When thinking of CEC control (Consumer Electronics Control), we think of devices controlling devices. It’s the stuff of science fiction horror. But the ability for one piece of hardware to execute commands provided by another is far from scary. Developments in the way hardware systems interact with each other have ushered in the Internet of Things and given rise to Industry 4.0 in ways that are pushing efficiencies to new heights. One such innovation is Consumer Electronics Control, or CEC, a feature that has been available for some time, but is starting to gain new momentum in an age of increasingly connected systems, particularly in industrial hardware deployments.
Here’s a look at how CEC works, how it’s being utilized in a range of digital signage applications, and how OnLogic is enabling multi-screen CEC in many of our new systems.
What is Consumer Electronics Control?
CEC is a communications protocol built into the HDMI standard allowing CEC-enabled HDMI devices to exchange information and send/receive control messages. This allows a user to control more than one device using a single interface. For instance, CEC-capable devices such as DVD players or game consoles, or in our case industrial computers, are able send a power signal to a connected display when the device is turned on, without any user interaction with the display itself.
How has OnLogic enabled multi-screen CEC in our systems?
We’ve enabled multi-screen CEC in our devices by adding a small add-on module, internal to the system, in line with the DisplayPort outputs. Its purpose is to manage the connection between our system and any connected displays according to a set of preconfigured rules. This allows us to shut down and start displays when the computer starts, stops, wakes, and sleeps, in a user-configurable order after a configurable time delay. Previous CEC solutions have only been able to control a single screen. Our module allows for multiple displays be controlled from a single device.
What OnLogic systems are CEC-capable?
Our ML350 fanless PC, and our new CL200 ultra-small form factor system are the first of our hardware to feature multi-screen CEC, but we expect all future OnLogic-designed motherboards and systems to include CEC support.
How do the displays need to be connected?
The DisplayPorts on the ML350 and CL200 are CEC-compatible with no extra user effort. Simply select the Consumer Electronics Control Module from the available configuration options and we’ll install the module when your system is built. It is important to note that at this time we are not aware of any DP displays that support CEC directly. The market for the CEC addon devices is limited to HDMI (generally TVs). Practically speaking, this means that passive DP to HDMI adapters will be required to connect displays that intend to take advantage of the CEC functionality.
What can CEC be used for?
The best use for CEC in our markets is in digital signage. As noted, CEC allows the host system to control the attached displays. Those displays may therefore be started without user intervention at system startup, allowing clients to hide, store, or (accidentally) lose the remote controls for their signage displays at their discretion. There’s no need to check that displays have been restored after power loss and the time-delayed startup feature gives the system time to boot before the displays become active, so the first thing a viewer sees is content, instead of ugly boot screens.
Another potential use is on display right here at OnLogic, where every conference room is outfitted with a TV for videoconferencing and presentations. CEC-enabled systems allow the displays to be powered down automatically when the system sleeps, saving power, and allowing them to be turned back on with the wiggle of a mouse. It’s a small but noticeable user experience improvement.
How do you enable CEC on OnLogic hardware?
Users who have selected CEC feature at time of purchase should expect that feature to work out of the box. For large projects, a customer may request a specific non-default configuration from their account manager as part of our custom firmware services.