06/02/2020

Planet eStream Digital Signage Client Running on Low Powered Devices

homeicon_1
print11
Older Posts
Planet eStream’s Digital Signage Client Running on Low Powered Digital Signage Devices

I am often asked if our digital signage client will work on low powered/cheap devices such as Raspberry Pi or Android. The short answer is yes, however, there are considerations and compromises you will need to take into consideration if deploying such devices.


Planet eStream’s digital signage module is based around HTML5 as it offers very wide compatibility and flexibility of device support. We also allow you, the user, to create any resolution and complexity of content you wish.* The caveat to this is that the player you decide to use must be capable of playing the content, e.g. if you create a 4K (3840x2160) signage screen, the signage player and display that you wish to send the content to needs to be able to play 4K content in its browser.


It is possible to purchase very reasonably priced Android boxes that claim to play 4K content, however this is generally not the case when the 4K content is played in a browser. It is also worth noting that animations, e.g. scrolling messages etc., when incorporated into a browser are CPU intensive and are therefore not suited to low powered devices.


In this blog I will try to illustrate the limitations of these devices and highlight how these low-cost devices can benefit an organisation if their limitations are taken into consideration in planning signage delivery.


*The vast majority of digital signage products play content back as a scheduled playlist, e.g. full screen video followed by a message, followed by an image, etc. In effect, this type of system only allows one item to be displayed on screen at any time. Planet eStream offers far greater flexibility in enabling multiple types of content to be displayed on screen concurrently, e.g. a news feed and a video clip plus a calendar/timetable.

The Tests Carried Out

For both test scenarios, I have created the following screen designs:

  1. Full screen SD (Standard Definition Video) + date and time
  2. Full screen HD (High Definition Video) + date and time
  3. Full screen SD including stationary news feed (RSS from the BBC) + date and time
  4. Full screen HD including stationary news feed (RSS from the BBC) + date and time
  5. Full screen SD including stationary news feed and Twitter feed + date and time
  6. Full screen HD including stationary news feed and Twitter feed + date and time
Raspberry Pi 3B

First up is the Raspberry Pi 3B computer running Linux, which is based around the ARM Cortex-A53 Quad core CPU with 1GB RAM. This is a great low-profile device and can be purchased online for around £29.00 plus VAT. You will of course need to purchase a case and Micro SD card for the operating system (approximately £10 plus VAT).

  1. Full screen SD (Standard Definition Video) + date and time Pass
  2. Full screen HD (High Definition Video) + date and time Pass†
  3. Full screen SD including stationary news feed (RSS from the BBC) + date and time Pass
  4. Full screen HD including stationary news feed (RSS from the BBC) + date and time Pass†
  5. Full screen SD including stationary news feed and Twitter feed + date and time Pass
  6. Full screen HD including stationary news feed and Twitter feed + date and time Pass†

† HD plays back at a lower frame rate approximately 20-23fps


I have captured my signage screen to illustrate the tests carried out using the Raspberry Pi 3B and Linux which can be viewed here:

Android (Generic)

Next up is the Android Device running Android 7.1 and based around an Octa core A53 ARM CPU with 2GB RAM. These are cost effective devices and are priced online at around the £40 plus VAT mark. They are produced in very large quantities and are available in a huge range of specifications with varying performance.

  • Full screen SD (Standard Definition Video) + date and time Pass
  • Full screen HD (High Definition Video) + date and time Pass‡
  • Full screen SD including stationary news feed (RSS from the BBC) + date and time Pass
  • Full screen HD including stationary news feed (RSS from the BBC) + date and time Pass‡
  • Full screen SD including stationary news feed and Twitter feed + date and time Pass
  • Full screen HD including stationary news feed and Twitter feed + date and time Pass‡

‡ May experience HD playback at a lower frame rate, approximately 20-23fps


I have captured my signage screen to illustrate my tests carried out using the generic Android device and Android 7.1 which can be viewed here

Anomalies and Advisories

I would recommend using a wired Ethernet adapter, particularly with the Android devices as I have found that their internal Wi-Fi adapters are variable in quality. Heat is also an issue with the devices tested; due to the nature of digital signage, the CPU of the device is subject to constant high percentage use. This can generate heat, which in turn, can lead to performance deterioration.


We also found that using proxy servers on Android can be very unreliable, due to limitations in the operating system when used on a desktop device. The Wi-Fi adapters mentioned above may also be a contributing factor. We therefore do not recommend using Android devices if a proxy is required.

Closing Thoughts

I have tried to push the limits of the HTML capabilities of devices used in the above tests, but I decided against adding scrolling/animated text as these devices are not suited to this type of content. My overall conclusion and recommendation is that low powered signage devices are best suited to basic signage requirements such as single (playlist) assets, e.g. images, video, etc., and not multiple items on the screen concurrently - plus of course, no animation. If you need a budget signage player which does not suffer from the issues mentioned, I would highly recommend the Intel Compute Stick (STK1AW32SC) running Linux or MS Windows, which are very competitively priced and can be found online at £95.00 plus VAT.

Andrew Milburn
Product Development Director