Comparing IntuiFace to traditional digital signage platforms

IntuiFace has become the go-to option for organizations who wish to create, deploy and manage interactive digital signage. The one hurdle for these organizations is their experience has been shaped by passive, traditional signage, resulting in preconceptions that don't always align with how IntuiFace works. This article attempts to clarify the similarities and differences.

    What are the fundamental differences between IntuiFace and a traditional digital signage platform?

    Traditional digital signage (TDS) is fundamentally concerned with pushing content. It works a bit like television: it's a broadcasting system that sends time-orchestrated content (videos, images, Flash, text, html) to display screens in the field that play this content on players (reminiscent of a TV tuner). It's a one-way, one to many server-to-player architecture. As a result, it is a passive system which cannot react to actions taken by those watching the screen. That is why TDS has also been called "passive digital signage".

    IntuiFace works in reverse, pulling content. The IntuiFace paradigm is very close to an application (or, to be less intimidating, let's call it an app). There is no content server per say; the app runs on the PC/tablet/etc. driving a display screen. This app is interactive ("touch-first"), connected (to the environment and the cloud) and expressive (as expected from an app driven by touch and context). Supplementing this player-level capability are classic signage functions such as deployment automation, monitoring, the ability to run offline and usage statistics.

    With the introduction of HTML5, TDS vendors are starting to introduce single-touch, template-based interactive signage. IntuiFace also uses HTML5 but can do so with multi-touch and without template restrictions.For more about how you can use HTML5 to your advantage, see this item.

    What is "content" in IntuiFace?

    In a traditional digital signage (TDS) platform, "content" refers to all of the videos, images and text (aka the media) located in a central repository (aka the content management System, or CMS) that are assembled together in the form of displayed screens and scheduled playlists. These playlists are deployed to displays in the field.

    With IntuiFace, the "content" is the app itself (called an "experience") and thus much more rich than a sequence of scheduled screens populated with videos, images and text. IntuiFace Composer is the tool used to assemble and orchestrate videos, images, text and many other design elements, including information coming from the environment and cloud-accessible repositories. The result is a deeply interactive, engaging and personalized experience. It is this overall experience (vs. a simple playlist) that is deployed to interactive displays in the field.

    Is there a CMS in IntuiFace?

    That's the most common question we get. The answer is "No", "Yes" and "Use what you already have".

    • "No"
      There is no centralized CMS as it is traditionally understood. There is no central repository of media shared across devices.
    • "Yes"
      As all content used by IntuiFace is either in the experience or dynamically retrieved by that experience, the experience acts as its own CMS. The media itself can be retrieved from any local or cloud-hosted repository and thus could also be "managed" at that end point.
    • "Use what you already have"
      If you wish to create a great interactive experience based on your or your client's rich media, there is a good chance this media is already stored and managed by a specific application, likely either a Digital Asset Manager (DAM) or a Content Management System (CMS). In this scenario you have two options:
      • Copy: Locally download all of the media you will use in Composer when creating your signage. Once included in an experience, this media will be automatically deployed to all of your devices along with the experience.
      • Link: Inside Composer, simply refer to each media element using the URL assigned by your DAM/CMS.

    Let's look at an example. Say you wish to build a catalog-based application (like retail endless aisle, real estate inventory, restaurant menu, car dealership kiosk, tourist venue advertising, hotel concierge promotions, etc.). This would require the existence of a structured repository containing information about each individual "product" such as images, description, reviews, price, availability, etc. Modern Product repositories usually have a Web API enabling access to this information, most likely using the REST protocol. With IntuiFace, it is super easy to connect to a CMS with REST-based API as explained here and retrieve this information in real-time as often as you require. As you may have already figured out if you are a traditional digital signage user, a CMS is unable to manage structured data of this kind, let alone permit access to a Product repository.

    Another alternative if you want to go fast (e.g. demo for your client or your boss) or display just a small set of products or don't immediately have access to the Product repository: use the best known database in the market: Excel! In Excel, you can quickly add a bunch of product information - a row per product, a column for each characteristic - drag & drop that Excel file into IntuiFace Composer and then quickly create a dynamic product datasheet based on its contents! A CMS is incapable of this kind of data-centric interaction.

    Does IntuiFace have a function similar to digital signage players like content scheduling and playlists?

    Unlike traditional digital signage platform, IntuiFace does not offer a “centralized” scheduling feature. Rather, the scheduling of media is performed directly within the IntuiFace experience created with Composer. Using that feature, you can decide - for example - that from 9am to 9pm you will show Content A and then from 9pm to 9am you will show Content B (this is a very simple example). You can also define that, inside your interactive experience, you will show:

    • in one part of your screen, Video1 from 9am to 2pm and Video2 from 2pm to 9pm.
    • in another part of your screen, dynamic information like weather, Twitter feeds and news items.

    More about scheduling content in an experience can be found here.

    You can even go a step further and mix time and location in order to display the right media at the right time in the right location. For example, if Kiosk1 is located in City1, then from 9am to 2pm play Video1City1 and from 2pm to 9pm play Video2City1. If Kiosk2 is located in City2, then … well, you get the point. Everything is done in the experience, not centrally. It’s a change in perspective from a TDS platform because of the finer level of control that is possible from inside an app.

    Can I run my traditional Digital Signage platform and IntuiFace together?

    Most of the traditional digital signage (TDS) vendors provide a special media asset supporting HTML5 (this is in addition to images, video, Flash, PowerPoint, etc.). TDS vendors position this HTML5 asset as the fastest way to display a website (which are rarely good digital signage sources) or for custom development of apps using HTML5 to manage interactivity. This latter option is currently the only answer TDS vendors propose for creating custom content - becoming HTML5 experts.

    IntuiFace Player on the iPad, Android, Chrome, Samsung SSP and LG webOS devices are all based on IntuiLab's own HTML5-based technology. The Samsung SSP and LG webOS options illustrate a crucial point: each IntuiFace experience is in fact a webpage (embedding our patented gesture recognition engine) that can be launched via a specific URL. As a result, it is very easy to use the HTML5 asset of a TDS platform to call up an IntuiFace experience. In practice, the performance of an IntuiFace-based experience is heavily influenced by the type of Web browser embedded into the TDS platform because many support very old browsers incapable of handing the latest and greatest features of HTML5.

    In order to make things very smooth for our customers, IntuiLab is working with many of the leading TDS vendors. One example is the integration between IntuiFace and SignageLive.

    Beyond these integration considerations, make sure you need them at all. Most of the time, a screen will not share both passive and interactive digital signage so it will be appropriate to use passive and interactive platforms separately. In addition, if you need passive digital signage capabilities on your interactive screen (e.g. kiosk), IntuiFace can, most of the time, easily handle it.

    Can IntuiFace provide real-time information like social media, weather, etc.?

    Yes, Out of the box IntuiFace can display live Twitter feeds, Flickr search results local weather information for any city and more. In addition, one could quite easily create new feeds by extending IntuiFace using REST, .NET or JavaScript as described here. (Note: By using .NET you would limit your use of the feed to Windows devices.)

    Is there a limit to the number of experiences I can create with IntuiFace Composer?

    No, there are no limits to the number of experiences you can create with either the free or paid editions of IntuiFace Composer. And there is no relationship between the number of Composers and Players you may possess. Customers may have five Composers and one Player, others may have one Composer and hundreds of Players across multiple platforms.

    What kind of usage statistics can be collected?

    This is one of the key benefits of IntuiFace for digital signage: business-level analytics. The beauty of interactive digital signage is that no guesswork is required to understand an audience's preferences. Their onscreen actions tell you exactly where their interests lie.

    Virtually anything can be tracked by IntuiFace. It is up to the experience designer, assisted by the Business Analyst, to place the right kind of probe at the right place in the experience.

    For example you might want to measure how many times a product sheet has been "touched" in each of the 10 kiosks distributed around a store. Each collected data point combines the information you specify with pre-filled information such as timestamp, location, and more. This mass of information is stored in an IntuiLab-hosted database - the Data Tracking Hub - available for analysis in Excel, forwarding to third party analytics platforms like Mixpanel and Segment, or accessed in real-time via REST-based Web Services for third party data mining tools.

    For details about IntuiFace data tracking, visit this page.

    How many zones can be displayed?

    Since IntuiFace is free-form, you can position your media anywhere you want on the screen. You can even design a multi-screen experience with a very large overall resolution and distribute your media across these multiple screens. Bottom line, you can create your own zones.

    Do you offer templates into which I can add my videos and images?

    Yes, we do offer templates as well as samples for you to use and modify for free. Both are delivered in a fully customizable form so you can change every aspect and distribute as you wish. However, we suspect you will quickly outgrow our templates and create more personal, fit-for-purpose designs on your own.

    In IntuiFace, all experiences can act as templates since all media references can be modified both at design time and run time.

    Do you require dedicated hardware (aka a "player")?

    What we call IntuiFace Player is only a piece of software that runs on a large number of OSes.

    • Supported platforms: Windows 7/8/10, iOS on the iPad, Android, Chrome OS, Samsung SSP, LG webOS
    • Any platform supporting the aforementioned OSs. As a result, IntuiFace Player can run on traditional digital signage hardware players such as AOpen, BrightSign, etc.

    Can I control user access rights when managing content?

    An IntuiFace experience can be shared as read-only with other IntuiFace accounts so they can be run but not edited by a collaborator or client. Collaboration between multiple designers working on the same IntuiFace experience is enabled via the Share as Write feature. These sharing options are discussed here.

    How do you handle deployment?

    IntuiFace Management Console is the home of powerful, easy to control capabilities related to deployment.

    Every instance of IntuiFace Player associated with your account is monitored and displayed in Management Console, regardless of their geographic location. You can assign multiple tags to each instance of Player to represent characteristics like location, local language or any other information you can use to meaningfully group your Players.

    Before deploying an experience to a set of Players in the field, just enter the appropriate tags to filter the overall list - e.g. all Players tagged "WestCoast" and "Spanish" if your intent is to deploy an experience only on the West Coast of the US and with Spanish as primary language. Then just drag-and-drop your experience onto the icon representing your filtered list of Players. It's as simple as that! We didn't want to offer a complicated location-based tree structure when tags are so much more flexible and powerful. An overview of IntuiFace deployment is available here.

    Where are IntuiFace projects stored for deployment?

    For sharing and deployment, IntuiFace experiences are stored in the user's own cloud storage account of choice: IntuiFace Cloud Storage, Amazon S3 or a dedicated/behind the firewall ftp (or ftps) server. Yet another modern way of doing things! IntuiLab never stores your media; only experience metadata is accessed to facilitate deployment.

    Is there a kiosk mode?

    IntuiFace Player has no built-in kiosk mode but is compatible with all known platform options such as the Windows "kiosk mode" detailed here. For other supported operating systems you could use any 3rd party software specializing in locking down devices.

    Can you recover after a device crash?

    On Windows, iPad and Android, yes. Whenever IntuiFace Player stops for an unwanted reason, it can automatically restart itself and play the last run experience. On Windows this applies to both a device restart or a system crash.

    In addition, on Windows, you can remotely deploy newer versions of Player so the latest features and bug fixes make their way into the field. (On tablets you can choose to have the associated app store update Player.) Never visit a kiosk in the field again! More details here.

    Can I remotely monitor the health of a device which is playing my experience?

    In addition to deployment, IntuiFace Management Console displays live screenshots for all devices running Player. If Player is not running, a message attesting to this fact is displayed.

    Do you have any alerts?

    Alerts are not yet supported.