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Latest Intel SDM Platform Raises The Bar On Signal Processing For Displays

Throughout this article we will discuss how taking advantage of SDM interfaces based on the Intel Smart Display Module (SDM) platform can transform the way display and video wall design and installations are approached.

For example: How you can take advantage of SDM cards for smaller, cleaner display and video wall installations supporting different types of signals and formats?; How you can reduce cabling and external power supplies for lower costs and fewer potential points of failure?; and the types of use cases that benefit most from this approach.

The digital revolution has allowed content to be more easily produced and acquired with video cameras and mobile phones that are higher in quality and more fully featured, but also relatively less expensive, than past models. Go on Facebook and scroll through your news feed. Chances are that most posts on it are videos. There is a staggering 8 billion video view per day—on Facebook alone. Corporations and public spaces have also caught on to the use of video as the best way to relay messaging that resonates with the general public.

This unprecedented adoption of video as a communications and entertainment tool has stimulated a massive growth in viewer consumption and an increasing need for ever more powerful multiformat signal-processing displays that can render these impressive images—in a myriad of screen sizes and configurations—in their best light.

Indeed, from roadside billboards to schools, to major art museums and everywhere in between, digital video displays have become a part of our everyday lives, delivering advertising and public service information in a myriad of creative ways. For marketers, traffic jams and longer commutes provide perfect opportunities for digital signage platforms, which again begets the need for more visual displays.

As broadcasters and A/V staging companies continue to push the envelope of what’s possible with creative digital signage and impressive video wall displays, suppliers of the required displays and signal conversion interfaces have had to scale up their R&D significantly to accommodate the latest high-resolution display formats and networked workflows.

In a broadcast production and master control environment, instead of using expensive 12G SDI displays, facilities can use a less expensive SDM capable display with a 12G SDI output terminal device for their program and preview monitors. These state-of-the-art facilities must now handle more sources than ever before, so there is a need for more displays here as well.

In a proAV setup the distance between the source and display and the method of distribution and repetition can sometimes be challenging. With a video wall, projector display, digital signage, the integrator can send HDMI signals either via SDVoE or HDBaseT to the displays over long distances without having to put a physical receiver behind every display, which would require extra cabling and power supply. This eliminates additional points of failure, thus improves the mean time between failures (MBTF) of the system and also makes the installations very easy to setup and maintain by reducing the system complexity and offering greater flexibility.

What all of these industries and others have in common is the need for low-cost yet high quality displays that feature cost-effective signal processing, signal extension and processing components tailored to commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) applications. This will help meet the pressing demand for video displays and grow the use cases. However, a main challenge is how to display multiple formats on the same monitor and how to make the best use of screen real estate in multiviewer or tiled video applications—which are used extensively in broadcast as well as the aerospace and other industries.

This is also where the best signal processing interfaces come into play and there are now a variety of new types of internal processing across our product lines that are answering this call.

Here at Apantac, we’re constantly experimenting with different reference designs and processing platforms to come up with the best and most economical interfaces to view, for example, an SDI signal on an HDMI monitor. Once we do this, we can provide customers with the ability to use low-cost COTS displays in their facilities and meet their budget demands.

When Altera Corporation first launched its VIP Suite (Video Image Processing) for their FPGAs in 2008, Apantac was the very company to adopt this technology. When Intel purchased Altera in 2015, Apantac then became a very close partner of Intel’s and soon became an Intel Gold level partner. As an Intel Gold Level IOT Solutions Partner, Apantac has used several Intel SDM modules with internal FPGA processing.

The Intel SDM is not just a sleek design where space and workload are integrated with the display, it also allows the module to communicate with the display on information such as power usage and temperature to optimize its performance.

That being said, we have not abandoned OPS (Open Pluggable Specification) for SDM—which carries a limitation of 1920x1200 HD resolutions—and will continue to support it, as hundreds of our customs still working in and are highly productive with HD and FHD imagery.

The evolution started before 2017 with Open Pluggable Specifications when the market began to move towards modularization and standardization to scale and reduce development costs. Intel provided specs: OPS, OPS-C, OPS-C+, OPS-mini & OPS+ that support top to bottom of the Intel processors.

To provide further technology leadership and meeting stricter standardization, Intel launched Intel SDM in 2017 with SDM-L and SDM-S, specifications on the Intel Platform and products. This provides interoperability and scalability to the market especially the ecosystem partners.

Now, in addition to PCs, SDM usage has been expanded to support more interfaces such as 12G SDI, HDBaseT, SDVOE and NDI. SDM-S with the size of a credit card has received positive demand in flat panel displays and exploring SMART Projector usages. SDM is growing stronger in the AV market. There are also opportunities to explore deeper into LED Video Wall market that is growing rapidly.

The Apantac SDM series of products meet this challenge and is built with 4K/UHD in mind that can support true 4K/UHD with 60Hz at RGB 4:4:4 interface with the displays. The Apantac SDM modules support 12G SDI, high bandwidth NDI, HDBaseT and SDVoE.

The advantages of SDM are that it takes up minimum space and provides maximum flexibility. The design allows users to easily swap out one module that supports one format to another or swap out the display and keep the same module. This has been very attractive to rental houses and live event staging companies that must maintain inventory of products and also helps reduce a digital signage system’s complexity.

With the current global components shortage, the other thing we like about Intel’s SDM platform is that it uses the industry-standard, high-speed PCIe connector, whereas OPS uses a proprietary connector. PCIe is found on millions of PCs and other display devices, so the components are easy for customers to acquire and for us to make manufacturing more cost effective as well.

Apantac prides itself on bringing the latest technology to its customers with the highest quality, most feature rich and cost effective products. The addition of the SDM family has been a welcomed to our product portfolio of 180+ products. There is a full roadmap of SDM products for the next two years to come. For example, broadcast quality 12G SDI interfaces with tally (GPI and TSL), UMD, audio meters as well as closed caption decoding, a 12G SDI multiviewers, NDI multiviewers, AV over IP and eventually ST-2110 decoders.