The PC Stick: The New Digital Signage Media Player
In the past digital signage solutions were completely proprietary. Custom authoring software was used to create signage content and you needed a special-purpose digital signage media player for TV signage display. This created “vendor lock in”. And once you chose your digital signage media player you were wedded to the product vendor for life.
PC sticks and compute sticks represent a new class of low-cost digital signage media player hardware used to display digital signage presentations. A PC or compute stick is actually a small palm-sized PC device that plugs directly into your TV’s HDMI source input. They typically run a standard operating system (e.g., Windows or Android) with a full complement of RAM and flash memory–the stick’s hard drive. As the name implies, this device is basically a PC on a stick.
What’s this got to do with digital signage? To answer this question, it’s important to understand that the first generation digital signage media players were just “special purpose” PCs that ran digital signage player software designed by the product vendor. A player’s basic software function is to connect to a content management server (CMS)–where signage content is stored–download signage presentations and display them on the TV point.
Because a stick is just a tiny PC, a product vendor can easily write digital signage player software to run on it. As PC and compute sticks are off-the-shelf devices sold in retail outlets you are not tied to any vendor-specific hardware for your digital signage TV endpoints. If you tire or out-grow of your existing vendor you can choose another product vendor and install their digital signage media player software on your sticks.
PC Stick Requirements
When used for digital signage we recommend that you pick a PC or compute stick with the following (minimum) requirements:
Windows 10 operating system
Quad-core Intel CPU
32GB flash memory
HD graphics controller
Integrated WiFi (optionally wired Ethernet)
Windows-based PC Sticks
Choosing a stick that runs Windows offers your digital signage media player the widest range of playable media formats; particularly proprietary formats like PowerPoint® that can only be run on a Windows-based PC. And to handle high definition (HD) signage display you’ll need stick sporting a quad-core CPU with an integrated graphics controller capable of handling the math-intensive job of rendering 1080p full motion video. You can purchase full-featured Windows-based PC and computes stick from a wide range stores and online retailers like Amazon for a price around $100 USD.
If you’re using WiFi Internet to connect to the digital signage CMS make sure your PC/compute stick has good WiFi performance. If there is a strong WiFi signal at your location you should not have a problem. However, if the WiFi signal is weak because of walls, floors and multipath interference, then the stick’s WiFi performance can become an important issue. You should select a PC/compute stick with a high WiFi antenna gain factor. The higher the antenna gain the better its ability to work with weak WiFi signals. Additionally, to maximize signal reception the stick’s WiFi antenna should be external and movable (for example, on a ball-swivel) to better match the WiFi access point’s signal transmissions.
By default most PC and compute sticks (in fact most standard PCs) will not automatically turn on and boot when power is applied. You have to press the stick’s power button. This becomes a problem if your site temporarily loses power: you have to manually turn on the PC stick. With power-on restart feature the PC or compute stick will turn on and boot whenever power is applied. You should check with the stick product vendor to determine if they support this feature and how to enable it; especially if you plan to have unattended TV signage points without some type of battery backup.
When selecting a PC/compute stick for a digital signage media player consideration must be given to the operating environment. Will your signage display be indoors or outdoors? What are the expected high/low temperature ranges? PC and compute sticks tend to heat up so make sure the stick you select has an adequate cooling system. If your stick uses a fan for internal cooling take care as dust particles can, over time, clog the fan and lead to internal overheating and intermittent device failure.
PowerPoint Digital Signage Media Player
One of the benefits of using a low-cost Windows-based PC/compute stick is the ability to use PowerPoint for digital signage. PowerPoint is an ideal way to create signage content due to its flexible screen layout management, wide multimedia support, fonts choices, color palette selection and page animation/transition effects. To lower your operating cost you can use the free PowerPoint Viewer program on the PC stick to display PowerPoint signage presentations on your TV points.
PowerPoint Digital Signage using PC/Compute Sticks
A good example of a complete PowerPoint-based solution using PC/compute sticks is PowerSignage™, our cloud-based digital signage service. PowerSignage includes a content management service (CMS) and cloud storage for uploading PowerPoint signage presentations.
Simply install our PowerPlayer™ digital signage player software on your PC or compute stick. PowerPlayer automatically downloads and displays PowerPoint signage presentations on your TV screen.
For more detailed information download our PowerSignage product brochure or visit our website at www.powerdigitalsignage.com.
PowerPoint is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation. PowerSignage and PowerPlayer are trademarks of Power Media Design Pty Ltd.