Raspberry Pi Now Being Served

In an earlier blog this year, I reviewed NEC’s recent announcement to incorporate the popular Raspberry Pi (RPi) computer with selected new V-Series and P-Series panels by mid-2017.

The addition of RPi continues NEC’s open platform philosophy utilizing OPS slots that provide the bridge for a variety of computers and digital signage OPS-compliant solutions. Now with the addition of low-cost RPi, software application developers and digital signage content creators have a flexible and scalable platform to choose from.

So, in a sense, NEC created something akin to a Food Network for digital signage content and IoT applications. The vision is for Developer “Chefs” everywhere to take their RPi creations from the kitchen to the marketplace table.
NEC & Raspberry Pi at InfoComm 2017

So, the Developer Chefs are busy with their recipes and I’m looking to get a taste of their RPi creations.  Not only are we moving ahead with our Almo Content Service partners busy adapting the current HTML5-based digital signage recipes to RPi but they’re mixing some new ones as well.

By year-end 2017, we plan to have a menu of low-cost, easy to install RPi selections to meet the creative demands of our dealer’s customers.

Another exciting development is how other content “Chef” houses are entering the marketplace with their recipes and creations. We’ve been contacted by numerous content houses who embrace RPi as their platform — a powerful, low-cost platform that allows them to bring their recipes to the digital signage table. They want to know more about NEC’s panels that, in a sense, are the beautiful plates to make their appetizing creations sparkle for wanting customers.

Stay tuned as my next blog will update all of you about our growing menu of RPi selections on the Almo digital signage menu.

In the meantime, you can see the RPi panels up close on the fall leg of the Almo Pro A/V E4 AV Tour, coming to New York on September 19 and October 3 in Irvine, CA.

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Oh Integrator, May I Have Some Raspberry Pi with My Panel?

Not being a software developer, you can imagine my confusion when NEC Display Solutions of America  announced its upcoming line of commercial displays with the ability to insert a Raspberry Pi Compute Module.

“Raspberry Pi?” I said.  “Isn’t that some sort of dessert?”

Raspberry Pi was developed in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation in 2012. The Foundation’s original intention was to provide an inexpensive tool for the teaching of basic computer science in schools and in developing countries. But like many inventions, the original model became far more popular than anticipated, spreading into many other commercial uses.

As I continued my inquiry, I was informed that the Raspberry Pi Compute Module is a tiny PC that looks like a small board of laptop memory. First introduced in 2014, it’s basically a small alternative to a full-sized Raspberry Pi computer (which is only about the size of a credit card).

The upcoming line of NEC V-Series and P-Series  displays will have screen sizes ranging from 40 to 80 inches, and use a Pi Compute Module to power digital signage and other applications. There’s an internal bay in each display that will accept either a first-gen Raspberry Pi Compute Module or recently-introduced Compute 3 Module. These new displays are due to ship in Q2 2017 and will be available from Almo ProAV.

So, how will the NEC displays with the Raspberry Pi module (which, by the way, is making my stomach growl right now), be used? Well, in addition to powering digital signage applications, the Raspberry Pi Foundation envisions NEC displays being used for interactive presentations and other Internet of Things applications. Oh, oh….there’s that “IoT” talk again…

How does this benefit YOU?

Bottom line, is that with Raspberry Pi, software application developers and digital signage content creators now have many flexible and scalable platforms to choose from.  All this new world of capabilities inserts into an elegant design of displays suitable for smooth installations in any environment.  No more external media players or PCs with every display.  Can you imagine the power savings and ease of installation?  So ask yourself Mr. Digital Signage Integrator, are you embracing this powerful platform to offer your end-users innovation?  Take a bite of the Pi!

Our strategic initiative to team up with Raspberry Pi is an example of how we continue to ensure that an organization in any sector has the most advanced technology in place to meet their application needs. Our open platform approach provides display intelligence at any time, thanks to our modular and interchangeable design. Integrating the Raspberry Pis with our displays will provide businesses with advanced technology suitable for digital signage, streaming and presenting to enhance the overall visual experience at an affordable price point,” said Stefanie Corinth, Senior Vice President Marketing and Business Development at NEC Display Solutions Europe GmbH.

And as contributor Bob Raikes stated three months ago in Display Daily, “I see this as quite an elegant solution for NEC. The company is not in the TV business, unlike competitors that are in the digital signage business like Samsung, LG and Philips, so it has not had the economies of scale to simply exploit technology developed for Smart TVs, as the others have been able to do. By adopting Pi, NEC is able to exploit the volume of the Pi to keep costs relatively down (the older Compute Module is currently selling for less than $30) and offer a level of price and performance that is competitive”

We are working with our Almo Content Services partners to take advantage of this new and exciting offering from NEC. There are many emerging content creation software offerings written for the Raspberry Pi platform and we plan to offer our integrators and dealers the latest in innovative and interactive digital signage.

I invite you to write me and let me know about your taste for Raspberry Pi.  I’ll be happy to post your comments on future posts as this exciting combination of NEC displays and Raspberry Pi content is introduced into the US digital signage marketplace.

So, if Raspberry Pi is on the panel menu, I’ll have one with my cappuccino, please!

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Three Reasons Why Moving to 4K Makes Sense on Your Desktop

Conventional wisdom (and maybe your parents or grandparents) tells us to “invest in real estate.” While this is an adage about acquiring financial wealth, the same tenets hold true for pixel count on monitors. More pixels offer flexibility in numerous ways.

Recently the creative team here at Almo Pro AV installed NEC MultiSync 27-inch 4K monitors. It was important to us to establish a common viewing platform so that each designer could pick up someone else’s work and share assets being confident that we were seeing the work as originally intended. Packing full 4K UHD resolution and a robust, simple-to-use color calibration solution, I was very excited to get my hands on this display and put it to use.

 

The other members of the team have offered their impressions of the monitor already. You can read Jeff’s thoughts here, and Diana’s perspectives here.

 

 

Modern graphic design (and nearly every other industry in the free world), is computer-based, and at its core is a visual medium. As you are all well aware, visuals on a monitor are made up of pixels and more pixels simply equals better. Apple popularized this movement with the Retina Display. Starting on IOS devices, they quickly scaled their efforts up and brought them to their notebook line and subsequently to the desktop. Other manufacturers were quick to follow and the HiDPI boom was born.

Here are three reasons why moving to 4K desktop monitors just makes sense:

First, and maybe most obviously, you can place and view numerous windows next to each other for viewing and multi-tasking – perfect for the modern power user.

Second, when paired with a capable OS and graphics card, ‘retina display’ experiences are possible. This is where (granted this is a loose example, but go with me here… ) an object will be rendered at approximately the same size on screens of the same size but different resolutions, but the one rendered on the higher pixel count screen will appear sharper to the eye given the density.

Third, and most valuable to me as a designer, becomes apparent when working in the Adobe Creative Suite. With this 4K NEC monitor, I can see more of my work at 100% magnification than ever before. Just take a look at this side-by-side photo comparing the NEC to my old Apple Cinema display.

Both images are shown in Photoshop, on the same MacBook Pro at 100% magnification. As you can see, with the additional pixel space of the NEC display I’m able to see my work completely in context, without the need for excessive zooming in and out.

The same is true of Illustrator. I can view multiple layouts in InDesign at once, and I can now view true 4K video in Premier and After Effects.

The benefits of 4K (and higher!) resolution displays is clear in design, the same can be said for any user. Imagine the number of rows of a spreadsheet that can be displayed on this type of display! Even if that’s not attractive to a customer, the increased clarity of HiDPI monitors makes them a great option.

Have any of you seen the demand for 4K on the desktop yet?

 Let us know your experiences in the comments.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series where we’ll take a look at color calibration with NEC’s SpectraView II solution.

 

Seeing NEC Solutions within a Forest of Products

At Almo Pro AV we just wrapped up our 2016 E-4 AV Tour with stops in Boston and then Dallas.  Like our previous E-4s, these events offered our customers, large end-users and consultants multiple CTS-certified lectures (with RU Credits!), hands-on experience rooms and an impressive exhibit floor populated with over 50 manufacturer partners displaying the latest in technology.

Due to space constraints and other outside factors, exhibit halls in general often restrict what manufacturers showcase to individual components and not an entire working solution.  Attendees then must visualize the solution, usually by associating it with a recent or current application need.  But what if they could see an entire solution, made up of components from multiple manufacturers in a single exhibit?  This is a concept I’ve been at work on for the past few E-4 events, and the reception and feedback I’ve received is motivating.

Video Wall BackRepresentatives from well-regarded display and projector manufacturer NEC have worked with me on this concept from the beginning. Our goal is to display NEC’s superior commercial panel designs and demonstrate their functionality in a working model, such as a video wall or unique projector application.  To accomplish this we started with a video wall configuration and called on another partner, Peerless-AV to supply their specialized video wall cart.  The cart is an actual Peerless-AV sku providing video wall mounting with mobility.  Perfect for our exhibit hall floor.  Now we can easily demonstrate the features of this video wall solution and mount combination to show attendees.

TV One & NEC

 

In Dallas we took the partial solution even further.  TVOne joined our configuration to display their low-cost and feature-rich 4k video processing unit that utilizes NEC’s Tile Matrix feature.  We then insured electrical noise-free power by employing a Tripp-Lite double-conversion UPS.  The end result was a working, fully mobile 4k video wall solution.

 

Peerless & TrippLite

Peerless Kiosk (left) and Peerless-AV Video Cart (right)

Next, we wanted to demonstrate a single-panel application with a 65″ UHD Panel, mounted in portrait orientation.  Once again we called on Peerless-AV to provide a video cart capable of portrait orientation, enabling us to demonstrate the panel’s ability to change screen orientation.  One dealer group actually came by the booth that day ans offered to purchase the solution right then and there and take it back to their office!

Also popular these days are indoor kiosks, and Almo and NEC were able to bring such a solution to our E4 attendees as well.  This time we created a kiosk solution featuring a 46″ NEC panel displaying content from a BrightSign media player, all secured and ventilated within the Peerless-AV kiosk and once again powered by Tripp-Lite.

Almo is already hard at work with our partners for our March E-4 AV Tour stop in the Windy City, Chicago, IL.  Our solutions exhibits will no doubt continue to evolve and grow.  Perhaps we’ll employ a unique NEC SSL laser projector based digital signage application with portrait orientation using content provided by Almo’s Content Creation Services.  Rest assured, we’ll come up with something – and our attendees will be able to see a true solution through the forest of products on the exhibit floor.

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Working together and great partnerships make events like the E4s come to life. Thanks, NEC!

 

NEC’s 27″ 4K Monitor: Huge Workspace with High-Quality Graphics

Hi! I’m Diana.Before

I started working at Almo a few months ago as a Graphic Designer. Naturally, I am in front of monitors all day, every day and depending on the project/s sometimes I need to have more than two screens open at the same time. Not too long ago I had three monitors, with real “classy” stands, taking up a lot of space on my desktop. I’m in a bit of a minimalist phase, so I wasn’t really feeling it.

A few months ago, when Almo Acquired IAVI , my entire setup changed. I was given a brand new Apple laptop and I decided to only keep one of my old monitors. Although it was a really nice monitor with a good resolution for a visual artist, it was a bit too small for the type of workspace I actually needed. I was going to be forced to bring in another monitor and I was not happy about it.

Luckily for me, and in perfect timing, Almo offered me an NEC 27” 4K Monitor (MultiSync EA275UHD).  First of all, you don’t have to be a genius to set it up. Just take it out of the box, plug it in and adjust the height. Second, it’s big enough to serve as two monitors without taking up so much space on my desk, which I LOVE! Lastly but definitely not least, the resolution on this monitor is insane! The color accuracy is terrific and the quality is just beautiful.

Look at me setup now!after

Overall, I would definitely recommend this monitor to any Graphic Designer or Digital Artist out there looking to move from 1080p to 4K with a bigger workspace. It’s a keeper!

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Large Format Displays as Window Signage – Is There a Difference?

NEC LCD High Brightness Displays

A couple of months ago, I spoke with one of our Arizona integrators about a window digital signage project for a large retail jewelry store. As we discussed the project, I asked for specifics as to display size dimensions and quickly moved to content, media player, and signal distribution scheme.  The spec seemed relatively straightforward and a bill of materials would be easy to create.

But as I reviewed drawings and artist renderings, I quickly asked myself:

  • What direction do the windows face? Southwest exposure?
  • Coverings shading the windows?
  • Portrait or landscape orientation?
  • City ordinances on night time brightness?

The answers to the above questions quickly convinced me that I was actually dealing with a high ambient light specification than that of a typical within-the-building digital signage project. Additionally, this window project calls for commercial grade, 24/7 displays (for use well into the night after closing hours) that must have the following design attributes:

  • Higher brightness rating than that of a typical indoor display to ensure crystal clear visibility during the daytime
  • Resistant to the effects of high temperatures and direct sunlight that cause an isotropic blackening effect on liquid crystal
  • Advanced heat management to provide proper cooling given high temperatures and extensive operational hours
  • Polarizing film on the displays so as to be seen by polarized sunglasses in either portrait or landscape orientation
  • Ambient light sensors to dim displays in low sunlight or nighttime

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So, as you can easily surmise, we’re now talking about specially designed displays for this project. NEC, for example, manufactures 47”, 55”, and 75” high brightness displays designed for front-facing window display applications.  The XHB Series of displays addresses the above needs with:

  • High brightness (2000-2700 nits) for high ambient light conditions
  • High resistance to isotropic effects from direct sunlight
  • Quarter Lambda Polarizing film so content can be easily seen regardless of orientation or polarized sunglasses
  • Internal heat management and self-diagnostics to insure reliable 24/7 operation
  • Ambient light sensors to dim the panel for lower light and nighttime conditions

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Bottom line—front-facing window signage demands are different from indoor or outdoor models. Be sure to know the application when an end user mentions windows in a digital signage application.  Yes, these panels are an investment, but if you can’t see the displays, why have the signage?

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