iChannel Digital Signage is a low-cost signage solution that reduces cost, simplifies the workflow and eases the content burden.
Android Digital Signage
A White Paper for Integrators
by: Steve Earle, VP Sales and Marketing iChannel, Stinova LTD.
Digital signage is too complicated.
There, I said it. There are so many moving parts in the typical digital signage installation that it can be a daunting exercise for integrators to develop a digital signage strategy that is easy to implement and easy for end-users to manage. Many integrators are ‘stuck’ with unwelcome maintenance issues ranging from content development to network management. These issues are further exacerbated by the confusing collection of hardware and software options that populate the digital signage marketplace.
Too many choices
According to a DailyDOOH article, there are more than 600 digital signage software companies. The selection of hardware is equally confounding. Most companies offering digital signage solutions are either hardware manufacturers that wish to remain software agnostic or software companies wishing to stay hardware neutral. This means integrators must inevitably source their software and hardware from separate suppliers. While it is true that some distributors stock software and compatible hardware solutions, the selection is limited. Some hardware manufactures do offer a bundled software solution but in most cases it’s a desktop application with limited capability and no support for browser-based central/remote content management.
A missed opportunity
These complexities make it difficult for integrators to address several very profitable target markets – small business and information verticals. Some examples include; schools, hotels, corporate, retail, reception, canteens, libraries, spas and restaurants. It’s an eclectic mix of private and government sectors but they have many things in common. The digital signage requirements for these groups are generally information/marketing based and limited to one or more regional locations. They may operate a single location or a small campus and require extremely low cost solutions that are as close to zero-maintenance as possible. This contrasts sharply with the current state of affairs where mega-buck media-players and costly CMS solutions are the order of the day.
The main weapon used by integrators to address these markets is cost-reduction. Reducing the cost of key components results in an overall lower bill of materials that is more attractive to the customer.
There are a number of option for cost-reduction including;
- Use of cheaper media-players
- Use of the supplied software solution
- Use of cloud services
Utilizing cheaper hardware in combination with cloud services presents a solution, that at least on paper, is very attractive to customers. But there remains a series of problems, most cloud services are just that, cloud services, it remains incumbent upon the integrator to source compatible hardware from a manufacture. Low cost hardware, while checking at least one box, suffers from a lack of functionality and device support, for example touch screen or multi-touch support. Additionally, the customer must continue to develop a content strategy that involves delivering information or marketing messages in a fresh and interesting way. Often, the customer does not posses the skills or software tools needed to create compelling content thus the digital signage solution fails to deliver on its promise.
Searching for simplification
Small business owners and business administrators are very busy people who spend a good portion of their day juggling multiple responsibilities, the last thing they need is to be locked in a constant battle with an unforgiving digital signage system. What is needed is a solution that allows the administrator to publish engaging and/or informative content without issue from any location using any suitable device. The administrator requires the ability to quickly reuse digital assets, add new ones and organize them without delay. In an information rich world, the administrator also requires the ability to integrate data from external sources for use in the digital signage system. This data could be calendar updates, schedules or meeting room bookings.
The case for the Cloud
Cloud services offer many benefits; there is no software installation to be performed, no server updates or patches need to be maintained, no physical server maintenance is required and the only device needed to manage the system is a laptop. In addition the customer need not enter into an agreement with a hosting company (server hosting ensures that remote media players can connect to the server and synchronize content via a public IP address ). For those who say that many customers prefer to ‘own’ the software. Just remember, customers never own the software, they only own a license to use it. Whether that license is a cloud license or an on-premiss license depends on the customers needs and ability to maintain and support an on-site server installation. But in case these benefits are not compelling enough here are some interesting figures.
Both Gartner Research and Merrill Lynch forecast that the cloud computing industry will reach more than $150 Billion by 2013.
Amazon Web Services looks like a $2 Billion business for 2012 according to Q1 earnings – speculation about the exact figure is a full-time sport for many analysts.
Mimecast, a company offering SaaS enterprise e-mail, released a study showing that 7 out of 10 companies using cloud services will continue to migrate new applications to cloud infrastructure.
A survey conducted by LinkedIn revealed that 54% of the 7052 respondents, sighted security as a serious concern for migrating to cloud computing. Compliant cloud providers can call upon HIPPA, ISO 27001 and PCI DSS as well as certification from the Cloud Security Alliance.
A Gartner study predicts that by 2014 a staggering 60% of server workload will be virtualized. Businesses virtualizing servers through cloud services are saving a bundle in hardware costs, maintenance, upgrading and replacing, not to mention reducing their carbon footprint.
The Case for Android
Android is a Linux-based operating system developed by Google in conjunction with the Open Handset Alliance.
Google have done all the marketing and brand building for you, everyone is aware or Android, making it’s acceptance as a business critical applications a shoe-in.
The primary hardware platform for Android is the ARM architecture which is licensed to a long list of companies including, AMD, Apple, Broadcom, DEC, Microsoft, Nvidia, Sony, Samsung and Texas Instruments, to name a few.
In December 2011 the Pentagon approved Android for use by its personnel.
Android has native support for many applications including, adaptable to many display formats, WiFi, Full-HD video, H.264 video in (MP4 or 3GP container), MP3 and FLAC Audio, accelerated graphics, Multi-touch, external storage.
Android is installed on 1.3 million devices every day.
Reducing Cost, Simplifying Workflow, Delivering Content.
Stinova recognizes the needs of integrators and customers; iChannel is aimed at cost-sensitive applications where price/performance is valued over unlimited functionality. iChannel reduces the complexity and provides a zero administration environment for the customer.
A new class of Android media player backed by Stinova’s enterprise cloud infrastructure supports the solution. The forthcoming Content Store will offer both free and premium content to assist customers in developing and maintaining a content strategy. Integrators are encouraged to participate in the content store.
Stinova’s cloud services is built on a world-class virtualized hosting platform that provides customers with 24/7 access. The cloud service guarantees that any MediaStick, no matter where its location will be able to connect and synchronize its content.
The Android media player, dubbed “MediaStick”, comes pre-installed with digital signage player software and connects directly to the display using its built-in HDMI connector, it pulls content directly from the cloud using the wireless b/g/n protocol. Using MediaStick greatly simplifies installation as there is no need for mounting brackets or additional cables
MediaStick is perfect for delivering any kind of information or marketing messages in almost any environment. MediaStick is wireless and connects directly to any screen using the built-in HDMI connector, this simplifies installation and cost is considerably reduced. It is perfect for information systems in corporate, government, education, hospitality, retail and healthcare.
Using the industry standard Android 4.0 OS, MediaStick offers a robust signage platform that delivers video, images and Composer playlists. In addition, external data is accessed via XML and iCAL ( used by Google Calendar).
The iChannel product family
MediaStick is a powerful zero administration HDMI stick solution that pulls content from the cloud using its built-in b/g/n wireless protocols.
It supports playback of Full-HD content with its built-in HDMI connector plugged directly into any display device.
The on-board 4 GB storage can be easily upgraded to 32 GB using a convenient micro-SD card.
MediaStick uses Android 4.0 – an open and widely used Operating System for future-proof applications.
iChannel Cloud Signage
iChannel cloud signage is a convenient and easy to use cloud service that simplifies the digital signage work-flow.
It works perfectly with the new iChannel MediaStick or any other approved media player.
All that is needed is a laptop and a browser to manage all digital signage assets. There’s nothing to install – ever!
iChannel Content Store
The iChannel content store is part of the iChannel cloud signage solution and offers a growing library of content elements that makes it easy for customers to develop and maintain a content strategy.
Specialized templates let you integrate information from external sources like Microsoft applications and Google Calender.
CPU: 1 GHz ARM Cortex A9
Memory: 1 GB DDR3
Network: Built-in WiFi (802.11 b/g/n)
Operating System: Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
Screen Resolution: 720p (desktop resolution), 1080p (video output resolution)
Storage: 4 GB
Extended Storage: microSD Card (up to 32 GB)
Power: DC 5V or USB Powered
USB Supported: Wireless Keyboard & Mouse
Connectors: USB, HDMI, IR Extender, microSD Card
Accessories: IR Remote Control, IR Extender, HDMI Extender Cable
Dimensions: 80 mm x 35 mm x 15 mm (L x W x H)