Category Archives: Audio/Video Digital Signage

4 Features to Look for When Buying a Presentation Switcher

Have you ever been in a meeting where presenters changed or the input source needed to change? Typically, this involves switching cables and changing the source on a display, which wastes time and creates distractions. The advent of the presentation switcher has made awkward and time-consuming fumbling around a thing of the past. But not all presentation switchers are created equally. Here are the key features to look for when selecting a presentation switcher for your conference room:

1. Easy Connectivity Regardless of Source

It’s very common to have a variety of analog and digital sources that need to connect to a display during a meeting. A presentation switcher that can accommodate a host of inputs, including DisplayPort, is important to maximize flexibility.

2. Seamless Switching

When more than one source is required, it can be inefficient and time consuming to switch in between sources. Look for the ability to switch quickly between sources, like projectors and laptops, without latency. Lulls in a presentation can lead to losing the audience’s interest. Look for a presentation switcher with the most seamless switching capabilities.

3. Built-in HDBaseT Extension

HDBaseT technology enables users to present from remote sources or to transmit to a remote display over existing CAT5e and CAT6 cable. Presentation switchers with built-in HDBaseT extension enable you to take advantage of existing infrastructure saving both time and money.

4. Future Proof Presentation Switching

Technology is always evolving therefore it is important to look for a presentation switcher that can accommodate change. Look for a presentation switcher that supports 4K UHD with the ability to scale signals up or down in order to match the display resolution. 4K UHD is currently the best resolution we have, so finding a switcher that supports it ensures you never encounter display issues. Backwards compatibility is also necessary, as well, as you will most like encounter a variety of newer and legacy displays.

In a technology-focused world, presentations that utilize multiple, multimedia tools are the norm. Presentation switchers have entered the arena to make multimedia presentations more impressive, interactive, and seamless. Not only do they enhance presentations, but they also enhance the collaborative nature of a multimedia presentation. Whether you are switching between sources or switching between presenters, a presentation switcher will ensure the process is effortless.

Find out more about our Presentation Switchers or get an overview of Black Box conference room solutions.

InfoComm 2016 Preview: Exciting New Black Box Solutions

Infocomm 2016 Banner

InfoComm will be here before you know it! It’s the largest event for professional AV with 10,000+ products and nearly 1,000 exhibitors. We thought we’d give you a sneak preview of the new and exciting solutions Black Box will showcase at InfoComm, June 8-10!

Not registered? Be our VIP guest. Use guest pass BLA176 for free access to the exhibitor hall. Stop by the Black Box booth C5034 any time during the show, June 8-10.

Here’s what you’ll find at the Black Box booth.

Conference Room and Classroom Collaboration Solutions

CoalesceDEMO_AP1CImagine idea sharing without barriers. Encourage collaboration with modern huddle spaces, conference rooms, and classrooms.

  • Coalesce™ Wireless Collaboration System:
    Create. Connect. Collaborate.
    Your path to smarter collaboration starts here with Coalesce, the new, one-of-a-kind BYOD wireless collaboration system. With touchscreen simplicity and simultaneous wired and wireless connectivity for an unlimited number of users, you’ll be able to encourage collaboration and share ideas without barriers.
  • Best-in-Class Presentation Switchers
    Connect, extend, and switch any wired video device to any conference room display with Black Box Presentation Switchers. These all-in-one switchers/scalers support resolutions up to 4K (UHD), upscale/downscale video to match the display resolution, and support all standard video formats, including DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI, and VGA.
  • HDMI Extenders with Built-in Scaling
    Use the new VX1000 Series HDMI Extenders with our Presentation Switchers to easily switch and present any video signal on a remote display. Or use them alone for simple video extension. Two transmitter models available: standalone box or wallplate. USB support enables them to be used for basic KVM applications.
Stunning Visual Solutions

MediaCento4K_diag

When you want to impress, inform, and educate, turn to Black Box for AV technologies that turn boring into bold. Send signals from any source to any screen over IP, and get real-time data visualisation.

  • Better than Ever AV-over-IP Extension, Switching, and Video Walls
    The ever-popular MediaCento IPX product line has expanded to now include MediaCento IPX USB 4K. The new AV-over-IP extenders are now better than ever with increased video performance and 4K (UHD) support. The new transmitter and receiver also support built-in 4K to HD downscaling, analog and digital audio, touchscreens, and KVM functionality.
  • Stunning iCOMPEL™ Digital Signage
    Your complete digital signage solution begins here with iCOMPEL. Select from an array of digital signage media players and content commanders.
Command and Control Room Solutions

CONTROL-ROOM-NASA_PCImprove productivity and mission-critical reliability in broadcast, public safety, industrial, and defense command and control rooms.

See something that sparked your interest? Call a Black Box technical specialist at 00800-2255 2269 (00800-CALLBBOX). We look forward to connecting with you!

We look forward to connecting with you!

Top 10 Products from Black Box for 2015

Taking a look back at 2015, it’s clear that Black Box provides end-to-end infrastructure, professional AV technology, and networking solutions. The variety of products that made our Top Products’ list is representative of many different walks of IT and AV. Let’s take a look at our best sellers from 2015, and how they fit your applications.

1. IP-Based KVM Switching and Extension

Transmit DVI, USB, and audio signals in real time over an Ethernet LAN with the Agility IP-Based KVM Switching and Extension System. Standard CATx cabling delivers IP traffic via the Agility transmitters and receivers up to 100 m. For longer distances, add a network switch, which will give you an additional 100 metres.

With the Agility Controller Unit turn your IP-based Agility system of transmitters and receivers into a managed matrix switching system with this component at its center directing traffic over your LAN.

For more information, visit our Solutions pages.

2. MediaCento IPX Solution
Distribute digital video signals, including HDMI, over IP to multiple screens. This system is big in hospitality, retail, and other applications where you need to share video. Lossless HD video means crystal-clear images on every display. Check out this digital solution for the future, which comes at an analog price.

MediaCento IPX Receiver

MediaCento IPX Receiver

The MediaCento IPX solution integrates easily into your local area network. Transmit HDMI video and audio over an Ethernet network to a virtually unlimited number of screens as far as your network reaches. The MediaCento Controller adds many features to the solution, including flexible control of video walls, up to 8 x 8. In addition, the LPB2900 Series Gigabit Ethernet Managed PoE+ Switches can be outfitted with the MediaCento Controller software for HD video extension and switching. It’s the market’s first network switch that enables users to remotely control and switch AV from any source to any display. Three switches plus the software is available at Black Box.

3. GigaTrue™ CAT6 550-MHz Bulk Cable and GigaBase™ 350 CAT5e Solid Bulk Cable
ETL-Verified. HDBaseT recommended. Reliable performance. Guaranteed for life. When it comes to cabling, Black Box doesn’t fool around. Our bulk copper cabling integrates into new building projects whether you’re expanding or starting from the ground up.

All cabling solutions offer performance designed to last the lifetime of your system, whether in the data center or at the desktop — or beyond. Visit our CATx cable selector or our cabling home page for more choices.

4. Media Converters enable you to connect to different types of media within a network. To find the right media converter for your application, visit our media converter selector.

For example, look at the Multipower Miniature Media Converters. The autosensing MDI/MDI-X copper ports of these small converters means you don’t need to worry about what kind of cable to use. Easily migrate networks from Ethernet to Fast Ethernet all the way to Gigabit Ethernet. Compact in size, and still supports distances up to 10 kilometres.

5. KVM Extenders

Extend digital video signals and USB functionality over CATx or fibre cabling in order to streamline workflow, improve operator efficiency, and benefit from reliable signal distribution without interruption.

KVM extenders that support digital signals enable you to reduce noise and heat in the workplace, which improves productivity. Secure your hardware and secure your data by backracking vital workstations. A few examples are the ACX300/310 Series KVM Extenders, Wizard SRX DVI Extender for USB, and the Dual-Head DisplayPort KVM Extender over CATx. Digital signals are higher in quality, interconnectivity is more reliable, and the technology is future proof in regards to connected devices. Remain competitive by integrating KVM solutions across the enterprise.

To choose the right KVM extenders for your application, visit our KVM extender selector, or call one of our tech experts at 00800-CALLBBOX (00800-2255 2269).

6. Video and multimedia extenders enable you to distribute audio and video signals for digital signage, enhance presentations, and extend video beyond the boardroom. With Black Box video extenders, you can send video and audio signals farther than with conventional cabling. Deliver pixel-perfect video and high quality audio to remote displays.

Mini CATxVGA Extender Kit

Mini CATxVGA Extender Kit
Multi DVI-D CATx Extender Receiver

Multi DVI-D CATx Extender Receiver
3D HDMI CATx Extender

3D HDMI CATx Extender

7. Copper Patch Cables, 3-Series Lockable Patch Cables
Our high standards shine through with our 3-Series patch cables. These CAT5e/6/6A cables give you three levels of security, depending on the optional locking pin you choose. Secure your network ports, but only when you need to. Guaranteed for life!

These cables offer easy Layer 1 security for many environments, including healthcare, education, finance, government, retail, transportation, and more. Choose from locked (Red), secure (Green), or protected (no pin) to get the level of security that suits your application best.

8. Console Servers

Ensure maximum uptime with out-of-band management console servers, sometimes called terminal servers. They give network managers a single-point-of control to remotely monitor, manage, and troubleshoot critical IT infrastructure from anywhere in the world. Console servers offer backdoor management for business continuity, multiple applications for multiple industries, and problem solving for distributed sites.

See our selection of console servers here, and find one to fit your application.

9. USB Extension

Demanding users trust Black Box USB extension products for applications like pro audio visual, industrial automation, education, medical diagnostics and imaging, remote desktop extension, security, surveillance, and military systems.

Learn more about extending USB over CATx, fibre, and IP networks, and how to deploy USB extension in applications including healthcare, manufacturing, security, and harsh environments. USB extenders are simple to use and cost-effective.

IC282A_PC

USB 1.1 and 2.0 Extender over CAT5e
IC400A_PCS2

USB Ultimate Extender over UTP
LGB304A_PCS

USB-Powered Gigabit 4-Port Switch

Use our USB guide to configure your ultimate serial solution.

10. Black Box networking products make the list with ethernet switches, industrial solutions, and console servers. Find what you need to connect and improve your network, including USB switches for increasing network speeds, such as the USB-Powered Gigabit 4-Port Switch, pictured above. Expand a small network without breaking the bank. Increase to Gigabit speeds via four autosensing 10-/100-/1000-Mbps ports. This compact and convenient switch can be powered via a PC’s USB port or the included AC adapter.

For more information about integrating and deploying infrastructure, networking, and extension products for your organisation, please contact Black Box pre-sales application engineers. Call 00800-CALLBBOX (00800-2255 2269) to talk to a technical expert today. Visit the Black Box store to see all our products, and shop for your end-to-end solution now.

Machine vision: 100% assembly line inspection

Machine vision technology—the image-based automatic inspection process—has matured greatly and is now becoming an indispensable tool in manufacturing to increase quality and profitability. USB 3.0, with its 5-Gbps throughput and ability to send power and data over the same line, has greatly contributed to this growth.

What is machine vision?
Machine vision is an image-based, automatic inspection and analysis system for applications, such as process control. It automatically takes pictures to inspect materials as they come down the assembly line.

Other machine vision applications include:

  • PCB inspection.
  • Medical vial inspection.
  • Robot guidance and orientation of components.
  • Engine parts inspection.

Machine vision uses a small industrial camera and lights mounted near an assembly line to take pictures of product as it passes. The images are then analysed by software to determine if various aspects of the product meet acceptable specifications. For instance, if a label is misplaced, the bottle will be rejected. All of this is done at incredibly high speeds—fractions of a second.

Years ago, machine vision systems were very expensive, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. But in the last 15 years or so, advances in technology have brought the cost of machine vision down, making it a practical solution for 100 percent quality control. And the cost for implementing machine vision keeps decreasing as technological capabilities increase.

Machine vision is now an indispensable tool for quality assurance, sorting, and material handling in every industry, including electronics, food processing, pharmaceuticals, packaging, automotive, etc. It is an economical way to make sure sub-spec product is rejected. Machine vision can be used to inspect for geometry, placement, packaging, labeling, seal integrity, finish, color, pattern, bar code, and almost any other parameter you can think of.

USB 3.0 and machine vision
USB 3.0 brings a number of advantages to machine vision systems. Because of its 5-Gbps throughput, ten times more than USB 2.0, it eliminates problems of stability and low latency for image transmission and camera control. USB 3.0 enables the transmission of higher-resolution, higher-frame rate video with no loss of quality.

USB 3.0 also sends data and power on the same line. This is enough to power a camera without worrying about a separate power supply or power line.

In addition, compared to older systems, USB 3.0 is plug-and-play, making it easy to swap out cameras and other hardware, such as USB 3.0 extenders, and other devices.

Related:

USB Product Selector

Encourage collaboration with modern huddle spaces and conference rooms

Research shows collaborative environments foster innovation, improve team performance by ensuring everyone is working towards the same goal, and increase employee retention since people prefer to belong to a team and contribute to the team’s goals. Next generation workers and the need for companies to compete on a global basis will drive demand for collaboration solutions throughout the organization, according to a Wainhouse Research study.

Perhaps that’s why, in recent years, a more agile approach to meetings and working in collaborative groups has been embraced by schools and businesses of all sizes. Implementing collaboration solutions such as huddle spaces, or small-space meeting areas, in addition to larger conference rooms is one of the ways organizations are making this change.

What is a huddle space?

A huddle space is a smaller meeting space, which can take place just about anywhere. It typically accommodates six or less attendees. They range from basic spaces to well-equipped and advanced rooms. Basic huddle spaces, with either open area or private closed rooms, may be equipped with a small table, some chairs, a speakerphone, and perhaps a dry erase board. Whereas, well-equipped and advanced huddle rooms may include flat panel displays, integrated AV conferencing, and a wireless presentation system. Huddle spaces do not typically include enhancements such as ceiling speakers, acoustic wall treatment, or AV control system.

What should your huddle space include to promote collaboration?

The way huddle spaces are used varies by organization, location, vertical market, culture, etc. Whether or not a huddle space is effective depends on the given task and requirement of the space. If you’re planning for a well-equipped huddle space, you should also consider your AV technology needs as well.

In general, your huddle space should include equipment that has:

  1. Interoperability with other products you may have in the space such as screens, projectors, panels, or touchscreens.
  1. BYOD support which allows collaboration/sharing of any type of device the meeting participant has. For example, participants could bring a laptop, tablet PC, mobile phone, or netbook and connect with ease.
  1. Content sharing capabilities. For example, a presenter may need to share any number of pieces of content with other participants simultaneously.
  1. An intuitive interface, which will reduce barriers to use. The easier your equipment is to use, the more participants feel comfortable using new technology.
  1. The ability to allow an unlimited number of users to participate. While there is a practical limit to the number of people that can fit in a room or share a screen, facilities change and so do user’s needs. Try not to get locked into limiting systems which only allow 4-6 concurrent users.

In addition to many of the items needed to make a good huddle space, for your larger conference rooms you may need additional AV solutions.

What should your modern conference room include to promote collaboration?

Today’s larger meeting rooms often come with higher expectations. They will certainly start with the same type of collaboration solutions discussed earlier for huddle spaces. Additionally, they must provide support for tomorrow’s technology using today’s design. These rooms often require more types of equipment, which may require support for a wide range of video signals.

In general, your modern conference room should include equipment that has:

  1. Switching capabilities to manage video signals that need to be shown on one or more displays.
  1. Presenter control options for switching. For more efficient meetings, select a switch that automatically switches to a new source when a new user connects a device.
  1. Scaling able to work with a wide range of video signals, both current and legacy, to ensure the display is compatible with anything that needs to be presented.
  1. Reliable video distribution capabilities to send and receive audio, video, control and even power from another room or building.
  1. Video wall capability to display any source from anywhere with switching control.

When designing and outfitting the spaces, it’s important to think ahead and design for AV systems that can adapt and grow as technology changes.

Have a collaboration space that needs to be enabled by AV technology? Call a Black Box AV expert.

Additional Resources:
Content sharing: Wireless Presentation systems
See our AV and Multi Media solutions
Storage and charching of mobile devices

Part 2 – How to Set Up a Dynamic Video Wall Without a Video Wall Processor

In just seven quick steps, take our AV-over-IP video distribution system from a static video wall to a dynamic video wall with switching and control. No additional video wall processor required.

In Part 1, we covered how to set up a static video wall without a video processor. Now it’s time to turn it up a notch and learn how to set up a dynamic video wall with added control and switching.

Recall we started with the MediaCento IPX PoE Multicast 1 x 4 Kit. The kit includes a transmitter, four receivers, a PoE (Power over Ethernet) network switch, and five 2-meter (6.5-feet) locking HDMI cables. Everything you need to multicast HDMI video over an IP network and create static video walls.

In order to make the video wall dynamic, you’ll need to add to the existing system:

The additional sources and transmitters enable additional content to display, and the controller enables you to take full control over the IP-based transmitters and receivers.

Let’s dive right in to the MediaCento multicasting system and get the controller up and running.

Step 1: Connect Additional Transmitters to the Switch and Source
In this scenario, we have one additional source, a laptop, so we will need one additional transmitter. Connect the second transmitter to the PoE network switch using a CATx cable. Then, using a locking HDMI cable, connect source – in this case, a laptop – to the transmitter unit.

Step 2: Connect the MediaCento IPX Controller
Connect the power supply to the controller and connect it to the network switch using a CATx cable.

Step 3: Access the Controller’s Web Interface
Use the Web interface to configure the controller. Open the Web browser, and type the IP address in the address field.

Note: For more details regarding IP addresses, see the user manual included with the controller.

Step 4: Detect Units
In the Web interface, go to the Hardware tab and:

  • Click the “Detect Units” button. The controller automatically detects all receivers and transmitters on the network. In this case, the IP address of the transmitter connected to the laptop is 169.254.4.73 and the iCOMPEL media player is 169.254.2.58.
  • Optionally, rename the receivers for easier setup. Click the “Show OSD” button to show the receiver’s IP names on the displays, and then click the “Rename Device” button to rename each of the receiver’s IP addresses to a findable name. For example, C1 R1 (for column 1, row 1), C1 R2, C2 R1, and C2 R2.

web-interface-hardware

Step 5: Update Group Settings
In the Web interface, go to the Groups tab and:

  • Name this group to “2×2 Video Wall” in the Title field.
  • In the “Receivers not in Group” list, select the receivers that you want displayed in the video wall and click the > button to add them to the “Receivers in Group” list. The receivers will appear below the lists.
  • Check the Video Wall This will open the video wall settings where you can specify the number or rows and columns in the video wall as well as monitor information (i.e., bezel width and monitor height and width). It also displays a video wall table.
  • Enter 2 for the number of rows, and 2 for the number of columns. The table will change to show a 2×2 video wall table.
  • Drag and drop the receivers where you would like them displayed in the video wall table. (This is where having the receivers renamed to something more meaningful helps with setup.)

web-interface-groups

  • Click the “Save Group” button.

Step 6: Enable Full-Screen Video Wall
Still in the Web interface, go to the Custom Display tab and select which source you would like to connect to the grouping that was just created. To switch the iCOMPEL media player to show the video wall across all the screens, click the box in the 169.254.2.58 (the IP address associated with the transmitter connected to the media player) column, 2×2 Video Wall row. Then, click the “Switch” button.

web-interface-custom-display

Step 7: Switch Content to Dynamic Display
To switch the display from the video wall only to show the source from the laptop in column 1, row 1, click the box in the column with the second transmitter, 169.254.4.73, and click the “Switch” button.

web-interface-custom-display2

The screen will change to show the content from the second source. In this case, it is pulling content from a Web page.

dynamic-display

Still in the Custom Display tab, click the “Save as a New Preset” button to make the configuration available in your dashboard. The dashboard is available on the mobile application; therefore, with the preset defined you can switch and control the displays from your mobile device.

That’s it! In just seven steps we took the static 2×2 video wall and made it dynamic with switching and control. This is just a snippet of the system’s capabilities. The system can create up to 8×8 video walls with 64 screens.

Need help planning your AV solution?
Enlist the help of a seasoned AV professional. Contact a Black Box technical engineer.

Part 1 – How To Set Up a Static Video Wall Without a Video Wall Processor

Easy to set up. How many times have we heard that phrase in the AV world? And, how can a system with multiple devices, cables, and displays be a simple installation? Well, I’m here to prove it is. In just six quick steps, take our AV-over-IP video distribution system from a packaged box to an impressive, eye-catching video wall. And, there’s no need for an additional video wall processor to do the job.

Start with the MediaCento IPX PoE Multicast 1 x 4 Kit. The kit includes a transmitter, four receivers, a PoE (Power over Ethernet) network switch, and five 2-meter locking HDMI cables. Everything you need to multicast HDMI video over an IP network and create video walls. The system is perfect for:

  • A digital signage application with screens in a different building or store.
  • Distributing high-quality medical imaging video across a hospital campus.
  • Streaming video to classrooms in schools.
  • Sharing video in command and control room setups, or in corporate training settings.

Now it’s time to share how fast you can have the above up and running.

Step 1: Plug in the Switch
Plug in the PoE network switch to a power outlet.

Step 2: Connect Transmitter and Receivers to the Switch
Connect the transmitter and four receivers to the PoE network switch using CATx cables. The PoE switch eliminates the need for external power supplies, making the installation even easier and more cost effective. Plus, PoE power offers reliability, flexibility, safety, and scalability.

Step 3: Connect Source to the Transmitter
Using the included locking HDMI cable, connect source (i.e., digital signage player, PC, Blu-ray player, DVD player, etc.) to the transmitter unit. Make sure the receivers are on the same channel as the transmitter. If so, the units will automatically connect and video will pass through showing the same video on each screen.

Step 4: Connect the Screens/Monitors to Receivers
Using the remaining four locking HDMI cables, connect the screens/monitors to each of the four receivers. NOTE: Sources connected to receiver units will show IP address before connecting.

At this point you will have videos on all screens. To get a video wall, you’ll need to access the transmitter settings on the Web, which we’ll do in the next steps.

Video wall example running content from digital signage media player with video and RSS feed.
Video wall example running content from digital signage media player with video and RSS feed.
 

Step 5: Access the Transmitter’s Web Interface
Use the Web interface to view information about the device, upload a firmware file to the device, and configure video wall transformers. The Web interface won’t give network information or screen previews.

To access the transmitter without an IP address, open a Web browser and insert the address: http://ast-gatewayXXXX.local. The four digits after ast-gateway depend on the position of the rotary switch you’ve set. Please refer to the following table. For example, if the position is set up as 7, then the address should be http://ast-gateway1110.local.

Rotary Switch Table

Step 6: Update Settings in the Web Interface
In the Web interface, go to the Video Wall tab and:

  • Set the bezel and gap information (dimensions of screen’s inside and outside width and height), video wall size, select single host mode, and apply to all units.
  • Next, apply the specific video wall section to each receiver (i.e., top left would be row 0, column 0). To help locate which screen is which, select the “Show OSD” checkbox.
Video wall after changes made in the Web interface. Each display assigned to a receiver.
Video wall after changes made in the Web interface. Each display assigned to a receiver.

In part two of this blog post we’ll turn this static video wall into a dynamic video wall with control and switching.

Why yes, Virtual Appliances can help your Digital Signage Enterprise

Simplified IT operations? Check. Faster response to changing business demands? Check. Reduced power consumption? Check.

Virtualization offers something for every user. It has provided efficiencies and capabilities that were once deemed impossible when constrained within a physical world.

The architecture of today’s x86 servers allows them to run only one operating system at a time. Server virtualization unlocks the traditional one-to-one architecture of x86 servers by abstracting the operating system and applications from the physical hardware, enabling a more cost-efficient, agile, and simplified server environment.

Using server virtualization, multiple operating systems can run on a single physical server as virtual machines, each with access to the underlying server’s computing resources.

Server virtualization unleashes the potential of today’s powerful x86 servers. Most servers operate at less than 15% of capacity. Not only is this highly inefficient, it also introduces server sprawl, increased electric costs, increased cooling costs, rack capacity issues, peripheral needs, and other IT complexities that could include specialized staffing.

What is a virtual appliance?
A virtual appliance is a pre-configured virtual machine image that is ready to be run directly on a hypervisor. Virtual appliances:

  • Can be deployed in existing infrastructure under existing service level agreements.
  • Don’t have the hardware limitations imposed by traditional appliances.
  • Are easier to backup, move, and replicate.
  • Make policy compliance and auditing easier.
  • Have less security vulnerabilities and easier remediation in some cases.

Just look at these benefits
There are many reasons to use a virtual appliance. Here are some key benefits to consider:

1. Reduce Costs
Reduce hardware and operating costs by as much as 50% and energy costs by as much as 80%, saving more than $3,000 per year for each virtualized server workload.

2. Save time.
Reduce the time it takes to provision new servers by as much as 70%. Set up usually involves decompressing the virtual appliance file and loading the resulting virtual image into the virtual server. It’s that simple.

3. Improve reliability and decrease downtime.
Offices today must prepare for disaster. Should your system fail, the built-in disaster recovery of virtual appliances ensure backed up data is immediately redeployed on another virtual machine with little or no downtime.

4. Virtual appliances often run just the bare necessities.
This allows you to efficiently deliver IT services on demand – independent of hardware, operating systems, applications, or infrastructure providers.

A closer look: physical appliance vs. virtual appliance
Now it’s time to decide which solution best suites your environment – physical appliance or virtual appliance?

The following table differentiates between the two types of appliances. Understanding their differences is an important step to knowing which appliance best meets your needs.

Physical Appliance Virtual Appliance
Real hardware limitations (number of cores, amount of RAM, HDD capacity, and number of network ports). Virtually no limitation – can allocate resources dynamically from an overall pool.
Require dedicated administrative portals, user access lists, IP addresses, out of band management, and other administrative resources. Generally deployed into an environment where these resources already exist and can be leveraged.
Rely on traditional storage devices (HDD, SSD, and Flash) for backup purposes and typically require some user intervention to configure and perform. Generally connected to high availability, high reliability backup storage networks with automated mirroring performed real time.
Typically limited to a single network port and cannot perform load balancing to control availability in peak use times. Can allocate multiple NICs (Network Interface Cards) and rules for managing availability at the Hypervisor management level.
Introduces a new hardware platform and possibly a new service level agreement (SLA) for support. Leverage existing hardware and SLAs that are already in place and consistent with policies.

Virtualization applied to digital signage
Virtualization is particularly attractive for digital signage and other situations where there is limited and well defined interaction on the client side, and content management on the server side. Moving away from hardware brings more reliability, flexibility, and affordability to organizations such as airports, banks, retailers, K-12 schools, and universities that need to deliver dynamic information.

By running the digital signage content management software in a virtual environment, organizations can easily manage all of their digital signage players from a local network location or remotely. This gives organizations quick access to individual logs, schedules, content, and playlists.

Explore technology solutions
Black Box offers digital signage solutions as physical or virtual appliances – you decide which application works best for your enterprise. Their iCOMPEL digital signage solution is designed on a Linux OS. This gives you 24/7 uptime, highly recoverable storage method and file system, and minimal vulnerability to viruses, malware, and other security threats.

See Black Box’s virtual content management system for digital signage – iCOMPEL Content Commander Virtual Machine. And, check out the Black Box virtual management and monitoring system for multiple subscribers – iCOMPEL Deployment Manager Virtual Machine. Both support up to 100 subscriber units. For larger deployments, models with support for up to 500, 1000, and 1500 units are available.

Need help planning your next digital signage solution?
Enlist the help of a seasoned digital signage professional. Contact your local Black Box office, or comment below.

Additional resources
White Paper: Roadmap to Digital Signage Success
White Paper: 7 Questions You to Need to Ask when Choosing a Signage System

6 steps to planning Digital Signage

Schools worldwide use digital signage to alert, inform, and educate students and faculty. Applications vary. For example, schools use digital signage to: promote events in schools; aid in instructional efforts or wayfinding; communicate important, up-to-date information; broadcast emergency alerts and instructions; and centralize the distribution and production of content.

With the many available digital signage solutions, finding the right one for your school might seem like an overwhelming task. But taking some time to research and understand your options will be well worth the investment. Follow these key steps.

  1. Define your goals and objectives.

What do you want to achieve? Also, think about scalability. For instance, how do you want the system to serve you long term? Putting up a screen in your school’s lobby certainly constitutes a big step in improving communications in your institution. But how will that hardware expenditure work when you want to expand? Approaching digital signage deployment in piecemeal fashion can be fiscally problematic.

  1. Clearly define the content.

The success of any digital signage system starts, of course, with the content. It must look fresh, exciting, and professional. Who will create it and how will it be presented? Do you have internal resources and expertise, or will you need to outsource content creation?

A good source of creative and editorial help can be found in aspiring graphic designers chosen from the student ranks, in addition to your school’s art department, yearbook and newspaper staffs, and TV studio (if you have one).

  1. Invest the time to understand your options.

Once you’ve decided on content, you need to consider the infrastructure that will deliver it and study your display options. For example:

  • LCD vs. plasma
  • Zones
  • RSS feeds
  • Live video
  • Dynamic content
  • Remote management
  • Playback verification

The options will seem limitless, so taking time to sort through them is important.

  1. Involve all the appropriate stakeholders.

The communications/information department should be involved at the start, considering that your digital signage will likely be used for external community relations. In addition to your district’s administration (superintendent, principals, and purchasing personnel), don’t forget to include instructional technology staff. This includes the AV department; maintenance and security staff; your curriculum, athletic, and cafeteria directors; and key school board members. Digital signage implementation also involves all the usual IT suspects: network and database managers, webmasters, and infrastructure engineers.

  1. Figure out how you’re going to pay for it.

When it’s used to simply advertise or promote school events, digital signage can be seen by some as a luxury item—particularly with shrinking school budgets and rising instructional expenses. However, since it can also be used as a tool for emergency communications and notification, administrators can easily make the case to their school boards that digital signage is a must-have component of any crisis plan—especially in this era when school violence incidents capture news headlines. Consider government and private sources of funding for your digital notification system.

And whether it’s kept entirely as an IT expenditure or distributed across multiple departments in your budget, you need a spending roadmap in addition to a developmental one. The hardest part with this may be determining the total cost of ownership over the life of the system, including any nickel-and-diming with ongoing licenses and upgrades.

  1. Decide how to implement the solution.

Based on your deployment size and scope, decide if you can implement it in-house or if you need the help of a professional integrator.

A number of “out-of-the box” systems can be set up with relative ease. But the more dynamic and complex the system, the more complicated the implementation and ongoing management—and the more likely you’ll need outside help.

Need help planning your next digital signage solution?

Black Box offers digital signage products that range from plug-and-play to highly scalable, sophisticated solutions. If you’re considering a larger deployment with a fully integrated network solution, enlist the help of a seasoned digital signage professional. Contact a Black Box technical engineer, or comment below.