SMIL is an open standard established by the W3C with its initial intention to serve the IPTV industry. In 2009, a number of digital signage companies including hardware vendors IAdea, ViewSonic, Mitsubishi, Advantech and software makers Scala, signagelive, CoolSign, Dynamax, Screenfeed, etc. began shipping products based on this open standard. Today SMIL has grown to become the most popular platform in digital signage that provides the much-needed interoperability between software and hardware systems.
SMIL stands for “Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language.” It is an XML-based mark-up language for describing playlists, schedules and screen layouts, which form the basic building blocks of a digital signage network. Media files can include videos, pictures, background audio, and with recent technical advances by IAdea, even dynamic presentation written in HTML, the content standard for the web. These objects are then rolled into temporally sequential and parallel playlists, and can even be enclosed in priority-based “exclusive” playlists suitable for interactive playback control. SMIL further supports the use of XPath conditionals which allows each individual item to be “switched on or off” based on player-specific metadata or real-world sensor input. SMIL schedules allow re-occurrence patterns based on time of day, day of week, or weekly/monthly rules. These rules can also be combined with file “pre-fetch” commands to manage bandwidth usage. Tutorial site “Advocacy for SMIL” provides an excellent source of technical information.
According to statistics published by A-SMIL.org, in 2011 the number of unique users on the site counted almost 15,000 originating from over 127 countries. Germany, United States, France, Denmark, and India are among the top countries. Visitor volume increased 60% from 2010 to 2011, and grew almost 10X from 2009, the first year the site was in existence.
One hardware vendor is estimated to drive nearly 100,000 screens using SMIL-enabled digital signage devices in 2011. A single software maker supporting SMIL has scored three projects each using more than 1,000 SMIL players in 2011 alone.
With its adopters list continue to grow and momentum consistently on-the-rise, SMIL is becoming the de facto choice of ever more digital signage integrators and solution providers. Taking advantage of its recently added support for the HTML5 content format, which is touted as the “Flash killer” in the post-PC world, it appears SMIL will continue to be a key technology for the digital signage industry.