Cisco's Digital Signage Portfolio Gets Cloudy


Cisco on Tuesday confirmed several additions to its digital signage portfolio, including a cloud-based management platform for allowing customers to create, deploy and manage customized signage content across high-definition, touchscreen displays connected by an IP network.

New to the Cisco signage portfolio is the Cisco Interactive Experience Client (IEC) 4600 Series -- networked clients that provide the backbone for various interactive capabilities on touchscreen displays. Each of those clients, according to Cisco, hosts a Web browser specifically designed for a digital display, supporting Web applications and other tools such as RSS feeds and live video.

Also new is Cisco's Interactive Experience Manager, a Web portal through which customers can remotely monitor, schedule content for and troubleshoot their various displays. IEM runs on a Cisco Interactive Experience Platform server -- based on Cisco's Unified Computing System (UCS) C-series C200M2 server -- at the customer's site, but can also be made available as a cloud-based service.

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Erica Schroeder, director of marketing for Cisco Business Video, said that the ability to network digital signage displays -- that is, connect them with IP resources -- has expanded their use-case scenarios dramatically.

"A digital sign used to be just a replacement for a paper sign, but we're moving toward a stage where you have something more interactive -- essentially a portal into a whole new set of experiences," she told CRN this week. "But to have a really good experience, you need not only compelling content but also cool applications to deliver that content. The goal is to allow customers to think about the content and how do they want to better engage with their constituents, like customers, employees and patients."

Cisco has more than 500 partners authorized to sell Digital Media Systems, which include Tuesday's new offerings. The IEC hardware starts at $1,695, whereas the base management software for IEM, running on Cisco's Unified Computing System (UCS), starts at $25,000, a price that varies depending on the number of digital signage endpoints the package needs to support.

Cisco declined to provide exact revenue figures for its digital signage business, but said the unit is part of its Emerging Technologies category, and that emerging video technologies grew 59 percent year-over-year during Cisco's fiscal second quarter. Emerging Technologies overall -- a unit that includes Cisco's various video businesses and rolls up to Marthin De Beer, Cisco senior vice president, -- shows up as part of the "Other" category on Cisco's balance sheet, and "Other" had revenues of $287 million in Cisco's Q2.

About 90 percent of Cisco's digital signage sales go through partners, according to the company. Schroeder added that another emerging opportunity is in developing applications to run with the various digital signage platforms, and Cisco's roughly 1,100 Developer Network partners can develop content for Cisco Interactive Services.