ComQi, AUO Team Up On Swappable, Upgradeable Smart Digital Signage Displays

The NYC-based digital signage CMS firm ComQi is starting to show some tangible technical evidence of its ties to parent company AUO, the Taiwanese display manufacturer that acquired them last year.

The two have announced an all-in-one display that it says provides all the streamlined and cost-trimming advantages of a smart display, with none of the technical compromises, restrictions or hassles they argue can come when using system-on-chip smart displays.

This solution uses Intel’s Smart Display Module (SDM) architecture to put a media player inside a couple of AUO commercial LCD panels, but unlike SOC-based smart displays, these can be popped out from a dock for repair or upgrades. A typical smart display has the module that functions as the media player hard-wired in and unreachable.

The SDM set-up is the current of Intel’s long-running Open Pluggable Specification – which was introduced and marketed 9 or 10 years ago on the idea of all-in-one displays with dockable media players.

The ComQi-AUO set-up comes in 43 and 55 display versions, and with a standard or smoking-fast i7 CPU module. Both players run on Ubuntu Linux operating system, which is the OS used by ComQi.

“More and more so-called smart displays have entered the digital signage marketplace, and while we’ve always liked the streamlined design and cost reductions that come with screens that have built-in media players, we’ve also had our reservations,” says Stuart Armstrong, Group President and Chief Revenue Officer of ComQi, in PR.

“First, if there is a problem with the display or the embedded player, the whole display panel may have to come down, and probably go back to a depot for repair. That means the screen could be out for days, which is a non-starter for many customers especially mission-critical applications like food services and mass transport,” he explains. “However, with AUO’s SDM displays, we minimize downtown by easily swapping out the SDM card without having to dismount the screens.”

“Second, there’s very little continuity across the different manufacturers that have smart displays. To support smart displays from three companies, software providers need to develop and maintain three new variations of their software to support their customers, and even then, you will not get everything an SDM solution can deliver,” adds Armstrong.

NEC has also stayed out of the System on Chip display business, and has a trap door on the back of some displays that accepts a small single board computer (Raspberry Pi) or a Brightsign module.

From what I have been told by companies that use SOC-based displays, it’s pretty rare for the SOC module to crater. However, the only upgrade path for these types of displays (if more horsepower is needed) is replacement or an external media player, like a PC, Brightsign or IAdea box.