Digital signage using a mobile phone chip rather than a PC, with a dramatic reduction in costs.
Digital signage screens are everywhere - retail outlets, advertising hoardings, information displays in stations, airports and offices. Behind each screen there is usually a Windows-based PC running commercial signage software to generate the content you see on screen. The Silver Curve team is recognised as expert in the creation and application of digital signage.
We have developed a novel graphics engine called Aperture that enables top end signage software systems to run on a very small, low cost Raspberry Pi based computer (effectively a mobile phone chip) with the same visual quality and user functionality as a PC. There are no moving parts and the low power consumption means that no fans are required to dissipate excess heat. The estimated whole life saving per screen compared to a PC installation could be as much as £700.
So for a retail installation of 2,000 screens the saving could be as much as £1.4m.
We licence Aperture to hardware manufacturers to enhance their devices.
A mobile phone chip consists of a CPU (good at decision making) and a GPU (good at drawing pixels). Most chips have a powerful GPU but most signage software only uses it to play videos.
In contrast Aperture uses the GPU for most of its processing enabling the vendors’ software to use the whole chip. We do not compete with these software vendors - we support them.
Users of signage software packages integrated with Aperture are able to utilize smaller, less power hungry computers because it uses the GPU efficiently. We have initially optimised for the Raspberry Pi but later we plan to release versions for many low power devices coming onto the market.
A Raspberry Pi powered system uses only 3 watts of power, compared with typically 70 watts for a standard PC based signage player. This provides significant savings in energy cost over the life of a signage system. For a typical retail installation of 2,000 screens the whole life saving could be as much as £1.4m in power and hardware costs.
Digital signage is already replacing paper as a cheaper, more flexible and more eye catching display. We believe that Aperture’s higher quality at a lower cost will accelerate this transition.
An Aperture powered signage player can be much smaller than a PC and it does not typically require ventilation. Fewer moving parts mean simpler installation and less maintenance, saving the customer even more money. Its small footprint and low capital cost combined with reduced installation costs and very low power consumption make Aperture a highly attractive solution.
Substantial accomplishments to date
Using our first funding round we have completed the development of the Aperture software.
We have also recruited Brad Pianta-McGill from Sony Europe as our Business Development Director and have partnered with software vendors and hardware manufacturers, opened our sales channels and have started deploying to end users.
We have completed the R&D work to integrate Aperture with the Instoremedia, Signage Live and open source OpenSplash media players.
Instoremedia and Signage Live have certified our integrated product for sale by their resellers.
We have launched the combined product at trade shows at trade shows in Amsterdam and Las Vegas.
We have developed a new Pi based player with Anders Electronics with the first production batch now under development.
We have a good relationship with the Pi Foundation. We have received samples of their Pi Compute Module prior to launch, enabling our partner Anders to build an even smaller, cheaper player.
Silver Curve’s primary source of income is from Aperture using a licence-based model. We have also developed related revenue streams from software outsourcing, consultancy, system management and content creation.
We will sell licences through a small group of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) who will in turn sell signage players with Aperture pre-installed, to resellers or end users. This is similar to the business model used by Microsoft in selling Windows pre-installed on Dell PCs. We are presently working in this way with Anders Electronics in London and we are in discussions with a substantial US based company who are testing and validating our solution.
The licence price will vary according to quantity, at a significantly lower cost than a Windows licence. We also provide software outsourcing services to our partners to help them get the best from using Aperture. We have developed a cloud hosted service which is being used by Mothercare to deliver signage to video walls in London. We also manage the content on their behalf.
We deliver outsourced testing services to Instoremedia under a rolling contract and have developed their new user interface which we run for them in the cloud. We earn recurring revenue (per player per month) from this service on top of the one-off Aperture license in the media players.
We have also developed a new software player which enables Signage Live to take advantage of Aperture.
We offer content creation services to our partners and their resellers. Aperture utilises beautifully animated templates to generate content on screen from images and text provided by the end user. This means that users don’t need to keep coming back to us when they want to change their content. Our graphics team could either train resellers or users to make their own templates or we can use our experience to create templates for them.
Use of proceeds
The completed product is now on sale and part of the funding round will support our cashflow until a break-even point is reached.
In order to land large contracts that Aperture plans to attract we have to build pre-sales proof of concept solutions. These will be bespoke, branded demonstrations with beautiful content and connections to the customer’s data in order to show how Aperture can best be used by that customer. Consequently, on an ad-hoc basis we will hire freelance designers, developers and interns to support our core team.
We want to support our partners at international trade shows and with marketing materials showing the benefits of Aperture.
To make the most out of Aperture’s capabilities, we also want to fund research and development works to support multiple chipsets in addition to the Raspberry Pi, thus expanding the potential market. Each chip works differently and, based on our experience with the Pi, each new integration should take around 6 months to complete.
Bryan Crotaz plans to capitalise a £30,000 director loan as part of this round.
We have two main target markets.
The first are small organisations who require a small number of screens and where a quick purchasing decision can be made. We aim to be selling hundreds of this type of system each month by mid 2015 through multiple resellers.
The second is the volume sale to a large corporate client, for example a supermarket chain. These sales can take months to secure but can result in a large number of licence sales (typically 1000s).
We and our partners are now starting to receive enquiries from resellers for both small and large projects. We expect these activities to generate revenues commencing in Q3 2014.
We have been approached by these partners to participate in four major projects, all of which are covered by NDA so we can’t name the companies:
- Multinational IT manufacturer.
We have demonstrated Aperture to their teams on two continents and are discussing how we could use it to improve the performance of their device. Assuming it goes ahead, we believe this project could result in an extremely large number of orders for units and licences.
- Multinational retailer.
Installing screens in store on a huge scale. We are assisting our partner, a multinational screen manufacturer, to win this project.
- Multinational IT manufacturer.
We are in discussions with the manufacturer to provide a player and content creation service, under their own brand.
The service would be sold through their resellers, initially in the UK and then internationally.
- Multinational retail supplier.
Looking to put screens in their merchandising stands to be supplied to stores that stock their goods. For each of the above projects we would provide Aperture licences and, when appropriate, content creation services and cloud hosting management. Our partners will provide hardware and software.
Each of these opportunities has the potential to deliver revenues in excess of a million pounds to the company if they were to be secured and fulfilled by us.
Characteristics of target market
The digital signage market has become established over the past 10-15 years and is set to become the norm for displaying information. As yet it appears far from saturated.
For all major retailers digital signage is an integral part of their marketing strategy and can be seen in any major city worldwide.
Advertising is a heavy user of digital signage, with flagship installations such as London Underground escalators and Piccadilly Circus.
Based on our knowledge of the market we believe that over the next few years, European retailers will install tens of thousands of screens in their store portfolio. With one Aperture licence per screen, the revenue opportunity from this sector alone is enormous.
Other markets include anywhere you see a poster today.
The Silver Curve team has an excellent understanding of end user requirements in the target markets as well as the management and procurement processes.
Silver Curve’s direct customers are signage OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers), who sell on to resellers or end-customers. Our OEM partners and their resellers are targeting both small and large projects.
We have spent the past few months carefully building an out-of-the-box solution allowing the customer and the reseller to be self sufficient. As a result we are looking to sell hundreds of small projects each month through our reseller channel.
This enables us to focus our sales and support resources on the large projects that require our integration and customisation services. We will support our partners with pre-sales content creation and proof of concept solutions.
Our first reseller, AVM Impact, is already bringing us enquiries from several small and medium sized clients.
We have planned approaches to a number of new resellers in the UK and overseas. Silver Curve is in an ideal position to make these approaches, utilising the contacts established by our CTO and Business Development Director who each have many years of experience in the industry and know the major players.
Bryan Crotaz has been invited to join the jury of the Digital Signage Best Practice Awards in Frankfurt this year, for the third year running. This continues to be a valuable networking opportunity, spending significant time with significant potential partners and pan-European customers.
Product promotion will be achieved through a flexible mixture of direct contact, magazine advertising, exhibitions and speaking engagements at conferences and events.
We will support our hardware and software partners with marketing materials showing the advantages of an Aperture-powered system. We will also support them on trade show stands with bespoke content and demonstration systems showing how Aperture can be best used in real world environments.
Our current partner network has international reach and is in active discussion on projects across the world.
Other small cheap players are available. Why would you choose an Aperture player?
Digital signage is all about the visuals. Aperture has been built to enable better visuals.
- use artistic animated templates to display pictures and text
- change content quickly and easily - push live data into their templates
- avoid making videos in a costly edit suite
Most small players come with a single software package, with no choice for the user. If the software doesn’t fit their needs, they can’t use that box. Aperture powered hardware is designed to use any software integrated with Aperture. A user can choose the best hardware and software combination for their needs.
For some time it has been possible to buy a low-performance, low-power ARM media player, or a high-performance, high power PC player. Aperture enables PC quality visuals on small players. Taken on a worldwide scale we expect the demand for Aperture powered devices to be very substantial.
Based on our experience at exhibitions during the past few months we believe that Aperture is unique in being able to facilitate top-end signage software on ARM chipsets (eg the Pi). It is this USP that delivers the cost, size and convenience benefits. We have been able to do this due to our long experience in leading-edge digital signage software development.
Many of our contacts were dismissing the product as can’t-be-done, until they saw it being demonstrated earlier this year. It is our objective that, while we have a technology lead, we will sign up as many of the leading signage software providers as possible. This will make it difficult for any competitor coming late to the market to gain a foothold.
Silver Curve is a supplier, not a competitor. At the high visual quality end of the scale we believe that the leading companies have no active program to develop a low cost, high quality player. We expect to see their larger clients pushing them in the Aperture direction in order that they can benefit from the likely cost savings.