Interview with Michael Zabka, CTO of signageOS

The signageOS Blog Interview Series with Michael Zabka, signageOS CTO. 

One of the biggest challenges within this industry is staying updated and educated on all the new technology and methods. So next up in my new interview series is is Michael Zabka, CTO of signageOS. My goal with this interview series is to better educate myself and anyone willing to learn. So, if there are agreements, disagreements, or just general comments feel free to start the conversation below.  

Michael is an experienced full-stack programmer with a demonstrated history working in tech for the retail and digital signage industries. Michael has a degree in engineering with a focus in information technology from the University of Economics, Prague. Fluent in too many programming languages to list, sitting down with Michael was not only educational, but also fun. So without any further delays, here is the conversation I had with Michael:  

What do you feel differentiates signageOS technology from your competition?

Our system is designed to be a cloud service and even an offline application for any digital signage platform like LG, Samsung, etc. The generalization of the whole solution allows to port new, incoming platforms and new OS firmware versions easily. To understand how every single OS works, a developer must have a lot of experience and practical knowledge. We are aiming only for porting and unifying digital signage APIs so we don’t focus as much on content. So we can do a better job at this and the CMS can do a better job with content. Actually, we currently have no competition.

Wow, so would you consider this technology a radical innovation for the IoT? Is signageOS real time ready for a position like that?

Yes, this was our main target since day one. We prepared for this in the signage sphere because we knew that additionally to standard content data, displays can produce large amounts big data, starting from temperature, screenshots, connection status, etc. and continuing with cameras, printers, sensors, etc. We actually made a working name for our platform, it’s IoD like Internet of Displays. Every display will send us over twenty thousand messages per day. Until now we’ve already processed over three billion messages from all devices since it was first registered.

So, with huge amounts of data like that to process, how does the signageOS technology stack affect productivity? Basically, how does the combination of web framework, operating system, database, etc. contribute to the levels of productivity?  

I think that our productivity is good. Our focus is our system must be stable, secure, and sustainable. It means that our effectiveness is produced more and more over time because we have everything clear, tested, and easily rewritable. We don’t have some deterministic rules of which framework to use, or database, etc. Our architecture is built on top of microservices, so with every feature requirement, it could be used on any technology or framework that fits it best. For now, most of our services are written in modern node.js environment, running on docker containers in linux, and we are using databases like MongoDB, PostgreSQL, RabbitMQ, RethinkDB, Redis and many more. But it’s limitless. Soon, maybe we will start using GraphQL and Python or Scala. 


So that means the customer can be using a complex variety of hardware?

With every client we are learning how to improve. Like what to update in our documentation or why something was delayed. So every piece of new knowledge we work in immediately. Implementing signageOS into existing CMS systems can be difficult for some people but we help developers. We always provide one of our developers to the customer to ensure that implementation is smooth. We are aiming to have the best documentation of our API’s and have the best support for our customers.

Yes, signageOS uses a Rest API and a JavaScript API together to form the “Unification API”. Can you talk a little about the differences between those two?

The Rest API allows customers to manage very large numbers of devices immediately. Every computing time will fall on our platform, so customers can focus on their content related pains. The JavaScript API is now a standard in frontend development so we aren’t doing anything new, but just doing it right. Our aim is to solve problems around creating large backend architecture, managing it, developing it, etc.

Another huge issue right now is security and privacy, so how does this architecture or structure ensure data security and privacy?

Well we use the cloud and it already has many standards on how to deal with security threats. It would be pointless to talk about encrypting data, using advanced authentication, and standardized firewall applications. Everyone that uses a cloud-based system should already be using these standards and even if they don’t, we do. And, we do a quarterly security review.

So could you say what percent of your quarterly roadmaps reflect new development vs. bug fixes?

Sure, bugs happen and whoever says they have no bugs, they’re lying. We always try to prevent bugs by conscientious and long term testing. Every application will go through a long scenario of automatic and manual tests and on every device we have in our lab and the back-end is tested on staging servers. It’s pretty even. So if I could divide it into percentages, I’ll say 33% features, 33% bug fixing and 34% testing. Most of the bugs we find are only related to software, hardware integrations.

So if you had all the money you needed for developers what would you want to do with the signageOS solution?

I’d aim for more small platforms that we haven’t had time to implement yet. Maybe we’d try to look at classic commercial TVs. But the biggest part which can be always be improved is monitoring and reporting. So, more options for customers to detect when devices have problems and how they can easily fix it remotely.

Where do you see the signageOS’ technology in 5 years?

Simply (pre)installed on every digital signage display which is manufactured by vendors to allow customers to easily connect. They would never had headaches of device compatibility related issues.    

It seems as though signageOS has a very intelligent and capable captain at the wheel of their technological advancements. Supporting integrations across such a large variety of devices must require tremendous amounts of time spent building and testing. As the company grows, it is very exciting to see what will come next for signageOS.

Have a question or comment? Leave it below! 

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