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Digital Signs Do More with Modular Smart Displays

In today’s fast-paced, media-saturated landscape, signage needs a makeover. To draw customer eyeballs at restaurants, shops, casinos, airports, and other locales, displays must be relevant and attention-grabbing.

They must also be fast and easy for managers to change. That means no more rewriting entire restaurant menus on chalkboards or flashing last week’s prices on electronic displays.

Because business requirements are so different, crafting adaptable displays that enable dynamic, customizable content has not been an easy goal to achieve. But after years of working together, a systems integrator and a digital display manufacturer have created a user-friendly, efficient, and reliable display module that can be tailored to suit a wide variety of specialized needs.

A Partnership Forges a Path to Customized Smart Displays

The working relationship between German systems integrator Aaronn Electronic GmbH and Sharp/NEC Display Solutions mirrors the evolution of smart displays over time, says Florian Haidn, Managing Director of Aaronn. Early professional displays required an external media player to play back content. That changed with the Open Pluggable Specification (OPS), the digital-signage standard developed by Intel in partnership with Sharp/NEC.

The standard made it easy to install, use, and maintain a “slot-in” computing device, which enables computing capabilities in flat-panel displays.

Eventually, the market moved to displays that could be easily mass-manufactured. They looked like a television set and contained an embedded system-on-a-chip (SoC). The SOC evolution has helped make these digital displays affordable and ubiquitous, but they are black-box systems that don’t allow companies to adapt computing power or applications to their needs. “There is no mechanism to control it on your own,” says Erik Elbert, Senior Product Manager of Large Format Displays and Computing Technology at Sharp/NEC.

In addition, SoCs and their operating systems create high dependency on the display manufacturer to provide security patches, Elbert says—a glaring deficit for Fortune 500 companies and other specialty professional organizations.

“They do not allow black-box devices like system-on-a-chip embedded displays to be connected to their internal networks,” Elbert says.

Offering secure digital display solutions that meet company needs is a specialty that Sharp/NEC and Aaronn have refined. Today, Aaronn works with IoT hardware manufacturers to deliver individualized computing solutions, while Sharp/NEC provides the displays in which they are embedded. “Our displays are very modular, and we can offer a custom solution based on configuration, operating system, application, and security requirements,” Elbert says.

Together, Aaronn and Sharp/NEC deliver these custom displays to suit a wide variety of needs, from corporate communications to mission-critical transportation control rooms. Sharp/NEC relies on an extensive systems integrator network to install systems and provide ongoing maintenance.

Digital Displays in Action

One type of business that stands to benefit from customized digital displays is quick-serve restaurants, which change their menus frequently and place a premium on efficiency. Aaronn and Sharp/NEC are implementing a rollout of digital displays at thousands of McDonald’s locations in Germany and Austria. To meet the restaurant chain’s specific needs, Aaronn customized the solution’s hardware, operating system, and computing performance specifications.

Before the solution was implemented, paper menus were standard, and they had to be changed several times during the day. Now the smart displays are programmed to vary menus according to mealtimes. In addition, the boards can screen animations and product videos, attracting and retaining customer attention. Individual restaurants can customize some of their own content.

While the McDonald’s units so far do not perform advanced computer analytics, the embedded computing functions in Aaronn’s and Sharp/NEC’s displays can run more advanced algorithms on the edge devices. For example, by placing computer vision cameras on top of screens in airport terminals, managers can analyze passenger flow, and other parameters, collecting only metadata about the people and objects they measure to preserve personal privacy. For use cases like these, Aaronn supplies more computing power than it does for digital displays that run occasional videos.

Intel is the base for most of Aaronn’s systems because it delivers the high-performance chips and efficient CPU technologies Aaronn looks for, Haidn says. Aaronn also uses the Intel vPro® platform, which is easily configurable for multiple operating systems and comes equipped with security features needed for custom solutions. “It’s about providing reliable, industrial-grade, 24/7 sustainable technologies,” Haidn says.

Improving Sustainability and Customization with Modular Embedding Computing

Efficiency is an important consideration for digital displays, particularly as sustainability becomes a key driver for companies. The modular design of the Aaronn-Sharp/NEC smart display helps because it enables the screen unit and the compute module to be independent of each other. If either component breaks or needs an upgrade, it can be replaced with a new one, so the entire system doesn’t need to be thrown out. The display units last for at least five to seven years, Elbert says.

The digital displays, which operate on low-wattage CPUS from Intel, are another plus in the energy efficiency column. Sustainability considerations should play an important role when customers select smart display units, Elbert advises. It’s much more environmentally responsible and less expensive to remove slot-in PC units instead of throwing away entire units. “Take a look at your requirements now and into the future,” Elbert says. “It’s good to have flexibility and reuse existing and already deployed and paid-for equipment.”

In the future, smart digital displays will do more heavy lifting in analytics and deliver more customized information, Elbert predicts. For example, passengers arriving in Germany on a flight from China could see information on a screen near the landing gate about the forms they will need to fill out and how long they will take to complete. Train passengers traveling after a soccer match might see an offer for a discount at a local quick-serve restaurant.

Expect the smart display of the future to deliver attention-grabbing visuals and more useful information – whether you’re at the ballpark, the airport, or even at your local restaurant.

Source of the original article: insight.tech

Author:Poornima Apte