3 Questions: BrightSign CEO Predicts Future of 4K

BrightSign CEO Jeff Hastings discusses the growing demand for 4K content, the lower end of the digital signage market and if PCs will continue to be utilized in the space.

Tom LeBlanc

With Digital Signage Expo 2015 hitting Las Vegas, March 10-13, we asked Jeff Hastings, CEO of BrightSign, about some digital signage trends.

As a manufacturer of digital signage players, including recent introductions at both the high and low ends of the market, he’s uniquely qualified to comment on the overall state of demand for digital signage.

He talks to CI editor Tom LeBlanc about everything from 4K and HDMI 2.0 to the “blue screen of death.”

What have you seen in terms of demand for 4K content since you launched BrightSign 4K?

Hastings: We announced it about a year ago at ISE [but shipped in September]. We’ve seen two things happening.

First is the kind of ecosystem, if you will, is just now coming together — so displays with HDMI 2.0, the ability to encode content with H.265, which keeps file sizes for 4K kind of the same size as 1080p files so it’s a really big breakthrough on the compression side.

Then the panels with all the stuff integrated are just now coming out. So basically in Q4 we saw some really good adoption from two different segments — one from the early adopters [and] television manufacturers on the consumer side wanting to be able to demonstrate their TVs, because there is really no other media player that’s solid-state that they can put in a retail environment. So we did a reasonable number of those.

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Then a lot of other folks are buying our 4K player because of the extreme capabilities of the HTML performance and the video performance even using it with 1080p. What’s happening here in the first quarter is I think you’ll see most of the commercial manufacturers bringing out their 4K TVs with HDMI 2.0. That was kind of a limitation.

In the fourth quarter the commercial TV still had HDMI 1.0, which only gives you 30 frames per second for the 4K, and all the consumer TV manufacturers came out in Q4 with HDMI 2.0 and typically what happens is three to six months later the commercial versions come out. So we’re really looking forward to the commercial versions coming out here in the first part of the year.

Watch the video or read on below for the extended Q&A.

You recently launched BrightSign LS targeted at the lower end of the digital signage market. What are you seeing in terms of how both the low and high end of the market is developing?

Hastings: There are kind of three things happening in the overall digital signage market.

There continues to be a push at the high end, which we just talked about, the 4K kind of extreme performance doing really interactive and interesting things at the high end, [and] at the low end what we’re seeing is basically people wanting to do very simple signage, having a lot of reliability, and these can be anything from connected displays in retail shops [or] a simple digital menu board or just simple looping video running specials, all the way down to POP (point of purchase) displays. And that end of the market is super price sensitive.

What we observed in the market was a lot of people were going out and buying sort of Android devices that were actually consumer devices and trying to use them in commercial applications. And a lot of them came back to us and said, ‘Gosh, we really like those devices’ price points, but boy, when we rolled those out they just didn’t have the reliability; they broke and we were kind of dismayed about the performance.’

So we looked at that and said, I think there’s an opportunity for us to take a platform and really target it for the low end, and that’s what we did. We basically built the LS and took all the cost out of it that we could. We even put in a plastic case as opposed to the metal case that we usually do [but] it meets all of our stringent quality requirements so it’s certified to the same level as all of our products and works with all of our software and we’ve actually had great results from it.

It’s a great selling device already and we just brought it out in December. We’re almost sold out of it at the beginning of January because of people adopting it. A lot of it goes to, it fits in with our software so it’s like any product in our product line with the same reliability just at a lower price point. So we see that market beginning to expand.