Google comes to the digital signage side

Intel dropped a Google-sized rock in the digital signage pond in the middle of today's opening keynote at the Digital Signage Expo in Las Vegas.

Intel's Jose Avalos, the company's director of digital signage, embedded and communications group, announced that, on the heels of the release of Google's Chromeboxes last week, the search engine and Internet services behemoth would be turning at least some of its focus to digital signage.

The Chromeboxes could become very inexpensive digital signage media players, and the Chrome platform itself could make the back end cheaper as well, Google's Rajen Sheth, director of product management, Chrome for business and education, told Digital Signage Today in an interview following the keynote.

"So really what it is is the Chrome platform and a few things that we're doing with the Chrome platform," Sheth said. "First is to make the hardware itself lower and lower cost and affordable — for example the new Chromebox we released with ASUS last week is only $179, and it's coming down and down and down in price — but then the bigger thing is, even if the hardware is low cost, it's very tough to maintain this kind of a distributed network of hardware, and that's what we really make possible with the Chrome platform."

With Chrome, one Web-based management console is used to push the content to the Chromesboxes so it can be shown on displays, which should help bring down the IT and support costs of digital signage networks and deployments "dramatically," he said.

"The reason we think it's a great solution here is that in a distributed nature, which is inherent with digital signs, that kind of central manageability is going to be very, very important," Sheth said. "And so we're going to keep adding capabilities to that central management to make this even better and make it easier to kind of manage and distribute content to these signs."

Avalos said he was "excited" about the announcement and the opportunity to collaborate with Google as it enters the digital signage realm.

"I think the Google announcement is a really important announcement because it really helps to continue to validate the industry," Avalos said in an interview with Digital Signage Today. "Digital signage is becoming a mainstream medium for advertising and for broadcasting — and having another big company with significant resources be part of the ecosystem, an ecosystem that already includes very large companies like NEC, like Microsoft and Intel and many others — is continued validation to the industry."

After hearing the news, Brian Kutchma, the VP of sales and marketing at longtime digital signage player Black Box, said there were two ways to look at the announcement:

"At the end of the day the infrastructure is a small portion of [digital signage]. At a lower cost it'll force everybody to get a little cheaper, but the real value of signage is the expertise and the competency and the coaching of: What's behind it is important, but what's incredibly important is what out the front of it, and is it effective, and what do you know and the content," he said in an interview. "In my mind, what it'll do is cause some of the less committed ones to go by the wayside, and there'll probably be a thinning of the industry."

From a broader industry perspective, he said, the announcement is great because "it challenges everybody to get better; it continues to drive cost down; and it continues to improve quality in the market. We already know this is a very effective solution that delivers a strong ROI if it's done correctly."

"I'm sure they'll eat share, but ... those are small pieces," he said. "The big piece is really helping customers understand their customers, knowing what messaging works, how to use those analytics and everything else, so they've got to have that piece of it too, which is an important part of it."

The unintended consequences of cheaper hardware and support could be both good and bad, Kutchma said.

"They'll do well; there's a lot of people out there that say 'Give me a cheap box, I want to put it up,' and I don't know that that's necessarily a good thing for the industry, because then you have a lot of people putting out a finished product that shouldn't be out in the market," he said. "And that doesn't do the industry a great service, because then it just becomes cheap wallpaper and has no effect whatsoever."

Learn more about digital signage trends.

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • patrick saletta
    Google and Intel are going the right way and digital signage is moving strongly to a new world of google based devices. As a european manufacturer in the Peoples Republic of China, Popscreens, Ningbo based commercial grade hardware manufacturer, we have seen a very strong evolution (if not a Revolution!) and now, more than 50% of our active 6000 resellers or clients are currently asking android based displays and boxes. Of course, prices are dropping down strongly but efficiency is maintained. We already launched in CES some android boards (commercial grade) able to run both Linux Ubuntu and android with hardware decoding. Our Pospad series (The first android digital signage tablets (from 10" up to 110") commercial grade quality are now representing 58% of our production capability and our new Monster-Box is going soon to be released with 4K driving capability. Our industry is experiencing a huge change in its paterns and Google and Intel are on the right way. The only factor will be to eliminate and make a clear difference between real digital signage professional products and the large number of MID based consumer based low quality products. We do think in Popscreens that the digital signage industry will start to be mature and convince the major industry players during this 2014 calendar year. Patrick Saletta. CEO of Popscreens.
  • Gil Matzliah
    We hope to see Google team more active in the industry pushing forward the digital signage industry like Intel Samsung LG and all the other big brands there. Google is a great news for all the SMB out there looking to join the connected world vision of Google. Digital signage is one of the aspects of the internet of things. We hope to see a booth by Google in DSE 2015. Gil Matzliah. Novisign android based digital signage
  • Lyle Bunn
    The Google announcement last week and then reinforced at DSE is important because it offers a stable, low cost, cloud-based media scheduling and playout platform in a "plug and play" format. The one-two punch of the 2 C's - cost and cloud offer the potential for massive, rapid deployment of digital signage. BUT MORE IMPORTANT.... this deployment scale will enable cloud-based media commerce on place-based digital signage that could mirror the online advertising model. The scale of this platform could drive standards in ad size, enable access to images that add ambiance to environments and better engage viewers. The media management function will be the key to its success. More to follow on that...
  • Martin Amadio
    This is just another equipment play. Brian Kutchma is 100% correct. It is not about the equipment. It is about what you do with the equipment. If we look at history in computing, years ago IBM realized that equipment was not nearly as important as managed did HP. Digital signage is a young industry which has historically had very high cap costs associated with it, with simply not enough tangible business business benefits. Anything which could lower the threshold for more widespread use should be welcomed. .
  • Ryan Cahoy
    I am probably biased given we leverage Google App engine to run our Digital Signage CMS at Rise Vision but I think the announcement of Google is very exciting. Not only do they bring a strong brand reputation but lots of great technology and innovation to the space. We feel Chromeboxes are optimized for delivering content via the browser. They do a much better job of rendering browser based content than similar hardware running Windows, etc - AND they are really economically priced. We jumped at the chance to create a packaged app that runs on Chrome OS and are very excited to see what Google brings to the space in 2014
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