Cisco buys digital signage company

Cisco bought Tivella for networked digital signage technology

Cisco Systems is taking it to the storefront, the stadium and possibly even the streets by acquiring a digital signage company.

The acquisition of privately-held Tivella will let the networking vendor extend its video, image and information distribution system beyond desktops, director and general manager of Cisco's Digital Media Management division, Thomas Wyatt, said.

US-based Tivella was founded in 2001 and has just 10 employees, most of whom work in California, near Cisco's home town of San Jose. They will join Cisco's Emerging Markets Technology Group. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Cisco is branching out in many new directions, with a particular emphasis on video, executives said this week at the company's C-Scape analyst conference in San Jose. At the conference, president and CEO, John Chambers, demonstrated networked electronic signs using technology from Tivella, which has had a partnership with Cisco for a few years, according to Wyatt.

The Cisco Digital Media System, introduced in September, lets enterprises create, schedule and publish content to desktops via the Cisco Video Portal interface. That content could include video on demand for training or live messages to employees.

Through Tivella's technology, Cisco can bring that kind of content to monitors and TVs in stores and other public places, Wyatt said. The company's Piccolo Media Players are small, lightweight devices with a wide range of display interfaces for use with different kinds of screens, including analog TVs. No PC is needed and they can be powered via Ethernet, without a local electrical socket. Linked via an IP (Internet Protocol) network, they could display constantly updated messages or video tailored to the place where each is located.

The new technology added more flexibility to public video displays, which traditionally had been standalone, manually controlled devices, Wyatt said. For example, displays in a store could be used for employee training during off hours and for up-to-date promotions while the store is open.

Networked screens, on an IP network that also included surveillance cameras and police and fire radios, could also be used for public safety, he said. For example, they could be used to direct stadium crowds to the nearest exit for evacuation.

Combining the two companies' technology, Cisco would have a suite of products in the near future for remote control and management of displays over IP, Wyatt said.

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