Why Standards are Key to a Digital Signage World - Digital Signage Blade Interface
Standards have played an important role in the IT industry since the 1980s. First, the Wintel architecture exploded, driving the PC industry to gigantic proportions. The network OSI model took the industry forward to the network age, and the development of HTML, and the Web have brought us to a new cyber-world - the Internet.
These paradigm shifts are not purely due to technological innovations, but also to the magic power of standardization. Standardization helps pre-define significant parts of the industry, which allows companies to focus on their own core capabilities, linking those capabilities to the industry-defined standard. This arrangement provides unfailing momentum to keep the industry growing.
Digital Signage has not been exempt from standardization issues in its development process. In its early stages, these issues inhibited growth.
Standards to be considered in digital signage include different aspects, from content format and network communication mechanisms, to hardware communication. For example, a company with a leading brand can easily promote their product on TV, radio, or even the Internet. However, in the signage world, each small network work has its own content format or control mechanism, which creates chaos for advertising companies.
And if we look at hardware protocols, including the monitor, this too brings headaches to customers using an all-in-one signage display in which the inter-workings are different. The objective of the digital signage blade interface (DSBI) is to define a standard for the signage hardware protocols.
The term "all-in-one signage display" refers to an integrated display that includes the signage engine inside. This all-in-one display brings a lot of benefits to the industry by implementing signage solutions with less cabling and integration required. But, there are dozens of proprietary solutions on the market. This brings the potential problem of market expansion in the future.
When a customer buys an all-in-one display from company A, it also means the customer is locked-in to company A's solutions. This leads to risk for the customer in purchasing one of these all-in-one solutions. Only when the customer can buy a monitor from many suppliers with different signage engines, without issues of interoperability will this risk be mitigated.
Based on this concept, Advantech, the convener of the Signage Interest Group (SIG), initiated the first DSBI proposal for the industry. The DSBI proposal includes several key points to define the standard interface between the "monitor" and "signage engine", the electronic interface, the thermal solutions, noise level, mechanical locking and slot in/out mechanisms, and/or the firmware/control protocols.
It also covers the future expansion possibilities for different "signage engines", such as RISC-based computers, AV extenders, embedded PC boxes, or IP video decoding boxes. Figures 2 & 3 show the basic concept for the DSBI standard.
Figure 4 shows the first concept design from Advantech: an Intel GM45 high-performance, low-power platform for use as a signage engine. The GM45 provides very high graphics on its new X4500 integrated graphics engine. Signage applications can adopt various multimedia formats such as video, Flash, still images or bar text. GM45 can also support up to HD 1080P video decoding on MPEG2, MPEG4, H.264 or WMV9 for high-quality HD content.
The Core™ 2 Duo processor provides high-performance computing power, allowing this platform to integrate with different signage applications when doing Flash or video decoding. With low-power technology, the DSBI board can easily fit a monitor slot with a low-profile thermal design and low noise.
In addition to its performance, the GM45 embedded processor also has a long life span (5-year longevity), protecting both the customer and the supplier. Combined with the DSBI interworking interface and the integration mechanism, the DSBI has been approved by Advantech's quality lab as a reliable platform for signage applications.