Intel’s (OPS) Open Pluggable Specification has been around since 2010 and has many merits within the digital signage and large format display industry today, even though it’s uptake was initially slow. It’s recent resurgence has been boosted by the modular approach manufacturers of both OPS units and displays have taken in standardisation. In short, you don’t need to rely on a rear-mounted box or standalone PC in order to drive your digital signage content; many of the latest signage displays now have slots within which to take integrated OPS units.
Management and maintenance
OPS units are effectively running an OS that controls the content displayed on the signage its linked to. It can do this directly – streaming content from the unit itself – or via a network. With OPS, the fact that you’re installing a small-form factor PC within each display brings multiple advantages; most important of which is that it delivers a single system to manage and operate. That means, in terms of system support, back-up units can be swiftly swapped out if something goes wrong. In terms of content solutions, using a single management device has the added bonus of enabling control of multiple displays, either individually, universally or in parallel.
With the addition of an OPS unit, your display can then be connected to your network; either wired through an Ethernet connection or wirelessly if the OPS unit you’re using supports it. This shows the second major advantage OPS has as a content management and delivery option: its scalability. As OPS units rely on a single network system into which multiple units ‘daisy chain’, it’s very quick to install additional displays or relocate existing ones. This keeps expansion costs for your signage solution low, as well as maintenance time.
The point of a single, ratified, specification is to guarantee interoperability between hardware manufacturers. For the user this, again, boosts the ease of scalability as well and means you can easily deploy different hardware elements and upgrade displays and units without disruption.
In terms of connectivity, OPS units offer benefits here too. Units tend either to run Linux or Android based OSs, with a bespoke content management system onboard. The units themselves typically offer HDMI, USB and SD slots, Ethernet and W-LAN connections as well as wireless support in more expensive and recent models. The USB and SD slots in particular shouldn’t be overlooked. Though they might seem outdated and outmoded, they’re a fast and easy way of deploying new content quickly to a particular display without having to disrupt a networked schedule. Another overlooked advantage of a wireless OPS unit is the fact that it requires no additional wiring – even for power, which the units take from the display.
Cost and running
For smaller display networks – for example fewer than four units – OPS units might seem like an expensive investment. These are powerful small-form factor PCs after all, and prices begin around £500 from manufacturers including Axiomtek, Nexcom and Advantech. However, by comparison to a power hungry standalone PC, OPS units could offer you running cost benefits.
For larger networks of signage that require more regular content management and maintenance, OPS offers numerous solutions and ongoing benefits, most notably its network-wide content management and maintenance, and the boon of running all of the layout, content and schedule from a single input device.
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