Intel talks design for digital signs
Today’s slimline signage installations present designers with a number of challenges including thermal considerations and identifying a processor subsystem that fits within the housing, writes Peter Mayers, technical marketing engineer at Intel UK
For years, retailers have been trying to gain the attention of consumers. Advertisers have turned to increasingly sophisticated media to provide more memorable experiences.
In the 1970’s some retailers began experimenting with in-store TV and display video advertisements.
In the 1990’s digital signs started to appear in shops, shopping centres and other public areas such as railway stations. Initially these signs displayed static images. However with the development of increasing powerful microprocessors and graphics processors, along with the growth of connected smart devices, designers of digital signage products can now produce much more advanced installations.
Today’s intelligent digital signage features rich immersive content that can be readily updated, offers tailored content for different audiences, and provide feedback on the effectiveness of the adverts.
Modern signage installations are usually slim. This presents designers with a number of challenges including thermal considerations and identifying a processor subsystem that fits within the housing.
Microprocessors feature many power management techniques to obviate thermal concerns and reduce power consumption. These include support for Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) defined idle states that allow individual elements within a processor package to enter low power states independently of other parts of the package. Some processor architectures extend this further to intelligently allocate tasks to elements of the processor that are currently active, rather than incurring the latencies involved in transitioning the element to a fully on state.
Other techniques used to control power consumption and dissipation include running the processor at lower clock speeds when processing requirements are low. If a compute-intensive application or task is required the processor speed can be increased for the duration of this task before transitioning to a lower speed. These transitions have very low latencies and can be initiated by the application or operating system.
Marketing messages are based largely on images, either static or animated. Increasingly these include video content. Blending static images, video content and text puts significant demand on the graphics sub-system.
There are a number of benefits to using integrated graphics over a discrete solution. As already discussed, thermal solutions are a major consideration for system designers.
With the graphics processing unit (GPU) and the CPU integrated onto the same die, chip designers are able to not only implement power management schemes common to both processors, but also use intelligent load balancing. An application that is graphic intensive can use the thermal “budget” normally given to the CPU on the GPU.
Many signage installations comprise more than a single display. Modern PCs are able to support multiple monitors simultaneously.
For applications such as airport and railway information boards, this can represent significant cost savings as a single processor board can drive multiple monitors.
Advertisers do not want an advertisement merely to be seen. They want it to be relevant and compelling. Measuring the effectiveness of an advertisement is key.
Installations that include one or more cameras incorporated into the display housing can acquire and analyse digital impressions of the viewer. As the image itself is not stored, the data is anonymous.
Analysis of the impression can provide gender, race and age. In addition, it can show how long the viewer spent looking at a particular advert.
There are plenty of uses for this information beyond determining how well an advertisement captured the attention of viewers.
Over time, a simple analysis of gender and age data would indicate the demographic of passers-by of a particular installation. This could indicate if a particular sign was best sited.
By correlating analytics data with sales figures it will be possible to better measure how a marketing campaign affected sales in local shops.
High-end digital signage installations can also carry out rapid analysis of viewer data and display targeted information based on the characteristics of the individual currently viewing the information.
There is an expectation that digital signs will be connected to a network. The obvious use for this is to allow advertisers to provide new advertising material to be displayed.
The content can either be updated at a regular time or ad hoc. The ability for intelligent digital signs to generate information (from analytics for example) implies that this data should be made available for analysis. This can be to a back end server for example.
Digital signage installations are expected to be always available with up to date content but may be in areas that are not readily accessible for maintenance or repair.
Using remote device management can provide a mechanism to update not just advertising content but also out of hours updating of drivers and firmware, remote debug and repair of faults and even powering on and off the sign.
This feature can reduce that power consumption of the installation by implementing an automatic power off soon after the shop closes and power on just before it opens.
The benefits of connectivity can be extended to personal mobile devices such as smartphones. Intelligent signage can download content, special offers and vouchers to smartphones using near field communications.
Digital signs are becoming increasingly intelligent and interactive. Installations are immersive, relevant, interactive and have high availability.
Advertisers can measure and maximise the effectiveness of advertising campaigns. The use of technologies such as video analytics allows for assessment of “who watched what and for how long” of marketing content.
Brand advertisers will continue use new media to raise consumer awareness.
Existing use cases will also lead to new applications. The combination of usage information and connectivity is likely to lead to further developments.
Operators will be able to provide advertisements that are not just targeted at specific demographic groups but also at specific times. An example of this could be advertising food outlets at meal time.