How Popular Is SMIL In Digital Signage?

Guest Contributor, John C Wang

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, Dynamax and Screenfeed began shipping products based on this open standard.

John C. Wang, Co-founder and CEO of IAdea Corp

Today SMIL has grown to become perhaps the most popular platform in digital signage and one that provides that 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, even dynamic presentations 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 AND these rules can also be combined with file ‘pre-fetch’ commands to manage bandwidth usage – there’s a really good SMIL Tutorial here over on, Ed

Germany, United States, France, Denmark, and India are among the top countries who visited the ‘Advocacy for SMIL‘ site during 2011. The number of unique users was almost 15,000 originating from over 127 countries and 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 reports a shipment volume of nearly 20,000 units of SMIL-enabled digital signage devices in 2011. A software maker supporting SMIL has won three projects, each using more than 1,000 SMIL players in 2011 alone.

With its list of adopters continuing to grow and with some momentum behind it, SMIL is surely set to become the de facto choice of ever more digital signage integrators and solution providers?

And taking advantage of its recently added support for the HTML5 content format – touted as the ‘Flash killer’ Ed, it appears SMIL will continue to be a key technology for the digital signage industry at the very least.

About the Author

John C. Wang is co-founder and CEO of IAdea Corporation, a company providing open and reliable digital signage media appliances. IAdea was the first company to introduce a digital signage product supporting the SMIL standard. In 2012 IAdea will again change the industry by introducing the first SMIL media appliance supporting the HTML5 content standard.

7 Responses to “How Popular Is SMIL In Digital Signage?”

  1. DoohGuy Says:

    Can someone clarify the difference between SMIL 3.0. (a real W3C standard) and A-SMIL (custom extensions to SMIL developped by IAdea)?

    It seems to me that A-SMIL is required to run any serious DS network, because without it, you don’t have pull mode, proof of play, monitoring, etc. But A-SMIL is not W3C approved…

    IAdea seems to be touting “open standards” yet they have been repeatedly vague about what they mean by “SMIL compliant”. Also, the other vendors such as Spinetix don’t seem to support the A-SMIL extensions, so is this truly the holy grail “open standard” of DS?

    It would seem not yet.

  2. Clinton Gallagher @virtualCableTV Says:

    The problem with SMIL –and there is one huge problem– is the apparent fact that none of the browser vendors have chosen to support SMIL.

    This is good for hardware media player profitability but lack of playback in a browser continues to cripple HTML5 software development keeping the cost of digital signage artifically inflated.

  3. Bryan Crotaz Says:

    A-SMIL is a subset of SMIL, plus some extensions for things like player identification and reporting. The player identification piece isn’t even SMIL – it’s the way the player gets the SMIL in the first place (by defining a url with injected data like {player-id}. Again the reporting piece isn’t SMIL – it’s just a standard for pushing playout logs back to the server.

    So A-SMIL is actually just the subset of SMIL that is supported by iAdea. It’s a pretty good subset, but there are some things it can’t do (like templated content, complex animation, and some of the aspect ratio correction options).

    Having spent the last few months entwined in the SMIL specs, there aren’t many things that SMIL can’t instruct a player to do. If you add jscript and svg, so you could have a nice industry standard that could even cover almost all of what something like the Scala, Inspired or OneLan players can do.

    So if you’re defining the language that your new shiny player is going to speak, I’d suggest making it speak SMIL. I doubt you’ll find it very restrictive.

  4. Bryan Crotaz Says:

    PS I don’t think iAdea are at all vague about what they mean by SMIL compliant. The entire A-SMIL compliancy is laid out in great detail (if maybe not very well organised) on the website.

    With regard to your holy grail comment, see (is it possible to find a conversation that doesn’t have a well fitting xkcd cartoon?). If you want a standard, make your product work with it, and say so. If a few companies do this, the customers will notice and will start asking for it. The consultants will put it on their RFP checklist, and boom! We have a standard.

  5. John C. Wang Says:


    I’d agree to Bryan’s comments to the questions you raised. I’ll just add that pull-mode is not a specialty of A-SMIL as you stated. Pull-mode is in SMIL by nature (via the use of URLs in media sources). The only thing IAdea has added is push-mode which some digital signage networks find useful.


  6. John C. Wang Says:


    Stay tuned for SMIL supporting HTML5 content (to be unveiled here on DailyDOOH very soon)! With it you can preserve all your investment in content creation, have all the dynamic flexibility and leave the scheduling and control to SMIL. The best of all worlds!


  7. Clinton Gallagher @virtualCableTV Says:

    Well here we are 1 year plus change later and the support for SMIL remains by and large limited to the same vendors.

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