Here are all the specs: http://www.sharpusa.com/ForBusiness/PresentationProducts/ProfessionalLCDMonitors/Options.aspx
I noticed a small, particularly interesting (and sometimes smile-inducing) trend here at DSE 2012 in Las Vegas. Now, don’t get me wrong! There were many small trends that I noticed “across the spread” of the trade show floor (pardon the weak Vegas-appropriate pun), such as the newest, creative application of social media from the digital signage content providers that were present (such as the Twitter Cube and the Twitter Shuffle from X2O Media, for example).
But something really interesting and quite popular among the attendees was the variety of digital signage integrated into our everyday encounters with vending machines or beverage refrigeration units. The complexity of these units ranged from machines that you might easily-picture finding inside any typical convenience store or gas station, to units that I can only imagine being located in some of the most populated shopping/entertainment centers of our world’s largest cities any time soon (despite how cool and engaging I may personally find them).
There were a significant number of companies at DSE looking to showcase their own versions of these machines – ranging from the giant, industry power players to the companies that are more mid-range in size. Below, you’ll find pictures from a mix of units featured by Scala, MRI (Manufacturing Resources International), Panasonic, Planar Systems, and Stratacache. I was personally a fan of Scala’s vending machine for its creative way of employing touch technology and playful, semi-gamification with its transparent, tropical theme upon the vending machine glass – a place where flocks of birds hover around your beverage selection as it’s being vended and monkeys fling stones (or poo!) at you, if knock them off their branches too many times.
When it came to digital signage on the typical beverage refrigeration units (with regular glass doors) that are commonly found throughout most gas station convenience stores across the country, I found that the technology MRI had designed for their units was my favorite. To the naked eye, their digital display seemed to be one-in-the-same with the glass on the door, thereby making it more magical to witness in person, unlike the refrigeration units being presented by some of their competition, Stratacache. The doors of Stratacache’s units – although still "capable" of achieving a similar use of digital signage – contained a more-clunky, box-like protrusion that was installed over-top of the already existing glass door (or so it might appear to the average consumer, at the very least). MRI’s unit -- in terms of pure visual aesthetic and the enthusiasm it generated from attendees on the trade show floor -- was by far the best of its kind at the show. I can easily see units like theirs being the ones most-likely adopted into a mainstream Sheetz, Exxon, or Pilot gas station convenience store near you in the (theoretically) near future.
Does everyone love digital out-of-home signage (DOOH) networks today? Certainly, the display makers see it as a ripe field to plow as excess capacity and maturing consumer markets mean that public displays are getting a lot more attention and push these days. Providers of media players, servers, content creation services, content management systems and other hardware/software providers all love the idea of selling components to network operators. And, cloud operators are happy to provide as much bandwidth as the network can consume.
However, network operators, ad agencies and brands are not as enthusiastic. Guess what — these are the guys who have to pay for all this investment and take all the risk. Does this sound like a little problem to you?
While at Digital Signage Expo this week in Las Vegas, I made an effort to talk to the network operators and ad agencies. What I heard surprised me.
By network operators, I mean the companies that typically own the network of digital signs. This may or may not be advertiser driven. In one panel I sat in, the moderator, Sean Whiffen, Founder of AutoNet TV, asked the audience of network operators what their top three concerns were. This turned out to be content, network management and technology, with technology a distant third.
Everyone understands that you should not just reuse content developed for TVs or the web on your network, but feeding the beast is still a big job. Sure, there are many tools out there to access content, format it and schedule it, but it is clearly not enough for these network operators. And, more importantly, advertising agencies want to see quality content on these network as a key element in the decision to recommend advertising on them to their brand customers.
Management of the network was second. Two stories illustrate some concerns. Panelist Matthew Brown, Web and Interactive Manager Marketing at Servus Credit Union Ltd., told of having to use five sets of tools to manage a client’s network because it was implemented with five different hardware and software solutions. "That’s like managing five networks, for the price of one," he said.
A content creator reported that his client asked to test all of the content on the specific player and display in the signage network, and he thought that unreasonable. Panelist Dwayne Brown, Senior Consultant, Digital Media and Venue Technologies at Westbury National Show Systems, responded by saying it was not an unreasonable request as not all mp4 files and players work well together. "You need to test in-house before deployment as the content creator will be blamed if it does not play right." This led to a discussion of the need for more standards in the industry and a more common language for better communication between the many partners in these solutions.
Another insightful comment from Brown was, "Don’t let the technology drive the decision." Start with the goals of the network, determine the messages, content and viewing requirements. That will then drive the hardware and software decisions - not the other way around.
A second panel I sat in on consisted of speakers from advertising agencies. They noted that digital signage networks are so diverse and so different, that each one must be individually analyzed to understand the audience, the analytics, and ad effectiveness. This increases the workload for the agencies many fold, compared to other mediums that are much easier to buy for their brand clients. And, it is very hard to put together a national campaign on these networks.
Comments from a network operator in the audience reinforced his frustration in working with these agencies to get the bigger ad accounts, as only a few agencies are investing the time and effort to understand these networks.
Christina Radigan, Director of Marketing & Communication at Outdoor Media Group, noted how they often get network operators coming to them saying they have 1000 convenience stores or 200 gyms on their network and this is our CMP rate. She said, "We don’t buy venues, we buy impressions." Radigan went on to list the key steps in their evaluation of an ad-based digital signage network: The audience (see photo), the content and the viewing environment.
Lucas Peltonen, DOOH Director at OOH Pitch, noted that there was no good way to set a CPM rate for any signage network, so he proposed a 10-step process to determine a rating and a CPM rate. However, he also acknowledged there would be several other factors that could influence the CPM rate. Clearly, this is a hurdle for more widespread use of signage networks by the agencies.
All this tells me there are still many hurdles to growing the digital signage market. Providers of products and services to this industry had better take note. If the more fundamental needs of the network operators, agencies and brands are not addressed, technology push will run into a wall.
I wish I was taking notes when I attended a quasi-debate Thursday on interactive in digital signage, but that would have looked stupid given that I was the moderator.
Stephen Randall of LocaModa and David Weinfeld of ScreenReach did a great job arguing the good and the bad of this space, and the merits of various technologies. I also really liked the format DSE education chief Richard Lebovitz developed, which allowed us to just kinda go where we needed to go, and say what needed to be said.
If there was an umbrella theme I’d say it was something about interactive technologies having high potential, but also needing careful planning and a lot more attention to context and the dynamics of the environment.
QR codes can be good, but …
NFC could be big, but …
There was not, and I totally agree, a lot of enthusiasm for using things like audio tagging because of the dynamics of digital signage environments (noise) and the need to respond quickly. Weinfeld said there was much more potential in high frequency digital watermarking that tech can hear but humans can’t.
Check-in is dead, says Weinfeld. Randall sees some value still, but as with the rest, stressed things need to be thought through.
They also don’t think there is much promise for gesture in digital OOH environments because of the embarrassment factor. David says you often see big crowds around gesture installations in New York when there is a marketing team on site whipping up excitement. When the is no one there encouraging people, everyone just breezes by.
I tried a gesture twitter wall thing on the show floor. Think it was X2O’s booth. There was nothing wrong with the tech itself, but the learning curve was high and the experience mostly pointless. Even with someone there telling me what to do, it was hard to do much.
I had clients and a video team with me most of the day so I did not see much. Day 2 was slower but still busy.
The NEC guys broke off from the booth and we had a good chat about what they are doing with VUKUNET. Very interesting but I need my notes and a desk, not an iPad and my lap, to relate all that.
The NanoLumens guys now have a 4 mm pixel pitch screen for indoors, which looks really good. It’s not bendy like the other ones, but they said that is a speed bump they expect to get over.
The Content Interface stuff … Infinitely zooming images … still makes me shake my head and smile. The guys were showing it at the Planar booth.
The most intriguing thing I saw was the Capital Networks media player/software bundle, which they were previewing here and expect to have ready to market by end of Q2. It runs Android 4 and does all the multi zone dynamic content, video and transition stuff that the company’s Audience software would normally run on a PC.
This was a solid state box that in low volumes costs maybe $125. I was expecting compromises on playback quality, but nope. Lotsa people blabber away about disruptive technology, but don’t really have it. This is a set top box that does way more than play full screen vids from a list, runs a mobile operating system, and does much of the stuff low cost PCs do, but with what I would expect would be fewer headaches that come with full operating systems and more electronics.
Plane is boarding. Going home to get some sleep.
When NEC Display announced VUKUNET in Nov. 2009 the company rather boldly planned to get into the ad media sales business, with media pros carrying Vukunet cards doing the rounds at agencies.
That changed, and VUKUNET evolved into more of an enabling technology that other media sales people could use – the idea being the VUKUNET player/agent/thingie that would co-exist with existing digital signage software platforms could be utilized by multiple companies. VUKUNET would be universal.
After some initial hoo-hah and fuss, I think it is fair to say VUKUNET hasn’t lit the Digital OOH world on fire. It is being driven in Europe by a sharp guy in Dirk Hülsermann but things have been pretty quite in North America.
That appears to be changing, and in the absence of SeeSaw (folded) and the rumored directional changes by my friends at Adcentricity, NEC Displays appears to be going back to its initial plan of getting into the media sales business.
NEC has job posts up for National Advertising Sales Managers in New York and San Francisco.
We are currently seeking a National Advertising Manager to sell its digital out-of-home assets in New York. Digital place-based media is one of the fastest growing advertising mediums in the world today. There are digital screens everywhere – retail, schools, hospitals, stadiums, airports, shopping malls, offices, etc. and you can capitalize on all these locations in this growing space.
As a National Advertising Manager, you will be responsible for building and maintaining relationships with national advertising agencies and brands that require a customized and targeted solution for digital place-based advertising. You will be driving national revenue and contributing to the company’s bottom line.
The ideal candidate would be a hunter and a closer and who will generate revenue by aggressively identifying and qualifying agencies and brands. This person will have a background in ad serving technologies and ad sales, ideally in the outdoor, online or digital out-of-home space. The right candidate needs to be an expert at building relationships with ad agencies and clients and pinpointing new sales opportunities in enterprise-sized accounts.
At Digital Signage Expo, being held yesterday and today at the Las Vegas Convention Center, a surprising new application burst forth: refrigerator doors with transparent displays. Although we have seen technology demonstrations of this idea before, what we are seeing at DSE are prototypes of real products for what seems to be an increasingly enthusiastic market.
Let us be clear that the refrigerator doors shown at DSE are not the kind you see on the domestic refrigerator in your kitchen. We are talking here of the doors for commercial refrigerators - the kind you see in super markets and convenience stores. Is this a large potential market? You bet. Jean St. Jean of Michigan glassmaker Guardian Industries told me 100 million square feet of glass are sold each year for refrigerator doors, vending machine fronts, and display cabinets. This is just plain old glass, but if a modest percentage of the market converts to traditional and transparent displays, we’re talking about a significant market.
At DSE, refrigerator doors with transparent displays were being shown by Planar, Philips, and MRI. Planar’s prototype used a 32-inch Samsung display fitted into an attachment designed to mount onto the glass door of a popular compact model of True commercial refrigerator. One challenge of transparent LCDs for refrigerator doors is that the light in the refrigerator becomes the backlight for the display, and that light must be quite bright. Unfortunately, bright lights produce heat, which is not good for the interior of a refrigerator. Planar addressed this problem with LEDs behind the edges of the display, which mounted in front of the double glass of the original door. Therefore, the refrigerator was insulated from the heat produced by the backlight.
The Planar display occupied the central portion of the refrigerator door, but Philips and MRI showed prototypes of full glass doors for large supermarket-style refrigerators. That implies that the displays will required custom resizing from larger high-volume displays. MRI says that explicitly, and they showed a 67-inch glass door. MRI used enhanced lighting, but their lighting was inside what would be the refrigerated volume.
Planar’s door was clearly based on the company’s Show Box, which is designed so retailers could add to the appeal of products they have for sale. The Show Box is a product, so Planar had a platform on which to base their refrigerator door, which was developed quickly for the show but nevertheless looks like a ready-for-market product.
Just six months ago the transparent displays being shown by Samsung and LG looked like the typical technology demonstrations produced by R&D labs. Now, they look like an opportunity.
I always wondered who purchased those giant 100" Panasonic plasmas that went on sale last year. I can easily see them being used in boardrooms instead of front-screen projectors - especially where space is a premium, but let's be real: the fact that they're four to six times the price of an LCD or DLP projector has got to be prohibitive.
Up really, really early (time zones, jet lag, etc).
I had a client along, and another, different one today, so that limited my free time, but I did get a pretty good look around.
Things that struck my admittedly jaded head:
Most display and software guys are ignoring, oblivious to or can’t build/support interactive screens that behave like smartphones and iPads. The world flicks and pinches content on screens all day long, and this sector is regressively keeping users in the world of the bink-bink-bink interface that emulates mouse controls. Goofy.
I mentioned this to some people who said there were examples here and there of more current methods. You also have the guys who are using gesture via Kinect, but that always has the strong scent of trade show gimmick about it.
I don’t know how many display guys I saw emulating/copying the Stratacache transparent LCD fridge door product, but a bunch. I didn’t ask Stratacache, but have to think lawyers will be reviewing patent filings.
Stuff that impressed/intrigued me (of what I saw):
I like what Insteo (friends, I will concede) are doing with social content and mobile. Have a look.
The newly launched Wave content creation tool for greatly lowering the time and cost for what I’d call commodity creative (what’s on sale this week at grocers) is just smart.
The Planar square displays are pretty neat for certain applications and introduce a different spin on video walls designed by architects. They are marketed as tiles to compete more Microtiles and Prysm products, but are actually LED-backlit LCDs.
Cisco, which often sets my eyes rolling with its efforts, actually has some intriguing interactive products in the field. I liked some of what they are bringing to market for venues like airports.
Stuff that did set my eyes rolling:
Saddle Ranch Digital had several “booth babes” line dancing for ogling guys, playing the same music over and over and over and over. There were some monitors in tents. Strikingly weird and annoying as hell to some unhappy surrounding exhibitors.
Stratacache had a very healthy woman drawing attention by dancing with some Kinect (I think) thing, but it was a novelty thing off in a corner, not the main/only attraction.
The videos that run at the DSF booth are head-shakers. Hard to describe, but trust me on this.
Content at booths is, on balance much better – but there’s no shortage of companies celebrating the stupidity of multi-zoned screens and long text passages in boxes that viewers would need binoculars to read.
Can someone please give me the business case for a video wall that lets people play with a low end paint brush application?
Overall: The show is well run and polished, as always. There seemed to be more booths and more people than last year. And I had people saying there were more actual customers than in the past. DSE has always had a vendors talking to vendors thing going, but I know even the Preset Mixer had banks and brand people in the crowd.
Thank you Net Display for the 3:45 life-saving latte. Baristo in a booth is a nice touch.
I am moderating a debate on interactive this morning – with Stephen Randall (Locamoda) and David Weinfeld (Screenreach). That will be fun and interesting.
Earlier today Michael wrote a post about practicing what you preach, or sell. After reading his thoughts I noticed some booths at DSE were in fact not capitalizing on the product applications their pitches promoted.
In a particular instance an "old-fashioned" show room map stood beside an updated, interactive digital signage map - people opted for the non-interactive map while navigating the show floor. Who knows, maybe everyone here at DSE needs a digital signage break after two days of pitching awesomeness.
A new way to advertise or interact with people using a company's WiFi - Cloud Push.
Advanced Communication Technology & Solutions Corp. walked me through Cloud Push, and I wanted to share an awesome example of its application with everyone!
So say you're in Starbucks sipping coffee and using WiFi, Cloud Push creates automatic banner space on any website you visit. Starbucks (or any company) could use this technology for advertisements, in-store orders, customer interaction or for customer rewards.
This is a great non-invasive solution that allows companies to connect with their customers through store WiFi. It even works on mobile devices! Kudos to ACTS for an awesome idea!
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