Blog: Christopher Hall 

Christopher Hall

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Digital signage takes center stage in Sin City this week, with the annual Digital Signage Expo trade show kicking off in Las Vegas.

After a full day of preshow activities on Tuesday, this year’s DSE kicked off its two-day run in earnest yesterday as it usually does, in a blur of activity.

Trying to see and experience everything on tap in two days is Sisyphean, but each year we keep rolling that rock back up the hill one more time — and then scramble to get out of the way as it rolls right back down for us to try again on day two.

Today I’ll take a broad look back at some of the highlights from day one of the show, before taking deeper dives to go more in depth on a few of them in the days to come.

Even before the show floor and exhibition hall opened, the show began with a breakfast keynote, "Big Data - Small Screen Insights," that looked at Big Data and how it can relate to and inform digital signage and digital out-of-home advertising and reaching the really small screen, the mobile device.

Before veering off into a really interesting look at push messaging, panel moderator Asif Khan of the Location Based Marketing Association showed this video to show how location-based marketing and digital signage can work together:

Now that's good digital signage doing good.

After that there was still time to cram in one more session before the hall opened, so I jumped in on "Just Because We Screwed Up Doesn’t Mean You Should," or "how not to screw up your digital signage deployment," led by Omnivex President Jeff Collard.

That one was chock full of good advice, from an acknowledgement by one panelist that they'd forgotten the cardinal rule of cardinal rules, KISS — or keep it simple, stupid — to another warning potential deployers to not only make sure that hardware or software you're about to buy not only does what the seller claims it will but that that it also does it the way you want to do it. Then there was this gem:


So then the show floor opened, and hey, there was Google on the show floor. The search-engine-and-pretty-much-everything-else company made its debut at DSE; shockingly, people noticed that. I'll be stopping by the booth today for a better look.

BrightSign showed us their 4K players, and demoed the entire 4K ecosystem at its booth, with vivid examples of what they say is 4K done right vs. 4K done wrong — and compelling arguments to back that up.

The I found a digital signage display that put an orangutan's head on my body, so that pretty much won the day right there:


NEC Display Solutions' Keith Yanke then gave me a look at the display provider's booth and at what NEC is focusing on going forward. Yes, they're big on projection mapping, big on 4K and OPS, and yes, they're already in on the race by the LCD screen companies to add LEDs to their lineup — the company was showcasing an LED solution at ISE earlier this year, he said, but hasn't brought it to North America yet.

Lastly, Enplug Chief Strategy Officer Jessie Kim gave us a look at "The Future of Interactive Content" in the DSE Digital Content Show Theater on the show floor, doing an admirable job of of both being heard and keeping the audience interested despite the appallingly bad music blaring from one of the nearby booths. I'll write more about what Kim had to say in coming days, but the insights ranged from a look ahead at predictive modeling and content/information arriving even before we know we want it or start looking for it (think about that one for a minute) to a consideration of whether or not people eventually will trade their privacy for convenience — and maybe some health benefits as well.

It's off to the digital signage rodeo: Day Two

The second day of Digital Signage Expo is always a bit of a madhouse. In the midst of trying to see and talk to everyone you can (and you always miss at least half the ones you want to hit), there's also trying to take the show in as a whole, catch everyone before they leave and maybe have a few substantive conversations in between everything else.

Today we'll look back at some of the highlights of day two at the show, some of which we'll dive into a bit deeper in the coming days.

As usual, the day starts off with educational sessions, ranging on day two from "Emerging Digital Communications Technologies: Just Because You Can Doesn't Mean You Should" to "How to Generate Data-Driven Content."

Then it's off to the races.

Display manufacturers LG Electronics and Samsung both had their usual variety of screens, but both also seem to be branching out a bit with screen formats and taking broader approaches. As with NEC, the approach is more … perhaps holistic is the word.

Everyone is realizing digital signage is more than just a 40-inch screen with pretty pictures, and display makers are now trying to cover all the bases, from 10- and 22-inch interior displays all the way to outdoor LED signage, or taking an approach of solving particular problems for vertical markets, whether it's offering a turnkey QSR drive-thru solution or a ruggedized and protected display for transit shelters.

Intel Corp. recently announced a big Internet of Things play, and they had some interesting things to say at DSE when it comes to future of incorporating Big Data into digital signage, while also taking into account the sure-to-be-rampant privacy concerns. Intel is focusing on providing personalized experiences for retailers and other vertical industries served by digital signage, creating one-on-one engagements with data derived from connected devices such as smartphones and wearables. And despite what some predict as to consumers giving up their privacy in return for a perceived good, Intel says it is designing products with an eye toward makinng sure consumers' anonymity is maintained, collecting data only from those who opt-in and making sure it's protected thereafter.

Completely coincidentally, my last two booth tours of the day were almost mirror images of each other. While the particulars aren't exact, the bigger pictures were very similar. At the Christie booth, the talk was about doing more than just providing display technologies and providing experiences with the combination of Christie and Arsenal Media, now Christie THREE SIXTY. And at the Barco booth, our old friends at X2O Media (now a part of Barco) and Barco execs spoke excitedly about making displays smarter and creating combined solutions rather than just offering a display. X2O and Arsenal aren't exact analogs, but the symmetry is clear –— and the other display providers are taking similar approaches either through acquisitions or partnerships — and the case is compelling that the digital signage business, whether it's LCDs, LEDs, OLEDs, projectors or fill in the blank, is about providing experiences.  

All of which aligns with several off-the-cuff and off-the-record conversations held throughout both days of the show, the overarching themes of which could be summed up as essentially this: The digital signage industry, inasmuch as it can really be called an industry, is really the small shaded section in the middle of a Venn Diagram in which the bigger circles of many other industries — whether it be transportation or branding or signage or foodservice — all overlap and meet. Hardly revelatory or revolutionary, but that seems to get lost in the shuffle sometimes. It's all about communicating with the consumer, and it's all about giving them an experience that moves them in the desired direction, either figuratively or literally.




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