Like many people, I'm an information freak. I especially like a lot of information before I plunk down hard-earned cash for something. The bigger the purchase, the more information I want. I've walked out of many stores or backed out of retail websites because I didn't have enough information to make a purchase. There's also a time element in play here. I'm a busy guy. I have a full-time job, a family, and like to spend as much time as I can outdoors. So I don't have much time to spend on buying decisions. And little patience for sales people who can't tell me what I need to know.


For all these reasons, I find interactive digital signage exciting. It can put the information I need right in front of me when I need it – and lets me navigate to it. How cool would it be to walk into an electronics store, head for, say, the printers, and using a touch screen, quickly drill down into specifications about the model I'm interested in and perhaps comparisons with competing models? In that scenario, I'm likely to walk out in a few minutes with the printer in my hands. The retailer is happy. And so am I.


The same could be true for informational displays at something like an event. I might be at a conference and want to see what sessions are happening in the next hour and what I might learn from them. Give me a touchscreen and a way to quickly find the information I need and I'm a happy camper. In the age of the Internet, interactive digital signage makes great sense – it's how we are all used to looking for information these days.


I had a chance recently to talk with the people at Advantechabout their All-in-One Digital Signage Station (DSS). This is something you should really see. It's a high-end interactive public signage kiosk solution tailored for middle- and large-scale public signage networks. It comes in 42”, 52” and 65” LCD panels, all specially integrated with industrial PCs and touch screens and wireless connection (LAN and WAN). It's the full package including a rugged aluminum frame design. You can even add proximity sensors to recognize when someone is in front of the display and web-cams for “gesture-based” interaction. The design is so hot, the film studio promoting Transformers: Revenge of the Fallenand Nike have already used them to attract shoppers' attention in Taiwan (see case study).


Inside the DSS, there's an embedded PC that manages the content (slide shows, clips, videos, movies, Flash demos, web pages, text etc), which can be loaded and downloaded through the built-in wireless (WiFi*, Bluetooth*, GPRS/UMTS, GPS, HSDPA, WiMAX*) connections, and/or via cable to the Internet or simply through direct access.


This embedded PC deserves mention because it's an Intel® Core™2 Duo processor. That means, compared to earlier generations, this processor will deliver greater performance while consuming less power. A cool trick indeed. What's more, with the graphics capabilities integrated into the accompanying Intel® chipsets, the platform can further reduce system costs and power consumption compared to having to add a discrete graphics solution. In fact, the available high performance Intel® Graphics Media Accelerators 4500MHD and 4500HD won't miss a beat in delivering captivating graphics, 3D rendering performance and HD video playback.


Advantech also makes the DSS series available with Intel® vPro™ technologyenabled. This means money-saving remote management and energy-saving capabilities. IT professionals can query, fix and protect networked embedded devices even when they’re powered off, not responding, or have software issues. This means many failure modes can be fixed remotely so you can get systems back online faster and avoid on-site service calls. Intel vPro technology also allows devices to be remotely turned on/off to reduce energy consumption during off hours. That means you don't have to depend on staff people at a store or other location to turn the units off and on each day. You can handle it from headquarters.


The DSS series is a product that can be placed in any indoor and semi-outdoor area – the front cabinet meets IP55 certification for dust and water protection. The front screen can be fitted with either tempered (vandal-proof) glass to prevent damage, or with a rugged touch panel. You can even personalize the front bezel design with a logo, color or image.


Have any thoughts on interactive display signage you want to share? In my own opinion, I think we're going to see many more of them in the next few years with fingerprints all over their screens.