Intel talks growth, fragmentation and standardization in digital signage

Intel Corp. recently announced the launch of its next-generation Digital Signage Evaluation Kit-12, a combined effort between Intel, Windows, hardware manufacturer Kontron and software providers Scala Inc. and Flypaper Studio Inc.

It's a good sign for the digital signage industry when tech giants like Intel and Microsoft continue to funnel resources into the sector, but it's also a continuation of an interesting trend to see a solution that incorporates multiple partnerships like this. Also, in addition to the multiple partners, the DSEK-12 brings to the table a modularity that makes it adaptable to multiple configurations.

In a recent interview, Jose Avalos, director of visual retail at Intel, talked about the his company's third-generation evaluation kit, which he said is intended to address the fragmentation in the industry that makes assessing and validating the multiple moving parts of a digital signage solution a time- and resource-intensive procedure.

"This kit ... is designed to really accelerate the design of full feature interactive digital signage solutions," he said.

The challenges Intel was looking to address with this solution — and one of the main challenges facing the digital signage industry — led to both the modular nature of the product and the multiple partners with which it worked, Avalos said.

"The industry is exploding across many different vertical industries," he said, referring to Intel's market research that suggests the global market for digital signage will reach 10 million media players and a corresponding 22 million digital signs by 2015.

"We continue to see the progression from the old, what we call 'dumb digital signage,' to now a connected and intelligent and multifunctional digital signage with the integration of smart technologies for remote management, energy efficiency, and analytics for return on investment."

So Intel continued its work with Microsoft, including in the kit a 180-day license for Windows Embedded POSReady 7, as well as demos of content creation and management software packages from Flypaper and Scala — and working with Kontron to manufacture it.

"Kontron has put it into a form factor so you can take the basic computing element board and put it into a standalone media player," Avalos said. "So that's the modularity of it, and then you can take the same computing element board and insert it into an open pluggable specification form factor chassis, and then that can go into any of the Open Pluggable Specification-ready panels in the industry."

Flypaper founder and president Don Pierson said streamlining the process of adoption should be something that helps grow the industry as a whole.

"With the adoption of digital signage expanding in organizations of all sizes, most people don't want to have to piece a solution together," Pierson said. "Streamlined options loaded with demos of a variety of tools ... change the way people can explore different solutions. The easier it is to access complete high quality digital signage solutions, the faster the industry will grow."

As digital signage explodes and becomes pervasive across a variety of verticals, Avalos said, some of those vertical industries are now looking at digital signage to solve key issues. (Retail is No. 1 in the U.S., while transportation leads the way in China, thanks to heavy government investment, according to Avalos.) For instance, retailers now want to not only provide brand messaging, but also figure out what is the most relevant message or engagement and then, measure its effectiveness.

"Digital signage is maturing from your basic platform that provides information and advertising, to now a platform that can really provide an engaging, a relevant and a fun experience to the end user," Avalos said. "Brands are realizing that, and retailers are realizing that, so that's why we're starting to see a lot of intelligent digital signage going into retail stores, going into transportation environments."

With that being said, while the market is exploding, the market also is very fragmented, Avalos said. And while there are benefits to such fragmentation (increased innovation, localized solutions for localized problems), it also makes standardization more difficult. Intel has been working to create a standardized approach to some digital signage technologies, and Avalos said the latest DSEK was an effort to provide a solution based on an open architecture and an open platform that is really a turnkey solution.

"The industry is maturing," Avalos said, "and one of the things I keep hearing is 'Give me a turnkey solution.' I think this goes a long way to providing that."

Read more about digital signage hardware and software.

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