Blog: David Drain 
David Drain (bio)
Executive Director
Digital Screenmedia Association
Tuesday, 19 June 2012
Last week I attended InfoComm, the annual trade show for the audio-visual industry, run by the association of the same name. For you hash taggers, it was known as #InfoComm12. It was my fourth InfoComm show to attend in the past five years and, as always, it was a feast for the senses. For many exhibitors, it was certainly a “go big or go home” strategy: huge booths, with mammoth screens and visually compelling content.
With more than 34,000 attendees and 933 exhibitors, the show is crazy big. Just when you think you’ve reached the end, there is another hall to explore. My main area of interest was the digital signage pavilion, though not everyone in that pavilion necessarily fits that moniker and certainly several digital signage providers (particularly the screen manufacturers) are not in the digital signage area. 
Digital signage is one of four main pavilions or special exhibit areas; the others being audio, unified collaborative conferencing (aka video conferencing) and lighting & staging. Even though I was only interested in one out of the four areas, it still takes a solid two days to see the show in my opinion.
While this is mainly a hardware show, there are some software providers and even a few content providers. Here are some trends I noted from the show:
  1. Tiles. While I give credit to Christie for introducing the tile-type screen with its MicroTiles product, there are other square-shaped tile screen providers such as eyevis, Planar, Prysm and Samsung.
  1. Transparency. Though not new, transparent screens proliferated and continued to get a lot of attention at the show. Providers of such screens include Planar, Samsung, LG, ViewSonic and Vinyl I / The V (dba Translook). It’s difficult to tell whether each of these companies manufactures their own product or if any of them buy from the same source.

  2. Large-format multi-touch. The technology has advanced to where multi-touch on 55” screens and larger are possible. 3M, Christie (powered by Baanto ShadowSense), Elo, GestureTek, Lumio, NextWindow, and Perceptive Pixel (Jeff Han’s company) are some of the notable providers, but this is not an exhaustive list.

  3. Unusual shapes/configurations. If someone is concerned that the rectangular 16:9 format screen on the wall might be ignored, screens now come in all shapes and sizes. Or you can take rectangular screens and place them in unusual configurations. German-based eyevis’ omniSHAPES product is a tile that not only comes in square, but also in polygon and hexagon shapes that can be used on a flat, concave or convex wall. LED manufacturers tout the versatility of configurations and flexibile products like Nanolumens.

  4. Outdoor. There are special considerations and enclosures needed to make an outdoor screen work, or one facing the outside (think outward-facing shop windows) or even in an indoor environment with a lot of ambient light. LG’s new “Shine Out” display is not only bright, but deflects ambient light and prevents color wash (blackout). SunBriteTV also introduced a new all-weather display.

  5. Kinect interaction. GestureTek was the pioneer in gesture interaction, but now that there are all sorts of Microsoft Kinect camera hacks (and I mean that positively), several exhibitors showed off their Kinect interaction capability. A woman in the Advantech booth was selecting clothing that appeared on her frame a la augmented reality. When she selected a handbag, the bag moved around with her as she moved her arm. Probably not practical, but could be fun in retail.

  6. Fewer computers/media players. I can get in over my head in a hurry when things get too technical, but I heard from more than one exhibitor how their media player can drive multiple screens, independently off one player. Actineon’s new Wiisper model can run 12 1080p signals off one player. It was voted one of the best new products of InfoComm in a contest sponsored by NEC.

Other notable items:
  • Projection mapping. Christie wowed visitors to its booth with 3-D projection mapping on a pyramid.

  • 3-D. Though less dominant at the show than previous years, there were still plenty of people donning glasses to view 3-D screens. LG actually had a 3-D video wall. Exceptional 3D was showing its glasses-free 3D screen in the X2O booth. Mike Egan said that there would be 821 Exceptional 3D screens running X2O by the third quarter, mostly in convenience stores, groceries and travel plazas.

  • Gorilla Glass. I was pleased to see Corning, manufacturers of Gorilla Glass, exhibiting at InfoComm for the first time. You’ll find Gorilla Glass on the iPhone and hundreds of other mobile devices. It’s thin and durable. It can now be scaled to 55” and 82” multi-touch applications, which were being shown in the Perceptive Pixel booth. If you haven’t seen their “A Day Made of Glass” videos, you’ve got to check them out on YouTube.

  • Turnkey solutions. Since digital signage can be complex, many companies offer an all-in-one solution. EZ Sign TV has doubled LG’s hybrid business, according to Dan Smith, director of signage sales. He said that 90% of screens used for digital signage are still consumer grade, which shows that buyers still need a lot of education when it comes to why consumer grade screens are a short-sighted decision in a commercial application.

  • Projector stacking. NEC was one exhibitor demonstrating how to get very high resolution on a large screen by assigning a projector to one quadrant and seamlessly integrating the image.
What caught your attention at the show or what did I miss? Leave your comments below.
Posted by: David Drain AT 03:57 pm   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  
Friday, 22 July 2011's Tony Hymes interviewed David Drain at InfoComm about DSA's latest endeavor, the DSA Digital Signage ROI Calculator.

Posted by: David Drain AT 11:35 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Wednesday, 02 March 2011

There is no doubt that mobile is having a big impact on the self-service kiosk and digital signage industries. Heck, mobile is having a big impact on every industry. There’s been a lot of talk about whether the increased adoption of smart phones by consumers will render kiosks and digital signage unnecessary. The consensus seems to be that mobile will continue to have an impact, but will not replace the in-store technology.

I just recently converted from a BlackBerry to an iPhone. The iPhone is even more amazing than I thought it would be. And the apps are the main reason. But for me, the main reason I don’t think the mobile phone will replace other customer-facing technologies is that I don’t think people want to download an app for what might be a one-time use.

With over 350,000 apps in the Apple App Store and around 90,000 apps available for Android, it’s already overwhelming. The presence of kiosks allows me to conduct transactions. While I might use my mobile phone to check the price against the web or other stores, for example, I’ll still need a price checker kiosk to verify the in-store price.

I may seek content on my mobile device or have messages pushed to me after opting in, but I may not realize that the content is even available without digital signage in that venue informing me.

Don’t get me wrong; I think that mobile is a very important component in customer engagement, but it’s not the only component. And to ignore other technologies would be foolish, just like it would be foolish to not consider adding a mobile strategy to your offerings.

Posted by: David Drain AT 08:04 am   |  Permalink   |  1 Comment  |  
Sunday, 01 November 2009
For the past 17 years, I’ve built my career in association management. There has been one common question or theme with the members and prospective members I’ve talked to over the years: what is your organization about and why should I be a member?

While the Digital Signage Association is only two years old, it’s no different. In fact, as a newer organization – and in this economy – the question is even more pertinent. I mentioned three words that I felt summed up our association in a nutshell earlier this year and it seemed to strike a chord: education, networking and advocacy.

Let me share some examples of these words in action:

One of the main purposes of the DSA is to educate our members and the industry. Our first activity to this end was the publication of the Best Practices for Digital Signage Content in late 2008, written by the members of our Best Practices Committee, chaired by Keith Kelsen. The publication of that document was followed by our first webinar in January on the same topic. Registrants totaled 860 from 68 countries.

Due to the popularity of that topic, a follow-up webinar on content best practices at the point of sale was held in August. On Tuesday, Nov.3, we’ll hold our third educational webinar of the year. As we’re all making plans for 2010, we thought it would be a good time to talk about “Digital Signage Future Trends.” The webinar also coincides with the release of our latest report by the same name. At last count, we had over 640 registrants.

We plan to hold webinars on a quarterly basis in 2010. These are free and open to anyone.

Since we are often asked to provide speakers for industry events, we established a speakers’ bureau to meet this need. We have provided speakers for the National Retail Federation (NRF), GlobalShop, Strategy Institute, Screenmedia Expo, Shanghai Digital Signage Show, Via Satellite and others.

Of course we provide a substantial amount of education through our website in the form of case studies, white papers, publications, answers to frequently asked questions, and now blogs. Through the work of our Education Committee, you’ll be hearing a lot more from DSA on this subject in the near future.

Many organizations are valuable simply for the networking opportunities they provide. Our members have the chance to meet other members at membership meetings, social functions, through our LinkedIn Group and especially though Advisory Board, committee and task force involvement. If you really want to make the most out of membership, it pays to be involved.

In my position, I get the privilege of making personal introductions. I love matching up members who can connect on a business and even personal level. Sometimes members will contact me to ask me to make a personal introduction to another member, but more often I am having a conversation with someone and say “you know who you ought to meet?” Since I attend many trade shows and talk to members on a daily basis, I have the unique situation of knowing a lot of people and companies.

Finally, DSA serves as advocates of the digital signage industry. When you hear the word advocacy, you may think of political action. While we’re willing to take political action if necessary, no burning industry issue has come to the fore. However, we are actively promoting our association and the benefits of digital signage.

To this end, we had the opportunity to work with a company called Media Planet as they produced a supplement on digital signage in USA TODAY in March with 750,000 copies that reached 2.3 million targeted readers.

We also get contacted by the consumer and business press for quotes and to submit articles. DSA has been featured publications such as Buildings magazine,, Financial Services Technology (FST) and

Since the DSA does not have its own trade show, we develop strategic relationships with many trade shows and conferences covering the digital signage industry as well as those in vertical market segments. Currently, our partners include Digital Signage Expo, DisplaySearch, GlobalShop, InfoComm, In-Store Marketing Expo, KioskCom Self Service Expo/The Digital Signage Show, NRF, Screenmedia Expo, Shanghai Digital Signage Show, Strategy Institute and Worship Facilities Expo (WFX).

As you can see, the DSA has been very active in educating, connecting and promoting our members and the industry over the last two years. I look forward to keeping you abreast of these activities and sharing my observations through this blog.
Posted by: David Drain AT 01:13 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
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