As everyone who uses computing devices knows, software is the key to unlocking the full power of hardware and tapping all its possibilities. Digital signage is no exception. You can run images and video on individual media players with simple software, but that does not begin to make full use of the media players. This is particularly true if they connected through the Internet of Things (IoT) and use such advanced processors as the 4th generation Intel® Core® processor product family and the new Intel® Celeron® processor and Intel® Atom™ processor E3800 product families (formerly codenamed “Bay Trail”).
With the right content management software, such media players can play important roles in coordinated campaigns that strategically display a variety of content on individual signs in specific locations and enable real-time promotions. Imagine, for instance, at the start of a heat wave being able to quickly update displays at a store’s entrances to advertise fans and air conditioners. Or consider how helpful the ability to rapidly change campaigns could be when faced with an inventory surplus and needing to move product.
Back in late July, I wrote a post on just such a software solution: Intel® Retail Client Manager (Intel® RCM). This content management software enables retail advertising staff to quickly customize content and control digital signage screens in groups or individually across a network. The software even allows marketers to create multiple zones within each screen that can display a variety of formats, including HD video, Adobe Flash*, static images and web content.
In this post, I want to show through a series of screenshots just how easy this software makes it to assemble digital content, control its display, and manage a digital signage network to improve advertising results.
Intel RCM is built on the Microsoft* .NET* platform and includes both server (Intel® RCM Campaign Manager) and player software (Intel® RCM Player). To run Intel RCM, media players must be equipped with Microsoft Windows* 7, Windows Embedded 7, Windows 8, or Windows Embedded 8.
For Intel RCM Campaign Manager and all connected players to function correctly, each device must meet the following prerequisites.
· Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0 full version
· Latest Adobe Flash* player
· Microsoft Internet Explorer* 7.0 or above
Setup and Operation
After Intel RCM Campaign Manager is installed on a server, each media player it will control must be assigned a channel through a channel configuration file (.xml). This file can be copied to a remote player or put on a shared network drive that can be accessed from the remote player.
Content is pushed to players through these channels. Each Intel RCM Player will display the campaign elements it receives per a schedule created in Campaign Manager. A player can also be configured to report metrics—such as what content was played and the status of the player—to Campaign Manager at set intervals.
A sign can be controlled independently as a channel, but aggregating many players into a single channel makes it easier to manage where and when campaigns will be played. All players grouped in a single channel will play the same content at the same time. For instance, a department store might want to group all players stationed in menswear locations into a single channel.
Creating a Campaign
With Intel RCM, a campaign can be as simple as a single image or as complex as a compartmentalized screen combining rich media such as images, videos, RSS feeds, and more. To create a campaign, a user goes through three basic steps, deciding “what” to display, “when” to display it, and “where” to display it (Figure 1).
The Campaign Toolbar allows retail staff to create one, two, or more zones on each screen that is part of a particular channel (Figure 2). Each zone is assigned a position and percentage of the screen area.
Retail staff then browse stored media files and assign content to each zone from them (Figure 3). Retail staff assign each file a duration and choose to run each file in random or ordered sequences that can be coordinated and timed with content in the other zones. The options are nearly limitless.
A calendar makes it easy to assign the date and time for particular campaigns to run (Figure 4). Retail staff can also use the calendar to make a fast change, substituting a new campaign for an already scheduled one, to take advantage of a late-breaking opportunity.
Conditional Play and Metrics
Intel RCM includes a popular digital signage feature called conditional play. Conditional play enables organization of players by category for the play of selected content from a campaign to just their screens or an individual screen of a player within that category. This can be a useful feature for touch screen devices. For instance, if a retailer has a number of touch screen kiosks, these can be organized as a category and the retailer can use Intel RCM to program all of them at once to trigger the play of specific content based on various touch points on the screen. When a user walks up to a particular kiosk and touches a specific point on the screen, that particular kiosk—and none of the others—plays the desired content.
Intel RCM can also be used with the anonymous video analytics (AVA) features of Intel® Audience Impression Metric Suite (Intel® AIM Suite) to perform advanced forms of conditional play—as well as collect viewer metrics. To do this, Intel AIM Suite must be installed on a media player and the attached digital signage must be equipped with optical sensors. Using these sensors, Intel AIM Suite can then collect information on the number of viewers, the duration of a viewer’s gaze, their gender, and their approximate age. These metrics help retailers measure ROI and substantiate ad play for cooperative advertising.
Intel RCM can use this viewership information as condition criteria to dynamically change the content on a sign to appeal to the gender and approximate age of the current viewer (Figure 5). With this feature, for example, it’s possible to trigger a media player to interrupt its normal messaging sequence to display a campaign designed for and prompted by the appearance of an approximately 20-year-old female viewer in front of a sensor-equipped screen.
Intel RCM Certified Media Players
A media player doesn’t have to be certified to run Intel RCM, but it’s a good way to start deploying and using this software solution. In my last post on Intel RCM, I featured the Seneca HD2.8 High Performance Media Player, one of many Intel RCM certified media players offered by this member of the Intel® Intelligence Systems Alliance.
Another excellent option is the Rorke Global Solutions* (RGS) Paladin* Digital Signage Media Player available through Avnet. Based on a 3rd generation Intel® Core™ i5 processor, it includes both Intel RCM and Intel AIM Suite. The player comes complete with Microsoft Windows* 7, Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT) for remote management of each player, plus support for up to three independent displays and up to four 250GB SSDs. RGS is an Avnet Embedded business unit that offers flexible content hosting models, along with Level I and II technical support, for cost-effective and efficient implementation. RGS can help with a complete build out, providing monitors, wireless connectivity, integration and installation, and other products and services.
Figure 6. Rorke Global Solutions* (RGS) Paladin* Digital Signage Media Player.
For media players being produced by developers, engineering and product-ready software products— including solutions incorporating Intel RCM, Intel AIM Suite, and board support packages—are available from Bsquare. This Affiliate member of the Alliance works with developers to transform vending machines, kiosks and digital signs into compelling systems providing rich, immersive user experiences. The company can help developers leverage features like Windows Touch in Windows Embedded platforms to add multi-gesture touch interfaces and context-aware applications that differentiate a device.
Take Content Creation and Play to the Next Level
Delivering high quality media players and high resolution displays is just one part of the equation in opening the doors to effective digital signage for retailers. With Intel RCM, system integrators and developers can differentiate their product lines with an easy-to-use, highly capable content management system that, with the addition of Intel AIM Suite, can provide a powerful tool for reaching the right audience at the right time with the right message.
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Solutions in this blog:
· Digital Signage - Top Picks (blogs, white papers, and more)
· Sensing and Analytics - Top Picks (blogs, white papers, and more)
Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance
Associate Editor, Embedded Innovator magazine