February 19, 2013 By Daniel Dern
Many digital signage installations need only cabling, at a minimum, to provide power, and possibly for networking as well. Others need a local computer, whether to act as a player for locally stored content or to help process network content to one or more displays (such as a video wall), or some other local device.
Historically, these players needed their own power, network and other cables, and, if they could not mount on the back of the display, their own mounting. For wall-mounted signage, this meant more rear space, more install time and possibly more ventilation — all translating to additional costs. For freestanding signage, this meant a visible box and dangling cables, which looked distracting and inelegant at best, and which could be a temptation to possibly wreak havoc for the younger passers-by.
One solution for many of these scenarios comes from the Open Pluggable Specification (OPS), which defines a standard size, shape and interface for slots, and for “slot-loaded” accessories to be put into these slots. This is in particular for (but not limited to) small-form-factor computer players that are part of a digital signage installation.
“We’ve installed three to four hundred digital signage displays that have OPS slots, with OPS-compliant computers in those slots, at several of our airport customers,” says Brandy Bailey, Software Support Integration Manager, Com- Net Software.
How It Began
Announced at the October, 2010 Digital Signage Expo, the OPS was issued by Intel, with support from digital signage industry leaders including Microsoft, NEC Display Solutions, and the Taiwan Digital Signage Special Interest Group.
“You don’t have to buy additional mounting hardware, worry about additional construction costs or buy video extenders.” — Brandy Bailey, Com-Net Software.
The purposes of the OPS include simplifying the installation, use, upgrading and maintenance of these computers and related accessories. An OPS-compliant device should install easily, and when on-site servicing, replacement or upgrade is required, a technician just needs to be able to reach up, release the securing mechanisms, and slide the PC out of its slot.
“Previously, if you were going to include a computer with a display, you had to worry where you were going to put it,” says Bailey. “For example, would you have to try and mount it in the ceiling, or in a mounting device, or use video extenders and put it in a nearby room? OPS means we can put displays in places that weren’t previously possible, like hanging displays above airport baggage claim areas.”
In addition to the convenience, Com-Net finds that using OPS reduces installation costs, Bailey says.
“You don’t have to buy additional mounting hardware, worry about additional construction costs or buy video extenders,” says Bailey.
There are other advantages too, says Dwight Looi, product development manager, IBASE Technology.
“You can have multiple vendors for computers and screens, and all be interchangeable,” he says.
Prior to OPS, the use of slots and hardwired players had been tried before by several vendors, but they were vendor-specific proprietary implementations. This meant fewer vendor choices, and once a display or player was selected, being locked in to that vendor to replace or upgrade a given component.
OPS in Action
For those digital signage and other public A/V displays that need a computer —and the vendors, integrators and installers that provide them — the Open Pluggable Specification, if embraced, should expand customer options, reduce the time and labor for installs and upgrades and make the results less cluttered.