UK Digital Signage
Tranquil PC March 2012
Case Study (DS-G6) – To design and deliver a high performance Digital Signage solution for a national UK chain.
Our client required a thin, powerful, reliable and cost effective hardware solution to replace ageing PCs being used to deliver customer facing digital signage, as well as broadcast back office staff training etc. The current estate was failing, mainly due to dust and debris fouling the fan cooled PCs – replacing the failed units with the same technology (fanned units) was not deemed wise, and an alternative had to be investigated. Tranquil were contacted and invited to propose the alternative.
The estate of current installations numbers many thousands, and therefore the hardware had to be optimised for transport, ease of installation and robust operation.
Initially Tranquil offered a customised version of an Intel Atom CPU powered unit, but this proved not powerful enough for the multiple flash video decoding operations required. The second solution, based on an Intel i3 CPU proved exceptionally able, but the cost was considered too high, and the product was rejected. The third and final offer was based on the same customised chassis design of the i3 system, but was powered by a lower cost Intel G630T CPU, which proved more than powerful enough to handle the multiple video decoding requirements.
Not only did the custom design have to cool down the CPU and Intel Sandy Bridge chipset without fans, it also had to ensure the internal 2.5" spinning HDD remained cool and stable too. This proved to be a further challenge, as the chassis was used to sink heat from the hot CPU – the same chassis is used to cool the HDD. The answer was relatively simple, and after newly designed 3D CAD models were subjected to thermal flow simulations an ‘air wall’ was introduced, effectively separating the two halves of the chassis, with only the minimal amount of material between them. The resulting unit can safely cool down the Intel CPU even when running at high load levels for many hours at a time, whilst not affecting the stability of the HDD.
The render on the right shows the extensive CPU cooling fins, with the 2.5” HDD bay to the right (separated by the ‘air wall’)
So the chassis was completed, and was accepted by the client. It met performance, thermal, cost and MTBF targets.
Then followed final customisations, including the fitting of simple LEDs to the front surface, along with model and serial number markings to the front too. As the unit is mounted behind a large screen, viewing the status LEDs and being able to see the serial number too, without removing the unit, or the screen was a real benefit. The rear plate/ chassis were also customised with 4 mount points, so that the systems could be installed to existing wall/ mount plates easily and safely.
Additionally each unit was electronically serial numbered (in BIOS) along with other customised BIOS features to ensure fast deployment by the field as well as reliable asset tracking and servicing.
The units are finished in our own specialised anodising department to ensure the surfaces are not only excellent at transferring heat from the units, but also are very tough and will withstand years of use. The super matt black surfaces and heat fins are specially designed and finished to ensure 100% product effectiveness.
The finished item was extremely close to the render shown above
Timescale from initial enquiry to delivery of the first shipment (100′s) was 10 weeks.
After an initial order of a few hundred units, further orders have been received, confirming the success of the project.