True 4K is spectacular — as good as a top quality printed poster. One of the bigger myths out there right now is that 4K is too expensive. That may have been true in the past, but the price point for 4K is dropping very fast.
Most digital signage content is already shot in 4K and signage providers, retailers and integrators can present it in its pristine native quality without great expense — by picking the right installation components.
While most top commercial-grade 4K screens can be very expensive, there are monitors available for under $1,000. The 50-inch consumer grade Seiki 4K screens we used in the BrightSign booth at ISE sell for under $950. I think you will see this trend, 4K screen prices dropping to a reasonable premium over full-HD screens, start to happen in the commercial market soon.
Equally, you can spend thousands on a solution for decode and output to the display, or you can use a much less expensive 4K-compatible media player that supports the requirements of the new 4K ecosystem.
Since 4K is becoming affordable at a very rapid rate, I believe that this transition will be one of the fastest that the digital signage industry has ever seen. There is a good chance that commercial adoption of 4K will happen ahead of consumer adoption. The reason is that we have much greater control of the whole ecosystem from content creation and distribution to presentation. While most movies and other broadcast content are already shot in 4K, the distribution challenges are much greater for the broadcast industry. There is good momentum for 4K's arrival in the consumer space as evidenced by announcements from Netflix that they will be starting 4K delivery trials with H.265 encoded content in the first half of this year, and by Amazon which also promises 4K content delivery in the near future.
Signage industry professionals will soon be able to buy a player with leading-edge technology along with a screen that presents a true 4K experience for under $2,000. That's a promise.
BrightSign CEO Jeff Hastings joined BrightSign in August 2009 while it was still a division of Roku Inc. In late 2010 with digital signage activities growing so rapidly, BrightSign became a separate firm. The holder of eight U.S. patents, he also has a history of tech industry leadership, including as president of mp3 pioneer Rio.