On the surface, a digital signage system seems simple. You have an embedded computer designed to be a media player, a monitor to display images and video, and software to enable users to create and manage their digital content. What’s difficult is when you try to design a digital signage network with tens, hundreds or thousands of these systems and attempt to connect them to the back end or cloud for data collection and management. It’s so complicated that developers and system integrators end up doing a lot of the heavy lifting in figuring out how to find interoperable components, connect them, and make the entire signage network manageable and secure.
This much work doesn’t make much sense on such sought-after technology as digital signage systems. Why should everybody have to invent their own wheel when so many retailers, airports, museums, and other organizations are purchasing these systems?
This is the problem that Intel and many Intel® Intelligence Systems Alliance members decided to solve when they came up with the Intel® Intelligent Systems Framework that I discussed in a previous blog. Now one of these members, Arrow Electronics, a global distributor of electronic components and computer products, has taken this all a step further and is offering a comprehensive framework-ready ingredient store for edge-to-enterprise digital signage systems based on Alliance offerings.
Headquartered in Melville, New York, Arrow serves as a supply channel partner for more than 600 suppliers and 200,000 original equipment manufacturers and commercial customers through more than 225 sales facilities and 23 distribution centers in 39 countries. It has the scale, product diversity and knowledge base to be a powerful ally in making a big play in the digital signage space.
Recently, Arrow was part of a webinar with Intel and Kontron entitled “A Framework for the Internet of Things,” where Arrow talked about their Intel Intelligent System Framework stack and its application in the digital signage space. By collecting all the components in one place and ensuring all the pieces fit and work together, Arrow saves integrators from having to do work at a micro level. This means more time to focus on tailoring the end application to the customer to ensure the right technology fit, solution, and ability to scale.
Arrow carries edge-to-cloud ingredients based on Alliance offerings that include interconnects, SBCs, box-level products, aggregation gateways, operating systems, connectivity, cloud services, and displays (see Figure 1). In addition, Arrow offers extensive technical and value-added services to help reduce time to market, lower total cost of ownership, and enhance the overall competitiveness of a solution. This includes help with system architecture, operational efficiency, standard procedures, data collection and analysis, data revenue models, ROI, and other needs a developer, integrator, or end customer might have.
Figure 1. Arrow makes assembling digital signage systems from COTS components easy by basing solutions on Intel® Intelligent System Framework products and then providing value-add services covering selection, installation and integration.
Through framework-ready Alliance solutions, Arrow provides a common base of connected, managed, and secure capabilities that simplify the Internet of Things transformation across the digital signage value chain (see Figure 2). Whether your concerns are the fine points of connectivity, security, or manageability, Alliance members providing framework-ready solutions have already done the homework.
Taking this a step further, Arrow brings together the necessary component groups—sensors, embedded intelligence for collecting sensor information, secure wired and wireless connectivity, operating systems, middleware that bridges the system onto the IP network, display technology, content creation software, and more. This means if you’re wondering something like how to add cellular connectivity for remote manageability, it’s already been worked out and is ready to go. Instead of having to focus on such basics, developers and system integrators can work on customization, such as applications needed by a client and the scripts for connecting to the enterprise.
This kind of one-stop shopping for matched ingredients using COTS components really shortens the design window. And at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about—getting your solution in place quickly, efficiently, with minimum design time, so you can move on to the next project. The example Arrow gives in their presentation is the system integrator who came to them on a short deadline and wanted to assemble a fully designed intelligent digital signage solution to display at a trade show. The solution designed by Arrow using framework-ready components met the deadline and included:
- Multiple options for hardware and other components through the Alliance
- Bundled cloud and data services provided with the hardware
- Multiple new SKUs supported in manufacturing
- Ability to achieve fast time to revenue with minimal design risk
One thing not mentioned in the Arrow presentation is that the use of framework-ready media players and boards ensures the ability to deliver a key requirement for most large digital signage systems today: viewership metrics and targeted content. Such players and board boards can run Intel Audience Impression Metrics Suite (Intel® AIM Suite), an anonymous viewer analytics (AVA) software product. Easily deployed in digital signage systems, Intel AIM Suite installs on nearly any device based on Intel® processors and utilizes off-the-shelf consumer web camera sensors and cloud-based reporting. By providing the ability to recognize viewer gender and approximate age bracket, Intel AIM Suite enables delivery of viewer-targeted content and can collect viewership data such as dwell time and user interactions to report back on advertising effectiveness.
What excites me about what Arrow has done is how it has built an entire store around the Intel Intelligent System Framework and what it can do for making digital signage systems something you can put together from off-the-shelf components. This is definitely taking the Internet of Things a full step further. No longer do you have to do deep thinking on the things themselves. Instead, comprehensive solutions with all the pieces are available. If this is the way all systems are going, then sometime in the future, instead of the Internet of Things, we’ll be talking about the Internet of Solutions.
Solutions in this blog:
· Interoperability - Top Picks (blogs, white papers, and more)
· Retail - Top Picks (blogs, white papers, and more)
· Digital Signage - Top Picks (blogs, white papers, and more)
Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance
Associate Editor, Embedded Innovator magazine