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Intel and Microsoft partner to bring better Digital Signage experience

The two giants partner to bring a better performance to the Windows Embeded OS that’s powered by the Intel processor

…won’t ever been seen in the marketplace. That’s because Intel’s “proof-of-concept” digital signage application, like a concept car, is designed to show the capabilities of “tomorrow’s digital signage,” using today’s processors and software.

For those who haven’t been paying attention to the computing giant’s foray into digital signage, Intel last week showed a multi-screen retail digital signage installation at CES. The nearly eight-foot-tall structure made an appearance again this week at Intel’s booth at the National Retail Federation’s BIG Show in New York City.

I spoke with Intel digital signage director Jose Avalos yesterday while he was at the show, and he said that the proof-of-concept is the first step in a six-month push from Intel to make its digital signage efforts more apparent to the public. Based on the conversation, I understand the efforts consist of three main things at this point:

1. The retail proof of concept, which serves as a way to let the retail industry know what is possible through the use of digital signage. As Avalos said in the interview, the concept won’t be put into production, and the technology is still several years off, but the processing units and the software platform is in fact available on the market today. The concept essentially has three screens – two back-to-back LCDs and a clear holographic screen that is supposed to support augmented-reality-like shopping experiences. It’s also equipped with a CognoVision anonymous audience metrics system which gathers audience demographic data and relays it to advertisers. The applications can be left to the retailers, but Intel suggested it could be used to explore merchandise, find out about promotions, submit feedback on products, read customer reviews, view past purchasing histories and share information.


2. A partnership with Microsoft for a digital signage platform that supports both Intel processing chips and Microsoft software. Officially titled the “Windows 7-based Windows Embedded Standard 2011 operating system powered by Intel Core micro-architecture,” the platform is supposed to help “defragment” the industry by supplying a common platform that everyone could work off of. Essentially, the idea is that the users’ familiarity with Microsoft Windows Embedded and Intel Core processors will help drive adoption of the system. You can read details of the platform on Digital Signage Today.

3. Intel’s architecture of processing chips to be used with digital signage was disclosed to me yesterday in a presentation by Avalos. Intel is going to be using three processors to power various levels of digital signage systems:

-    The Intel Atom processor will be used for basic digital signage apps: Single-player per screen, Single-source video advertisement content with limited content blending.
-    The Intel Core i5 will be used with what Intel calls “mainstream digital signage,” which are networked, remote-managed and can support interactivity and rich media.
-    The Intel Core i7 will be used with “high-end digital signage,” like the proof-of-concept, where content is extremely interactive or requires running multiple apps at once (like augmented reality, audience measurement and wayfinding as on the concept. This is also the suggested processor for video walls.
Today, at the National Retail Federation (NRF) Annual Convention & Expo, Microsoft Corp. announced a strategic alliance with Intel Corporation to deliver a platform optimized for the digital signage industry. As a validated platform, the Windows 7-based Windows Embedded Standard 2011 operating system powered by  Intel Core micro-architecture is optimized to address the retail and digital signage market’s need for a more streamlined, high-performance and highly reliable solution.

“We are excited about the flexibility offered through the optimized Windows Embedded and Intel processor-based platform,” said Kevin Dallas, general manager of the Windows Embedded Business Unit at Microsoft. “The optimized platform simplifies development, helping to lower the total cost of ownership. It enables digital signage device-makers to focus on creating rich, connected user experiences that can be managed remotely and deployed anywhere from quick service restaurants and airports to hotels, cruise ships and retail stores.”

The companies are currently identifying potential targeted go-to-market initiatives to help stabilize a market that has been fragmented by numerous, non-standards-based platforms. As part of this effort, Microsoft and Intel’s embedded divisions are planning to implement partner training programs and joint sales and marketing efforts to assist in alleviating industry challenges.

“Developing digital signage platforms that will break down silos of proprietary solutions and enable faster time to market and greater return on investment is a foundational pillar of our overall embedded market strategy,” said Joe Jensen, general manager of the Embedded Computing Division at Intel. “We look forward to working with industry leaders such as Microsoft to create new design opportunities for innovative device-makers and partners, while giving them the tools and technologies they need to create smarter, interactive retail customer experiences.”

Some of the highlights of the optimized platform include the following:

- Rich immersive user experiences that include panning and zoom, touch, and gesture input to dramatically improve Web browsing and the overall user experience OEMs can deliver out of the box

- Video analytics capabilities that enable advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns through built-in camera technology, which analyzes users’ physical attributes and then generates tailored ad displays
- Remote deployment and management capabilities that minimize on-site maintenance, updates and repairs, driving clear added value through lower total cost of ownership
- Power management through conditional user interfaces that react to the environment around them, enabling OEMs to create more green devices that save on energy costs

“The industry-leading features and functionality enabled through Microsoft and Intel technology allow us to quickly build the cutting-edge digital signage and self-service applications our customers demand to reach consumers in a more personalized and compelling manner,” said Dusty Lutz, general manager of NCR Netkey. “This optimized platform provides us with streamlined access to superior technology.”

“The Microsoft and Intel technology showcased in HP’s digital signage solution proof of concept at NRF highlights the potential for businesses to simply and dynamically interact with their key audiences, delivering exceptional user experiences through content that is more compelling and relevant than ever before,” said Roberto Moctezuma, vice president and general manager of Desktop Solutions at HP.

During the NRF convention, in booth #836 Microsoft will feature the Intel digital signage proof of concept built on Windows Embedded Standard 2011. The proof of concept demonstrates ways OEMs can leverage the optimized digital signage platform to deliver differentiated user experiences featuring dual high-definition video streams on two separate displays, anonymous video analytics that recognize consumer genders, and multitouch user interaction capabilities.


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