MediaCast System

By Jim Louderback  |  Posted 2004-09-14 Print this article Print

Retail organizations such as Best Buy and Circuit City make as much as 25 percent of their revenue on merchandising. Those "shelf talkers"—kiosks, displays and ads—are big business. But building and deploying a marketing campaign to thousands of retail outlets is slow and hard. It often can take 90 days from campaign inception to implementation—and these days, the world changes much more rapidly than that. Thats why I was impressed with the MediaCast system from MediaTile. It uses cellular data connectivity to stream updated ads and kiosk information to smart screens nationwide. The simple and cheap infrastructure replaces expensive wired or wireless networks—which had to be deployed into every store to be effective.
The MediaCast system supports as much as 200MB of data in video, flash, PowerPoint or PDF formats. Screen sizes range from 2 inches all the way up to 60 inches. And it supports most flavors of Windows, including Pocket PC.
By reducing costs and increasing speed of delivery, the MediaCast system makes video-based point-of-purchase displays even more effective. Expect to see more smart signs in retail very soon. And have you heard of ZigBee? Its the latest wireless scheme due to arrive, and instead of connecting up computers, its designed to build low-cost controller networks for lighting, HVAC and other sensor networks. ZigBees premise is simple. As sensors spread throughout buildings, and as controlling computers become cheaper and cheaper, the industry needed an easy and cheap way to move information from device to device. The ZigBee wireless protocol provides a mesh-based network, with smarts enough to route signals from dumb device to dumb device, at between $1 to $5 per unit. Think of it as a mesh-based, two-way version of RFID. Each ZigBee radio has a range of about 200 meters and contains the smarts to intelligently route signals to any other device it can see. More than 90 companies support the ZigBee protocol, including chip vendors Chipcom and Freescale; device makers Siemens, Philips and Samsung; and networking companies such as Cisco. The final release of the spec is due for a 1.0 release next month, once the lawyers finish vetting the IP. Click here to read more about ZigBee. Each ZigBee radio includes a key chip, with networking software that provides a common platform for applications. One of the companies building that software stack, which is burned into the wireless chips, was showing off the power of ZigBee at Demo. Figure 8 Wireless calls itself "the Microsoft of ZigBee," claiming that every chip vendor includes its software inside. Figure 8 says its Z-Stack will become the default standard for ZigBee radios and applications. I cant verify those claims, but I do know that we desperately need a network like ZigBee. Past schemes that let devices communicate, including the fundamentally flawed X10, are unable to handle the diversity and quantity of sensors that will populate our homes and offices over the next few years. ZigBees ease of implementation and fault-tolerant mesh design make it the best choice possible, at least for the foreseeable future. It doesnt hurt that so many companies have signed up. Most of the energy so far has gone into plugfests, ensuring that all ZigBee devices work together seamlessly. But with the imminent ratification of the spec, well be hearing a lot more about this technology as it rolls out later this year. Keep your eye on ZigBee—its going places. Check out eWEEK.coms Mobile & Wireless Center at for the latest news, reviews and analysis.

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With more than 20 years experience in consulting, technology, computers and media, Jim Louderback has pioneered many significant new innovations.

While building computer systems for Fortune 100 companies in the '80s, Jim developed innovative client-server computing models, implementing some of the first successful LAN-based client-server systems. He also created a highly successful iterative development methodology uniquely suited to this new systems architecture.

As Lab Director at PC Week, Jim developed and refined the product review as an essential news story. He expanded the lab to California, and created significant competitive advantage for the leading IT weekly.

When he became editor-in-chief of Windows Sources in 1995, he inherited a magazine teetering on the brink of failure. In six short months, he turned the publication into a money-maker, by refocusing it entirely on the new Windows 95. Newsstand sales tripled, and his magazine won industry awards for excellence of design and content.

In 1997, Jim launched TechTV's content, creating and nurturing a highly successful mix of help, product information, news and entertainment. He appeared in numerous segments on the network, and hosted the enormously popular Fresh Gear show for three years.

In 1999, he developed the 'Best of CES' awards program in partnership with CEA, the parent company of the CES trade show. This innovative program, where new products were judged directly on the trade show floor, was a resounding success, and continues today.

In 2000, Jim began developing, a daily, live, 8 hour TechTV news program called TechLive. Called 'the CNBC of Technology,' TechLive delivered a daily day-long dose of market news, product information, technology reporting and CEO interviews. After its highly successful launch in April of 2001, Jim managed the entire organization, along with setting editorial direction for the balance of TechTV.

In the summer or 2002, Jim joined Ziff Davis Media to be Editor-In-Chief and Vice President of Media Properties, including, Microsoft Watch, and the websites for PC Magazine, eWeek and ZDM's gaming publications.


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