Interview with Brightsign's Jeff Hastings about their new HD media players
Brightsign's New HD Media Players
Jeff Hastings | BrightSign
1. Give us a quick overview on the new HD player/controller products and technically what sets them apart from other options?
This is a refreshed product line – improved and more affordable. Updated HD models have an improved media handling platform, a smaller form factor, and are lower-cost than ever before. Technically, they provide
- Faster JPG performance (2x faster)
- Better video-to-video performance
- Approx. 20% smaller form factor
- Price cut by 23% on high-end HD1020 model; 12% on entry level HD120
2. Digital signage doesn't exactly have someone close at hand all of the time so how do you ensure they don't suffer from the "blue screen" and suddenly go blank?
All BrightSign products are purpose-built for digital signage with a solid-state, non-PC platform that has no moving parts to fail. In addition our players run on a slim, robust OS designed specifically for running digital signage, not a suite of PC applications. Because of this, BrightSign products completely eliminate PC issues such as system crashes, “blue screens”, the need to reboot and exposure to viruses because they do not run on Windows operating systems. Being designed, tested and developed for the digital signage task at hand, means BrightSign players deliver to the "three 9's" in reliability - 99.9%. BrightSign's free BrightAuthor software also includes monitoring and reporting capabilities via the BrightSign Network so customers can check on players in the field. The players also have software on them that is checking the health of the system and making sure the unit does not get into a non-functional state. If it detects problems, then the device will reboot and the player will be back up and running in about 30 seconds.
3. What are the heat and power considerations for the media players' installation/operation?
BrightSign players are a green signage solution requiring a fraction of the power PC's require. BrightSign players require only about 5-7 watts vs. 70-90 watts for an average PC, and heat is not an issue given its low power consumption and solid-state design. Think of a nightlight vs. a 65 Watt light bulb – you would touch the nightlight bulb but not the 65 Watt light bulb! The solid-state platform also allows the controller to be installed directly on or near the displays themselves instead of in temperature and ventilated controlled rooms. Given there is very little heat to be dissipated from the unit, we don’t have to put fans in the device which add noise, are prone to failing, and consume power themselves.
4. You emphasize that the BrightSign digital signage solutions are PC-free. What exactly does that mean? What are the benefits to the user?
BrightSign devices are solid-state, which means no moving, or "spinning" parts. That alone accounts for a huge increase in reliability in the field. They are purpose-built for digital signage, which means there's no wasted processing power, unnecessary investment, added maintenance requirements and unwanted complications as with a PC. The user benefits from an affordable solution that does what it's supposed to do, and free signage software (BrightAuthor) that's simple and easy to use. The embedded operating system eliminates the need for the very frequent OS and virus updates that are done to increase the security of typical PCs since that is the target of hackers.
5. Do the players support HTML5?
6. What external control options are available: e.g. RS-232, Vesa power, GPIO?
RS-232, GPIO, USB, Ethernet for UDP command controls, web server on box for diagnostics and control, CEC, SD slot for SDHC or SDXC.
7. Do the players support touch screens?
Yes, they do.
8. Can the players access local network content?
Yes, via BrightSign Local File Networking and Simple File Networking. This allows you to connect our device to a local network or the Internet and remotely update the content and schedule presentations. We support a broad range of media from .mov, .jpg, .mpg, xml, etc.
9. Which content authoring and management tools are supported?
We provide and support BrightAuthor and the BrightSign Network. In addition, our open platform allows our partner companies to easily integrate with our solutions for custom applications and for enabling seamless operation of our partner’s software through ours and vice versa. We currently partner with (in alphabetical order) easescreen, Mood Media, Premier Retail Networks Inc. (PRN), signagelive, SignChannel by Scala, and Wovenmedia.
10. Do the players support remote firmware update/reboot, etc.
Yes, with our BrightSign Network solution, administrators can easily manage remote players, send firmware updates and change settings all without having to physically go to the installed unit itself. They can also do this with the diagnostic web server, local file networking, and simple file networking.
11. How difficult is it to master the signage software and what is its added cost?
BrightAuthor is a PC software application for BrightSign that makes creating, publishing and managing BrightSign presentations simple and dependable. It is the central application for building and distributing presentations, as well as managing an entire network of remote signs. BrightAuthor has a very easy and intuitive with a visual-based interface that uses drag-and-drop conventions and has a wealth of digital signage features so that even a non-technical user can master creating and managing presentations instead of an IT person. It is also free of charge to all BrightSign customers. It is built so that if you want to build a simple playlist you can have your playing up in running in less than 5 minutes.
12. Can the creative content producer, marketing manager or location manager change the mix of content/times of day screen images?
Yes. Anyone using BrightAuthor or the BrightSign Web UI can update content and scheduling.
13. You mentioned you have Wi-Fi enabled units so wiring issues are eliminated but how do I manage signs/content across town, across the country, half way around the globe?
You manage your network of signs using BrightAuthor and/or the BrightSign Web UI. There are a variety of networking options available, ranging from free to hosted at a nominal cost.
14. Is it possible to manage the content distribution in the cloud?
Yes, using the BrightSign Network or BrightSign Network Enterprise Edition.
15. Are there typical applications and places where the BrightSign HD controllers and digital signage are used?
BrightSign HD controllers are beginning to show up in virtually all industry applications including hospitality, retail, museums & attractions, government, corporate, transportation, entertainment, bars & restaurants, education. Applications include digital menu boards, synchronized video walls, POP displays, interactive merchandising and product demonstrations, museum exhibits, social engagement and promotions.
16. When we sat down at DSE last month you mentioned that BrightSign, your content development/integration partners are seeing more interest in customers blending digital signage and social media. Can you explain what you mean by that?
Social media is prevalent in our daily lives in more ways that we realize. One example of how BrightSign has become involved with digital signage and social media is our recently announced partnership with Roqbot, an award-¬winning business music streaming service and social jukebox. The Roqbot service, BrightSign internet-connected players, and a free smartphone app are combined to enable bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms, retail chains and other public venues to engage their visitors and enhance their experience with the music of their choice. Customers use the Roqbot App to browse available music, make requests and vote on songs in the queue. BrightSign, in turn, streams, buffers and plays back the music, and importantly, drives the signage to display corresponding album art, music queue, and promotional messaging as determined by the venue’s management. The solution drives revenue and engages customers in a very social way, while reinforcing the venue’s promotional efforts. San Francisco's Bar Basic has reported increased traffic, longer dwell time and a 26 percent boost in sales. Many of Bar Basic's customers have said that they come to the bar because of Roqbot. (Press release)
17. We have seen recent articles that say people who do mobile device product research on their smartphone most of the time visit a store to make the purchase. If that is the case how are the digital signage systems/solutions reinforcing that purchasing decision or maybe even expanding the sales opportunity?
Even though people have researched the products, they want to touch and see the products at retail. The final purchase decision is made in-store and sometimes even right at the checkout counter. Communicating the benefits and value of a product right up through the final purchase is very important in retail sales. And there is no better way to do that than with digital signage!
One great example can be seen in the use of our BrightSign TD1012 tabletop battery operated tabletop displays. Such digital signage gives retailers the flexibility to move their signage displays off the wall and place their messages where they're needed most ¬ on merchandise tables, shelves, desktops and check-out counters. Retailers can update networked displays at a moment's notice and make a real impact at the point of purchase. According to Forrester Research, online sales have not created the negative effect that was initially expected. Forrester estimates that about $917 billion worth of in-store sales were "Web influenced" in 2010 and they predict that number will grow to $1.4 trillion by 2014. Apparently, consumers are researching the products they're interested in on the Web but are still seeking the in-store experience for the actual purchase. For retailers to remain competitive with online sales, they must create an enriched shopping experience that is engaging, informative and entertaining. Digital signage plays a vital role in cost-effectively delivering this experience. Add in placement flexibility and networked updating capabilities and you have an effective retail sales tool essential for motivating consumers and staying ahead of the competition.
Jeff joined BrightSign in early 2010 with more than 20 years of experience in the digital media marketplace. Before heading the worldwide digital signage/kiosk controller operation, he was Corel’s president, general manager of digital media. Prior to that he was general manager of the consumer video division of Avid and president of M-Audio, the musician/audio professional tools firm. Holding eight patents and computer sciences degree from Purdue, Hastings is a frequent author and speaker on leveraging computer technology for consumer information, education and entertainment applications.
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