Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a steady stream of emerging digital signage technologies, chief among them 4K Ultra HD displays. When 4K first emerged, there was much industry chatter about whether it would catch on for digital signage. Well, it has, to the point where the number of 4K displays larger than 60 inches is on the path to overshadow the number of non-4K 60-inch-plus displays. Although its benefits are enormous and the ramp-up explosive, we can confidently predict that we are only on the front end of the adoption curve, which creates an exciting prospect for what the future holds.
- Display: Ultra HD displays provide the sharpest picture available on a large-screen display, four times the resolution of full HD displays and the most immersive viewing experience the industry has seen to date. Displaying more than 8 million pixels is only part of the UHD story because new color standards push the imagery into a significantly broader color gamut. The full HD standard only covers 38% of the CIE-defined color space, which is a rough approximation of the visible color spectrum. Conversely, the new UHD standard covers 79%, more than double!
- Content: After delivery of 4K displays for the commercial market, the 4K content and delivery ecosystem had to match the content and display capabilities. Take, for example, on the content side of the ecosystem, the early adopter markets of command and control, and retail. In both of these markets, the 4K imagery files already exist. Coupled with the latest in content delivery systems, a complete solution is now in place.
Today, on the production side, the strength of 4K hardware sales points to a quickly changing standard that leaves little doubt as to the future viability and adoption of the technology. The interest now is in observing the 4K adoption rate of acceleration rather than answering the question of whether the future includes 4K as a meaningful portion of the market.
- Delivery: Now that we have displays and content, we must consider delivery of the content to these incredible new displays. There were some common challenges identified just a year ago: It takes too much bandwidth, and the earlier standards of HDMI and DisplayPort could not accomplish 4K at 60 frames per second. And, although we heard of solutions last year, availability in production equipment was limited at best.
Addressing the bandwidth concern, the newly available HEVC codec allows about a 35% to 64% bit rate improvement compared to H.254/MPEG4, depending on the profile. And for the physical layer of connectivity, the newly available HDMI 1.4 and DisplayPort 2.0 can now get us to 4K with 60fps.
Another notable technology when it comes to 4K content delivery is smart TV. New all-in-one hardware and software solutions allow software partners to install and run their software in a more simplified solution. The architecture enables easy-to-build web-based apps across multiple platforms, including Android, iOS and Windows. Software development kits allow integrators to construct their own ideal customized signage solution. The introduction of a middleware layer above webOS allows system s integrators to write HTML programs for their customized solutions.
These latest advancements in the displays, content and delivery technologies further validate that Ultra HD is here to stay and makes practical sense. Its massive resolution and expanded color gamut, coupled with advanced panel technology, provides the next level of immersive viewing for commercial applications, allowing for the creation of messaging and “future proofing” marketing and promotional materials.
The benefits of this emerging technology are also practical in many ways. Customers are using these displays to enable command centers and those in positions to make high-impact decisions in real-time. Touch for large formats is also assisting these customers because it enables them to instantly create smart whiteboards with incredible detail. When standing only an arm’s length away while touching and interacting with a large-format display, the historical 1080p full HD approach is no longer acceptable, and 4K is almost already the de facto standard.
Ultra HD is here to stay, experiencing exponential growth in commercial displays and innovative digital signage applications. As we progress through 2014, I’m excited to see the rate of 4K adoption as customers and integrators drive forward the customer immersion and engagement experience.
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