[Editor’s Note: This article is part of a special Supplement to Digital Signage magazine August Issue 2016, “New Developments in Flat Panel LCD, OLED, and Direct View Displays– In Search of the Perfect Pixel” By David Keene and Alan Brawn. The larger section explores how technological development in flat panel displays never cease– and the industry is more amazed this year than ever at the rapid pace of evolution– including ultra-thin bezel LCD, outdoor applications, OLED, more 4K, more interactive touch screens, and a huge upswing of direct view LED (and some new variations on direct view LED). The article below explores one of the “new variations” on direct view LED as one supplier seeks to bring “intelligent displays” to that category.]
Some of the larger display manufacturers, like Samsung, NEC, and LG, and others, have tried to market displays with SoC (system on a chip) features that eliminate the need for an external media player, and/or have offered simple digital signage content management software bundled with their display offerings. There has been success with these products, even while many digital signage integrators and end users prefer to source the displays separately from the media player and the content software. But recently one direct view LED provider made news when they announced that they would go this route as well, with their own twist. NanoLumens, a manufacturer of indoor and outdoor LED visualization solutions, introduced in June, NanoLumens AWARE, a cloud based digital display platform that according to the company “combines real-time diagnostics, media playback, and a variety of internal and third party-developed apps into one integrated system that is accessible through a single portal from anywhere in the world.” According to NanoLumens Vice President of Corporate Development Nate Remmes, AWARE addresses “the growing industry need for a simpler solution that eliminates hardware within a complex eco-system while allowing third party developers to create the next generation apps that will make displays more engaging, useful, and accountable.”
AWARE represents a strategic move by NanoLumens to differentiate itself from its LED competitors. “Our software-enabled hardware creates a path that gives customers and partners a more useful solution for the entire lifecycle of their displays,” Remmes said. AWARE combines hardware, services, and software into one integrated solution that can be purchased and embedded in a display or as a stand-alone add-on to an existing display. The core applications available at launch include a built-in media, weather, sports, news, HTML 5, social media, and audience measurement. Although agnostic and continuing to look for premier partners throughout the industry, today’s applications have been developed through NanoLumens’ partnerships with Admobilize, Gimbal, Navori, and Screenfeed.
Larger LED like from Nanolumens displays, are a bit different market than LCD panels– so I asked NanoLumens' Nate Remmes why he thinks the direct view LED market needs this solution more (or in a different way) than the LCD flat panel/digital signage market. Remmes said that their key goals were:
• Remote diagnostics– that is the first “application” and an important one.
• Also, you can manage LCD displays on that same platform (in addition to the direct view LED).
• You can “watch” the displays with remote cameras.
• You can obtain “proof of play” with the system (important for digital signage).
• You can use a third party CMS, like Navori and others
Remmes stressed that managing direct view LED is not like managing LCD screens. With direct view LED you will have different resolutions, different size screens. Below, are Remmes responses to my questions about this new offering:
Keene: Why do you think this LED market needs this solution more (or
differently) than the LCD flat panel/digital signage market?
Remmes : Excellent question which illustrates how unique AWARE really is. AWARE should not be confused with a built-in media player and control interface like the LCD manufacturers offer. AWARE is a completely custom built, stand alone, display management solution– NanoLumens offers this solution as built-in feature ensuring our discerning clients are always on the cutting edge of display technology. With standard built-in platforms you are limited by a display model, provider, CMS functionalities, chip performance, etc. With AWARE we customized a Snapdragon 820, the fastest SoC technology available, and opened the platform up to work with NanoLumens displays or any LCD that supports command protocols via IP or RS-232. The open ended Third-Party marketplace enables the user to utilize customized content, their CMS system of choice, or any number of applications just like your smart phone. In addition, AWARE features an HDMI-thru so the end user can still use their existing Media player or external video source, while still maintaining the ability to manage that video stream and receive analytics. With this functionality a user can still use their existing media player/ cms and gain all the additional value of AWARE (proactive display diagnostics, etc) while still deploying their content management software in the same fashion as they always had. We understand that sometime there is no digital signage ecosystem in place, but more often than not, there is a mature (or maturing) deployment in place. With a mature ecosystem the CMS, media players, switchers, etc. are already defined therefore we created AWARE to work within the environment while still providing multiple areas of enhancement.
Keene: When some of the big LCD screen makers launched their SoC offerings, they tried to get software partners to write simple CMS solutions. They got a number of them to do that. Some were more enthusiastic than others to jump into that. Will yours be only bundled with your specific software solution, or can it run any Android application now or in the future? (not plug ins like weather, but the actual CMS)
Remmes: We have already done it with multiple partners across hardware and software platforms. Anyone who has an APK can deliver their software through our marketplace. Of course, there is typically a two-way test and certification to verify the software/hardware capability. We aren’t looking for software provide “NanoLumens specific” products, we are looking to deploy their existing (and future solutions).
Keene: Are you going only through the AV/digital signage integrator channel with this offering?
Remmes: We have great partnerships with some of the top TV/digital signage integrators in the world. We sell with them through them and alongside them into the Fortune 500 and Global 2000 ensuring that we all win. NanoLumens sells into verticals, spaces, and geography. The AWARE product will not instantly change our sales methodology or go to market strategy. We have built a fantastic American company by selling a large portion of our sales through our AV/DS integrator partners. AWARE will be a useful product for our integrator partners to make more money on their SLA’s and reselling of NanoLumens products as a whole.