Anyone familiar with the history of small PCs can shudder at the memory of underpowered computers that too often overheated and crashed. Things weren’t helped by the need for cheap, high-stress fans for cooling and hot-running components, including mechanical hard drives and older-generation processors.
Of course, things are different now. Intel’s NUCs have shown that powerful PCs can run applications such as the nearly ubiquitous interactive ordering systems in Australia’s McDonald’s chain. But Intel isn’t the only game in town – vendors such as Asus offer small, rugged, IoT-enabled PCs running Chrome OS and digital signage from StratosMedia in many malls.
So what is the state of digital signage technology and what is needed to integrate it into the Internet of Things?
How IoT can improve digital signage
Digital signage can transform the way people shop and improve the way businesses sell their products. To meet ever-increasing customer expectations, signage is becoming more and more sophisticated, with the integration of interactivity and other functionalities. This requires powerful, discreet, remotely managed on-board computers. It must be able to deliver data to remote locations for processing. This remote management of multiple networked devices and the processing of this data is a feature of the Internet of Things. And it must be widespread if customers are to actively seek it out.
What does it take to make IoT-based digital signage work?
Reliable digital signage that can deliver a robust, reliable, lag-free customer experience in a discrete device requires high-performance hardware. Here are five requirements for a small, IoT-enabled PC capable of achieving these goals:
1. Small size
A small PC can be easily hidden behind a screen. This means that the design of the stand that supports the screen must not take into account the bulkiness of the additional device, in terms of volume and weight.
Commercial equipment (including digital signage) is not well-treated and therefore must be solidly built to withstand impact, which means having few moving parts. It must also withstand all kinds of harsh environmental conditions, especially heat and humidity.
3. Fast and Reliable Networking
The introduction of Wi-Fi 6 has been a great catalyst for IoT devices. The increase in range and performance is obvious, but Wi-Fi 6 has also been heavily optimized to reliably support a much larger number of IoT devices on a network.
4. Automatic updates
Multiple digital signs are often installed in many locations in a single deployment. Updating these (and all other IoT devices) quickly becomes a headache if a site visit is required. Fortunately, Chrome OS and newer Windows operating systems can automatically download and install updates and do so when clients aren’t around.
5. Quick Components
Recent generations of PC components have been designed with mobility as an essential requirement. This development has paid off – processors and RAM are faster than ever, while requiring less power and emitting less heat. Fast solid-state drives have dropped in price and replaced their slow, less reliable mechanical counterparts.
While these benefits primarily benefit digital signage manufacturers, the resulting performance improvement also enables a lag-free customer experience capable of elaborate interactions. Low heat generation and fewer moving parts further improve reliability.
What is an example of digital signage in action?
The StratosMedia digital signage kiosk was powered by an Asus Fanless Chromebox micro PC.
StratosMedia used fanless Chromebox PCs from Asus to produce digital signage that helped Conquest Staging create interactive, customer-focused car discovery kiosks.
Caption: The StratosMedia digital signage kiosk was powered by an Asus fanless Chromebox micro PC.
These stations allowed visitors to access FAQs, book a test drive from home or at a dealership, and use a car configurator to identify their preferred color and spec. They could also request that the resulting information be sent to their email address or telephone.
The goal of these digital signage kiosks was to help understand customer demographics and requirements (potentially in real time) to provide AI-derived insights to automakers. The resulting analyzes also helped identify any UX issues and ensure the customer experience was optimal.
Signage can also be managed and updated remotely and comes with a lockable VESA mount, cable lock and secure stand for the Asus fanless Chromebox.
Conquest Staging was so impressed with the high level of customer satisfaction with the digital signage kiosks that it planned to install them in other malls. CEO Tristan Kurz said, “We recognized the need to deliver our product directly to our customers in a user-friendly, customer-focused interactive experience and to have the ability to capture in-depth visitor analytics in real time.
The response to digital signage from automakers themselves has also been positive with real-time user analytics (and other benefits) showing a strong return on investment.
What is an example of a modern micro PC?
The IoT device behind Conquest Staging’s deployment was Asus’ fanless Chromebox. It is designed to power a wide range of industrial applications that benefit from the IoT, including digital signage, kiosks, warehouses, point of sale and wayfinding.
It uses efficient 10th Gen Intel processors that are passively cooled and each device can support up to three 4K displays simultaneously. The fanless aluminum chassis looks like a giant heatsink for better heat dissipation and quiet operation. In addition to the inherent sturdiness of solid construction, it has undergone rigorous testing to ensure 24/7 reliability. These include vibration testing and harsh environmental testing (like subjecting the PC to 35 degree heat and 80% humidity) for 168 hours at a time. The solid chassis’ resistance to dust intrusion helps improve reliability and reduce maintenance.
The Asus Fanless Chromebox also includes USB-C and USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports for fast wired connections, Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, up to 16GB of DDR4-2666 memory and up to 512GB of storage M.2 SSD. The tiny PC weighs only 1.2 kg and has reduced dimensions of 207 x 148 x 32 mm.
It runs on Google Chrome OS and is then compatible with all of the Play Store and security apps.
What else does ASUS offer the IoT world?
Asus has a broad portfolio of IoT products, with solutions in many areas, such as AI security, facial recognition, healthcare, and automation. For example, its AI security solution is a facial recognition system for security monitoring in schools and workplaces. A tangential product is Asus’ Face Recognition Edge IoT Development Kit, a one-stop solution for identifying faces and other key personal markers and can infer and assess attributes such as age, gender and head orientation. .
How can I learn more about the building blocks of IoT solutions?
Asus is a sponsor of Australia’s premier Internet of Things conference, IoT Impact, taking place in Melbourne on June 9. Attend the event to see an ASUS representative discuss the building blocks of IoT solutions. See the agenda hereBut places are limited and run out quickly so buy your ticket now.