Blog: Jeff Hastings 
Jeff Hastings (Bio)
Wednesday, 21 January 2015

As 2014 draws to a close, the digital signage market is steadily expanding. A great deal of this growth is organic. More and more retailers, restaurants, offices, airports and other transportation hubs are adopting digital signage because it is affordable, reliable and easy to update. Printed digital signage that is peeling and out of date is now unacceptable – dynamic digital signage has become the norm.

A sector that is seeing particular expansion is luxury retail – an expansion being driven largely by 4K. These retailers are highly image-conscious and quality-sensitive, and they are finding that state-of-the-art 4K players suit their needs perfectly. Paired with a “true 4K” display, the resulting signage is as crisp and satisfying as high-quality print imagery. Most content at this top end of the market is shot in 4K anyway, so a modest investment in a 4K player and screen takes full advantage of that 4K content, providing an immediate return on that investment.

We’re also finding that 4K players are being more widely adopted than expected, and they’re not always being paired with 4K screens. Many of these players are being used to feed conventional 1080p content with sophisticated HTML5 and other dynamic elements. Due to the 4K player’s more powerful graphics engine, the player is capable of producing a richer viewing experience. The cost premium isn’t that great, and the customer gets a future-proofed solution that will transition seamlessly to 4K content and displays as the installation is updated over time.

Additional growth is being driven by an expansion into the entry-level, or “low end,” of the market. Integrators are seeing increased price competition for large-scale kiosk rollouts in big-box retail, among other settings. Until now, the only low-cost option was to try to work with a consumer device that wasn’t built for digital signage and didn’t deliver the reliability and functionality of commercial-grade, purpose-built player. Now that professional-quality, reliable, low-cost, networked signage players are available, we are seeing more and more new customers jumping at the chance to replace printed signage with digital displays in applications where cost was previously a barrier.

If 2014 was all about 4K, I believe that 2015 will be a year of healthy and sustainable growth in the digital signage industry – growth driven by the proliferation of 4K and the emergence of reliable low-cost digital signage solutions.  There is plenty of opportunity for organic growth that will sustain the market for many years to come. At the same time, the emergence of 4K in particular is not only opening new markets, but is also driving a replacement cycle. Existing users will upgrade their installations to take advantage of the enhanced capabilities of this new technology.

As CEO of BrightSign, I see the market expanding at all levels, a market condition that is poised for the introduction of our completely redesigned portfolio of market-leading products – from the entry-level BrightSign LS players right up to the unsurpassed power of the BrightSign 4K players. 2015 will bring great opportunities for the digital signage market to thrive in the new year.

Posted by: Admin AT 02:44 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Tuesday, 21 January 2014

We're only a couple of weeks into January and we've already kicked off our busy trade show season. As I was flying home from Las Vegas fresh off a very successful CES show, I was reflecting on my time perusing the show floor — most notably, that 4K was everywhere. For months I've been asserting that this will be the breakout year for 4K, but it's downright exciting to see that materialize in the form of trade show booths decked out with brilliant, beautiful 4K displays.

The arrival of 4K brings excitement and possibilities. But lurking behind all this buzz is the reality that there's a lot of confusion and misinformation surrounding 4K. Perhaps the most important point of confusion is that many believe you can enjoy 4K quality by simply purchasing a 4K-capable product. This simply isn't the case. You need to think of 4K as an ecosystem — a collection of individual parts that exist as a whole only when they work in harmony. This is especially true of 4K in the context of digital signage.

It's important to understand what exactly constitutes "native 4K" content. For video content to be true 4K, the source content must have a resolution of 3840x2160, with a frame rate of 60 fps. Anything less simply isn't 4K.

This 4K content makes quite a journey from capture to display, and it's essential that the content's properties remain preserved throughout that journey. The first step in this process is encoding. Many of us are familiar with H.264, the video compression standard for conventional HD content. 4K brings about a new standard called H.265, or "High Efficiency Video Coding," or HEVC. H.265 interprets this extremely data-rich 4K content and compresses it in much more efficient ways to deliver 10 bits/channel for extremely smooth, high-quality video resolution at a manageable bitrate. The diagram below illustrates the process I described above.

It's important to note that while 4K is leading the transition to H.265, this new codec also benefits 1080p content. Current comparisons show that H.265 is twice as efficient as H.264 when compressing 1080p content. H.265 is versatile and efficient, and I expect it to quickly become the standard for encoding digital signage content.

As a company, we are partnering closely with Elemental Technologies because they have proven to supply the encoding horsepower required to deliver a true 4K viewing experience. Elemental is the first to implement the HEVC specification with the capability of processing 4Kp60 H.265 content in real-time. The company's award-winning work in HEVC video processing helps create a high-quality viewing experience for 4K media players and displays.

"HEVC provides the potential to dramatically reduce delivery costs across all video profiles and deliver new levels of video quality to bring digital signage to life," Elemental VP of Marketing Keith Wymbs said. "It dramatically impacts the delivery of content display on 4K screens."

Once the encoded video content reaches the player, it needs to be capable of a couple things. First and foremost, it must be able to decode the content on its way to the display. It's critical that the video is reconstituted to its original form — 3840x2160 at 60 fps. Once the content is decoded, it's ready to be sent to the display. To be up to the task, the player must have an HDMI 2.0 output. Most players on the market today ship with an HDMI 1.4a output, which sends content at 3840x2160, but only at 30 fps. Cutting the frame rate in half results in a much choppier viewing experience.

And of course no 4K ecosystem would be complete without a 4K display. Early adopters have been quick to purchase and install these amazing displays. The displays require a significant investment, further underscoring the need to understand the 4K ecosystem to ensure an end-to-end 4K solution.

So with this advice under your belt, I officially welcome you to 201(4K).

Posted by: Admin AT 01:55 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
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