Many of the performance enhancements in the new 4th generation Intel® Core™ processors (code name Haswell) will give a new kick to Digital Signage. Boosts to accelerate graphics processing capabilities on-chip, as well as general performance improvements to the Haswell microarchitecture and resulting chips, will further enhance the dynamics possible in digital signage. Quicker response, richer graphics in both 2-D and 3-D, and more lively video will attract more viewers to the displays and hold their attention longer. Smoother transitions, faster movement, and a higher frame rate are all possible.
There are two other angles that will offer benefits to 4th generation Intel Core processor-based digital signage users. The software people and content creators will appreciate the new support for additional codecs that will ease the use of more formats of images. Hardware designers will like the lower power consumption of the chips, permitting smaller cabinets, higher integration, and easier physical design since less heat is generated. Nexcom has already announced a digital signage player that will make use of the 4th generation Core processor.
Graphics, Performance, and Power – Improved
Intel just revealed the 4th generation Core processor which improves on prior generations in some key areas. These are not surprising in some sense because Intel is very good at providing higher performance with each new product family. While Moore's Law refers to the number of transistors that can be put on a chip over time, applying those transistors to the most useful purposes is a science that Intel has perfected. This time those transistors are going to performance areas that are very advantageous for Digital Signage.
Key Features for Digital Signage
- New instructions, better performance Up to 60% faster graphics
- MultiMedia Codec improvements Easier MJPEG and SVC decoding
- Enhanced 4Kx2K screen resolution support The best displays
- Three-screen collage operation Even larger displays
Among other improvements, new MJPEG and SVC acceleration makes for more efficient decoding. 3D and 2D graphics will run up to 60% faster, enabling subtleties like fog, smoke, haze, shadowing, and even lens flair add a realism to still and moving images that are sure to stop traffic. And it can all be done without a separate graphics processor unit (GPU), the heat that would generate, and the cost, power, and board space it would consume.
Additional benefits to using 4th generation Intel Core processors include complete support for DirectX 11.1, OpenGL 4.0, and OpenCL 1.2. Embedded DRAM (in the package) is used as a nearby cache in some chip configurations to minimize memory access delays now that the included processors are faster and hungrier.
One of the big advantages of accelerators and more dedicated hardware for functions appropriate for Digital Signage is that the underlying general-purpose processor is freed up for mainstream processing, higher-level operations, operating system functions, and administrative chores, enhancing overall performance and capabilities - or to just lay idle for longer periods of time to save power.
The final link for Digital Signage is the display and it is an all-important component. The 4th generation Intel Core processors support the latest in eye-catching displays. Support for Display Port 1.2 offers double the bandwidth of other interfaces and accommodates high-resolution 4Kx2K screens. These UltraHD displays are now starting down the cost curve to be a viable option for more modest Digital Signage systems, especially with additional support from the processor. Graphics performance allows up to three displays to be daisy-chained to replicate images across all. For dramatic, larger, multi-panel screens, a collage mode will split images across three screens to really draw the crowds. Size matters.
More advanced power management on Haswell micro-architecture results in greater power efficiency – turning off circuits that are not needed during particular operations – with finer-grain control than prior chips. Even with the higher performance and the integration of graphics accelerators and other features, U-Series 4th generation Intel Core processors can operate on just 15-watts. Idle power – when the chip is mostly quiet – has been reduced as well, so during off-hours when the signage isn't needed, the electric grid can take a rest, too which helps keep operating costs of Digital Signage low.
The low power consumption, a smaller chip package, and no requirement for an independent graphics processor allows more compact fanless Digital Signage systems to be designed where natural air flow can keep things cool. The smaller the box, the easier it is to place the box in a convenient location.
One member company of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance that announced a Digital Signage player when Haswell micro-architecture was announced is Nexcom. Nexcom's NDiS B533 takes advantage of the 4th generation Intel Core processors to drive full HD video programs to three screens and up to 4K resolution. The system can take advantage of the Anonymous Viewer Analytics in Intel's AIM Suite to better target messages to the audience of the moment and can protect content and remote management with the support of Intel® Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions (Intel® AES-NI). The fanless design is the size of a pad of paper; maybe a ream of paper because it's 2" thick.
Another Alliance member, Axiomtek, is releasing the OPS880 Digital Signage Player that uses Haswell and is Open Pluggable Specification (OPS) compatible.
Bottom Line – Attractive Digital Signage
The purpose of Digital Signage is to attract attention, inform viewers, and (in many cases) lead a passer-by to a sale or at least to better brand awareness. Rich content, dynamic imagery, responsive interactivity, and a compelling visual experience are vital to the effectiveness of Digital Signage. A high-performance system able to produce realistic 2D and 3D graphics, action-packed video, smooth Flash playback, and well-planned informative, engaging, and maybe even fun content on a state-of-the-art display will make Digital Signage stand out. 4th generation Intel Core processors will kick up the capabilities of Digital Signage with improved performance and more lively displays. With the integrated Iris graphics, there is no need to resort to a graphics card or discrete graphics chip just to be able to drive amazing graphics to three 4K UltraHD screens.
Note that performance and power indications used herein were provided by the manufacturer and will change based on specific chip and system configurations, compiler choices and options, OS and application programs, and immediate operational conditions. "Your mileage may vary."
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Nexcom is an Associate member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.