitch, by comparison, is that the same product and specs will be available for years, not months or weeks.
No price provided in the PR, but I think sub $200 USD in volume.
Here’s what the press release says:
With rich Ultra HD video and 3D graphics capabilities, smooth HTML5 rendering, and touch screen support, the VIA ALTA DS 4K provides the most versatile and affordable Android system for a host of high-impact customer engagement applications, including digital signage, automated kiosks, check-out counters, and POS systems. For added flexibility, the system also features Dual Ethernet connectors that enable the installation of an IP camera that can be configured to blend locally-captured real-time video streams with cloud-delivered content.
“With its ability to deliver dynamic location and time specific information in stunning multimedia formats, the VIA ALTA DS 4K is a powerful tool for capturing customer attention in any shopping and dining location,” comments Richard Brown, VP of Global Marketing, VIA Technologies, Inc. “Its scalable design provides the functionality and flexibility that retailers and restaurant operators need to develop innovative new services that boost customer convenience and increase sales.”
Powered by a 1.4GHz Cortex-A17 quad-core SoC, the VIA ALTA DS 4K combines high-performance 2D/3D graphics with an advanced video engine that supports Open® GL ES 3.0 hardware acceleration and H.265, H.264, VC-1, and MPEG-2 video decoding up to 3840 x 2160p @ 30fps. With dual hardware decoding of one Ultra HD and one Full HD video simultaneously and smooth HTML5 rendering, the system provides the ideal platform for digital signage displays where high-performance video and connectivity are paramount for enhanced customer engagement.
The VIA ATLA DS 4K enables the connection of a wide array of peripheral devices with its rich set of I/O features that are integrated through the front and rear panels of its ultra-compact fanless chassis measuring just 175mm (W) x 25mm (H) x118mm (D). These include one USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, one mini USB 2.0 port for COM (TX/RX), one SD Card slot, Line-out and Mic-in audio jacks, and one 1.4 HDMI port with CEC support, one CIR receiver as well as dual Ethernet ports (one GLAN and one LAN port).
Other features include 2GB DDR3 SDRAM and 8GB eMMC Flash memory. High-speed wireless networking capabilities can be added with the optional EMIO-5531 USB Wi-Fi & Bluetooth module.Compatible with the latest Android Signage Content Management apps, the VIA ALTA DS 4K is available with a signage software solution pack which includes a highly customized Android 5.1 system image featuring the VIA Smart ETK which comprising a number of APIs, including Watchdog Timer (WDT) for safeguarding against system crashes, WOL, RTC wake-up, UART access and a sample app. A full set of software customization services that speed up time to market and minimize development costs is also available.
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.