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, 04 December 2009
On Thursday, December 3, we reached a milestone in the young life of the Digital Signage Association. We celebrated our two-year anniversary just last month and we now we have over 400 members. Member #400, The University of Illinois and #401, individual member David Carbert, joined that day.

I remember how we got started.

Some of you may know that I also serve as the executive director for the Self-Service & Kiosk Association (SSKA). In 2007, we decided to start a Digital Signage Council due to the fact that we had a number of members in the digital signage space. We held our first (and only) meeting in Chicago at the Digital Signage Expo.

At the time, we talked about whether it made sense to change the name of SSKA to include digital signage. “You’ll have to get new shirts,” one of the participants joked, since we were wearing SSKA-logoed oxfords at the time.

In the months that ensued, it became apparent that the digital signage industry deserved its own association. We talked to several members of the Council as well as others in the industry and received support for the idea, though admittedly there may have been a few skeptics wondering if we could pull it off. After all, some associations were involved in digital signage even if there wasn’t a dedicated association to it serving all market segments.

We “soft launched” the association in October at KioskCom in New York City, but really didn’t sign anyone up officially until November. By the end of 2007, we had 22 members. By Digital Signage Expo in February 2008, we had 62 members and a 24-person Advisory Board. The board met for the first time at that show. Stu Armstrong was elected as the first president of the Association in the summer of 2008.

So here we are two years later, with 401 members, a 41-person Advisory Board, eight committees and task forces and whole host of activity going on.

One industry blogger wrote to me recently: “As you know I poked at you guys a little in your early days to question the motives and value of the DSA, but to your absolute credit (and I am being sincere) you have made it the real deal.”

Of course we couldn’t do it without all the support of our board, committees and members.

Onward and upward!
Posted by: David Drain AT 01:10 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Friday, 20 November 2009

I just returned from Chicago where I attended Strategy Institute’s “Building Your Successful Digital Signage Business” conference. It was an excellent event with great content. While Strategy has always put on good conferences, some of the conferences in years past contained a couple of sessions with thinly veiled sales pitches. I think it is safe to say that is the case no more.

During the conference, I had the opportunity to meet Chuck Gose of MediaTile. Chuck is an active blogger and frequently tweets on behalf of his company. Since I follow Chuck on Twitter, I felt like I already knew him.

Keith Kelsen, who has moderated previous Strategy events, moderated this one and did a fine job keeping things moving along.

Chuck came up with the Twitter hashtag, #BuildDSbiz, and we both tweeted throughout the conference. While you might want to check out the full stream, I thought I would select some of my favorite tweets from the event. Since Twitter displays the most recent tweets at the top, I have placed these in chronological order so it’s easier to follow.

Here’s a report on the conference, no more than 140 characters at a time:

Day 1

  • Healthy Advice Networks took a "reverse Field of Dreams" approach: got sponsorship before building their digital signage network
  • Healthy Advice Networks owns all screens; 100% funded by advertisers; updated with dial-up connection; no rev share w/ drs. 
  • Healthy Advice Networks started with 125 locations in 2001; they are now in 7,000 locations
  • Kim Luegers of MC Media (Draftfcb): MillerCoors using digital signage to drive consumer demand at restaurants/bars 
  • Metrics and measurement a focus of the questions for the panel of media buyers and planners 
  • Matthew Olivieri, CEO, AdSemble: huge hurdle with digital signage advertising is all the different formats 
  • Kim Luegers, MC Media (Draftfcb): tip to digital signage network ops: "the dollars will flow if we can prove sales increase" 
  • Panel consensus: online/interactive creative translates better to digital signage than TV ads 
  • Luegers re audience recognition tech: "to have true numbers instead of estimates would be the holy grail" 
  • Bill Myers, Indoor Direct: we are entertainment co, not a digital signage co. 2nd person today to say "we're not a DS co."
  • B. Myers, Indoor Direct re sound: "it's a tricky world;" #1 complaint from customer; use attenuator to adj vol based on ambient
  • Indoor Direct worked with Park Media to develop app to remotely manage content and hardware - adj vol, brightness, on/off
  • Indoor Direct has 1000 screens now, plans to add about 1000 per year
  • Greg Argyle, GoGo Cast: pros of SaaS: low capital, employee costs, maintenance
  • Greg Argyle, GoGo Cast: cons of SaaS: relying on provider, custom APIs are costly, if provider goes down so does your signage
  • Sanjay Manandhar of Aerva now presenting "Hosted, SaaS or Hybrid?"
  • Sanjay distilled his presentation down to one slide. wow, you have to be succinct to do that!
  • Sanjay: if you have a small number of screens, you should use SaaS
  • OpenEye and Arbitron up now talking about digital signage value proposition for ad-based and non ad-based networks 
  • Rob Winston, Arbitron: "what good is reach if you don't have the right target?" 
  • Arbitron presenting their out-of-home digital video display study. Free download here: http://bit.ly/VYVKq
  • Bryan Meszaros, OpenEye: there are alternate ways (besides advertising) to create value & drive success 
  • Bill Collins @BCollinsSignMan: Overall, trends are positive – we’re still standing after the recession 
  • Bill Collins: PQ Media has the best forecasts for digital out-of-home advertising. http://bit.ly/2edZYs 
  • Bill Collins: "Arbitron study was a tremendous shot in the arm" 
  • Bill Collins: 3 leaders in digital out-of-home space: outdoor advertising, cinema advertising, medical networks 
  • How big is the digital signage industry? The answer everyone wants to know: about $1.2 billion @BCollinsSignMan 
  • http://twitpic.com/q1eni - At ING Direct Cafe in Chicago

Day 2

  • Jason Katz: digital has changed how we shop in store, from kiosks, handheld scanners, QR codes on pkg, IPTV, etc.
  • Jason Katz: Walmart TV has more viewers than ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX combined
  • Jason Katz: Walmart is incredibly innovative when it comes to technology 
  • Jason Katz: A big brand retailer gets more web visits in one month than a big CPG brand gets all year 
  • Question for Jason Katz: will mobile replace digital signage? A: No, I think there will always be interaction 
  • Up now: higher education panel with Univ. of Illinois and Villanova Univ. 
  • Villanova has 25 digital signage screens around campus in high traffic areas to get info out to students in an entertaining way 
  • Michael Hoffberg, Villanova University: having an emergency notification system is very important even if it's only rarely used 
  • University of Illinois has 60 digital signage screens in 11 departments across campus 
  • Univ of IL plans to have 300+ digital signs in next 2 years; Villanova plans to have 60+ signs in next 2 years 
  • Manolo Almagro of Show & Tell productions up now 
  • Manolo Almagro: user-generated content provides analytics & tracking data. 
  • Principles for User-Generated Content Services http://bit.ly/1Whse2
  • Manolo is talking about multi-player gaming/polling via SMS that can take up to 25 people at one time 
  • Eli Lilly has been involved with digital signage for 13+ years; 64% say they watched the screens at least once a day 
  • Chris Bias, Eli Lilly: 68% said they saw something on the screens that caused them
  • Chris Bias, Lilly: localized content is important (done both manually & with feeds) 
  • Brad Gleeson: key criteria for choosing right display: reliability, durability, image quality, operational and upfront cost 
  • Brad Gleeson: LCD rules the day. Trends: larger, brighter, thinner, higher res, thinner bezels, outdoor 
  • Brad Gleeson: ultra thin, LED backlit screens haven't made it from residential to commercial, but it will 
  • Brad Gleeson: digital signage will really take off when we make it as simple as using a color printer 
  • Vertigo screens for the CTA had to be rugged enough to withstand a blow from hockey stick, beer bottle or baseball bat 
  • Brad Gleeson: new type of screen tech coming out: laser phosphor display (LPD); low power, seamless, flexible sizes 
  • Brad Gleeson: thanks to the iPhone, touch tech (esp. multitouch) is becoming popular; example: Ralph Lauren touch window 
  • Brad Gleeson: outdoor, sunlight readable digital signage is possible.
  • Brad Gleeson: next phase: outdoor interactive digital signage 

 

Posted by: David Drain AT 01:11 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Tuesday, 02 October 2007

At the In-Store Marketing Expo in Chicago last week, I attended a session called “Measuring and Continuously Improving Digital Sign Network ROI.” The presenters were Brian Brooks and Kelly Canavan of 3M.

Brooks, with PhDs in cognitive psychology and neuroscience, has taken his knowledge of how the brain works and applied it to measuring the effectiveness of digital signage. To make his case, Brooks laid the groundwork by reporting on experiments that were done to measure what is going on at the brain level as it relates to branding.
 
In a blind taste test, consumers were asked to describe the Coke or Pepsi they were given versus a “generic” brand. What they discovered is that the taste testers thought that the Coke or Pepsi tasted better than the generic brand even though in fact the “generic” was really Coke or Pepsi. “Branding doesn’t just change our emotional experience, but literally our physical reaction,” he said.
 
Brooks and 3M claim to have developed a method, using “vision science technologies,” to engineer a physical environment to achieve the desired results. In other words, 3M says they can take what they’ve learned in the lab – with humans wearing special goggles detecting eye movement – and apply it to real environments without humans and goggles.
 
As an example, Brooks showed a picture of a typical big box store and with numbers, showed the first four places the eyes would look. In this case, to a static sign on a table, then on to other static signage. The next picture showed the same scene, only this time a digital sign was added. Since the digital sign had a brown color on the page, the eye traveled to other places first and the digital sign last. But once the color on the digital sign was changed to yellow, the eye went to the sign first.
 
As Brooks would explain the science, Canavan would interject or interpret how it was relevant to the business world. When we walk into a store, “it’s not that we’re trying to decide what to look at, we’re trying to decide what to ignore,” explained Canavan.
 
Canavan went on to present case studies of hotel and foodservice environments which benefited from the implementation of digital signage. In the first pilot, a hotel was looking to increase sales at its restaurants. Sales increased 15-35% per day when digital signage content was used to promote the restaurants.
 
In the second pilot, the objective was to drive foot traffic to a specific station in a corporate cafeteria. When that station and a particular product were featured on digital signs, 27.8% more consumers went to the desired station and sales of the featured product increased five times.
 
With these vision science principles and tools, 3M asserts you can determine the best sign location and creative content for those screens. By conducting experiments in the field and analyzing the data, Canavan contends, you can determine the cause-and-effect relationships and make methodical adjustments for improvement.
 
We all know there’s an art to effective marketing, but now there’s a little more science to it.
Posted by: David Drain AT 01:15 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
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