Digital Signage Expo announced the 22 finalists for the 2010 Apex Awards yesterday. I was a judge for the awards, along with several other industry journalists. This is my third year judging the awards, and I’m happy to say that each year it’s nice to see how the technology and application have progressed.
Of course, in each category, there is usually one stand-out installation. Generally I remember news of the installation catching my eye when the news story originally came out in the previous year. I am always interested to see who wins compared to who I thought should win, although I’m told by the awards organizers that all of us judges generally agreed in our ratings. This is a good thing!
When the awards are over, we’ll highlight a few of the significant installations on DigitalSignageToday.com and I may even compare my picks to the actual winners.
The awards are going to be presented at a special awards banquet slated for the opening night of DSE 2010 on Wed., Feb. 24, at Paris, Las Vegas.
Finalists for the DSE 2010 Apex Awards are:
Art Entertainment Recreation
Adler Planetarium — nominated by NEC Display Solutions
NYC & Company — nominated by GestureTek Inc.
The Olympic Experience Museum of the Olympic Committee of Israel — nominated by C-nario
Corporate & Government
Unisys Belgium NV — nominated by X2O Media
Education & Healthcare
BC Children's Hospital Foundation — nominated by Scala Inc.
Indiana University — nominated by Scala Inc.
Northern Virginia Community College — nominated by Cisco Systems
Amsterdam RAI — nominated by Scala Inc.
Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. — nominated by Aerva Inc.
IDS Center - Inland American Office Management — nominated by AlivePromo
ARAMARK — nominated by Wireless Ronin Technologies
Portland Trail Blazers/Rose Garden Arena — nominated by Omnivex Corp.
Zoom Media & Marketing — nominated by LocaModa Inc.
Miele Inspirience Centre — nominated by Scala Inc.
Sprint Studio Store — nominated by Scala Inc.
Turk Telekom Group/TTGaleri — nominated by Dreambox
Maple Leaf Sports + Entertainment — nominated by Digital Display & Communications/Omnivex Corp.
Miami Dolphins/Land Shark Stadium — nominated by Cisco Systems
Miami Heat/American Airlines Arena — nominated by Sony Electronics
Monopoly Media/Zoom TV — nominated by Scala Inc.
The Port Authority of NY & NJ — nominated by Tightrope Media Systems
Underground of Barcelona — nominated by ADmira Digital Networks
Without customers, businesses fail. As we ponder and project what 2010 has in store for us, I look back to my thoughts and predictions from this past year to see what the future could hold.
There are a number of questions that continue to stick out in my mind just as much today as they did last year. “What will happen when companies are finished with the layoffs, the cuts, and downsizing? How will companies rebound, engage their customers, and encourage them to spend again? What will they need to do to engage customers and win their business?” And finally, “what will be the most efficient and effective manner to accomplish this?”
Executives challenged by these questions have much to consider – so, where do they start? They start by considering the total cost of ownership. From strategy development to execution/deployment, operational and maintenance issues to scalability, the total cost of ownership is a critical number for organizations to understand and examine. Understanding what technologies are available to enable their customer engagement strategies, what is needed to justify and implement these solutions (especially in the tough economic climate we face), as well as how they impact the path to purchase is vital to determining a proper ROI.
The true challenges lie in what executives must consider next. How do companies re-engage (or in many cases, engage for the first time) with prospects and customers? And just as important: How can their everyday experiences be turned into exciting and pleasurable experiences, yet also demonstrate an understanding of the time constraints and other limitations people face?
And therein lies my big prediction. Customer engagement will be the name of the game in 2010. Customer engagement will be what provides answers for these important questions. While electronic communication often can be effective and improve both cost and operational efficiencies, communication alone does not address the dilemmas companies face, nor does it do more than suggest reasons for product purchase. It may be a piece of the puzzle, but it does not provide the solution.
What is needed is a focus on engagement and the development of a strategy that ties in not only informational communication, but more importantly, addresses how to engage customers and prospects in a manner that takes them down the path to purchase.
In the coming months, I’ll revisit this prediction and discuss if this prediction is in fact holding true. It should be interesting to see the path our industry takes this year and I think it’s safe to say we’ll have some amazing examples to discuss along the way.
There are now several free PSAs available to digital signage and DOOH networks to help with Haiti disaster relief. Network operators can use the series of simple hi-res videos to help direct funds to Red Cross groups in the U.S. and internationally.
The files are available in hi-def, standard def and Flash in both landscape and portrait orientations. There is also a Final Cut Pro file available to save time for content editors.
In the financial services industry, our target audiences and their respective needs are so segmented that it makes customized messaging via traditional advertising and direct mail tactics expensive and difficult to justify. For a growing number of savvy financial institutions, however, an effective solution lies in a tool they’ve already deployed: their fleet of ATMs.
As convenience features on ATMs continue to evolve, financial institutions are taking advantage of new software applications for their own marketing and sales objectives. Through recent innovations in ATM software that work in concert with a financial institution’s customer relationship management database, banks and credit unions are realizing previously unheard of levels of return on investment for marketing campaigns that target the individual consumer through the ATM.
These “one-to-one marketing” campaigns enable flexibility in messaging, dynamic promotional offers, ease of customer (and non-customer) segmentation, speed-to-market, repurposed creative and the elimination of multiple print runs and call center support. Early adopters have realized response rates of 10 percent and higher for campaigns, far exceeding the 1 percent to 2 percent success rates of traditional direct mail campaigns, and at little to no incremental cost.
It’s all about the “long tail.” Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, first wrote about the long tail phenomenon in 2004 when he observed that our culture is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of high-demand products and markets at the head of the demand curve toward a vast number of niche markets in the tail.
The theory proved true in the example of online book retailer Amazon.com. Anderson noted that while competitor Barnes & Noble carried 130,000 titles in an average brick-and-mortar store, more than half of Amazon’s book sales came from outside its top 130,000 titles. Anderson’s argument then became — in this reference, at least — “the market for books that are not even sold in the average book store is larger than the market for those that are. In other words, the potential book market may be at least twice as big as it appears to be.”
Anderson’s conclusion was “you can’t treat markets as large groups anymore, pushing stuff out that may be relevant only to a few. The natural shape of the demand curve is more niche-oriented than we ever realized.”
The long-tail approach, applying economics to marketing, has proven to be a success in the banking industry. Niche marketing through the ATM channel enables a greater response rate to campaigns at little to no additional investment.
Targeting a specific message to a smaller number of customers can have a huge payoff for financial institutions. And in times of economic crisis when marketing budgets are tightly scrutinized, it’s critical to have immediate and measurable payback with any new initiatives.
Playing off the long tail theory, modern ATM software now enables niche, one-to-one marketing by allowing a financial institution to customize promotional offers and campaigns by very specific customer segments. Depending on the level of sophistication of a financial institution’s CRM system, applications can be executed that call attention to an expiring certificate of deposit, a happy birthday wish, a late mortgage payment notice, a checking account promotion to a non-customer and countless others.
With newer, higher quality screens and greater design functionality, financial institutions wanted to take advantage of the medium for marketing. Initial implementations were static, non-interactive brand messages on-screen. They were predominantly banner ads promoting online banking or a community event the financial institution was sponsoring.
It wasn’t truly one-to-one marketing, but rather a way to get accustomed to the channel and what was possible.
More recently, the focus shifted to getting new customers into the bank. Customer satisfaction enhancements, including the ability to personalize transaction screens for individual customers, such as language preference, receipt or no receipt and fast cash settings, came next. Financial institutions also used the ATM to improve consistency in brand look and messaging with its online presence and other marketing campaigns.
Successful efforts include:
Credit card promotions. A customer can accept a credit card offer right at the ATM screen and the legal verbiage can print directly on the receipt. For financial institutions this means tremendous cost savings in addition to a greater response rate. Eliminated is the time and expense of a direct mail campaign and its associated printing and postage costs. Financial institutions can also be faster to market with the campaign since it can be deployed to an entire ATM network at the push of a button. Improved, as well, is the time required to process forms when the customer responds to a mailing. Most impressive, response rates for marketing at the ATM have proven to be 10 percent and higher versus traditional direct mail at 1 percent to 2 percent.
Customized offers. Within the credit card campaign, parameters can be pre-set inside the financial institution’s customer database to present a specific, customized offer.
The technology can also:
• Detect customers whose CDs are about to come due to receive a message during their next ATM visit with renewal rates or an offer to move that money into a different product;
• Identify users who fall into a particular age demographic to be presented with an offer to apply for a student loan;
• Target ATMs located within a sports arena to show a promotional offer for sports tickets or an opportunity to apply for a credit card featuring the logo of the cardholder’s favorite team.
Dynamic promotional offers. With one-to-one marketing at the ATM, financial institutions can detect a need one day and deploy a campaign to address it the next. And campaigns can be measured and analyzed on a real-time basis. An example is a financial institution that wanted to determine the tipping point for the incentive needed to convince non-customers to accept a specific checking account offer before it rolled out the program en masse. The offer ran for three days rotating three different cash incentive offers, $100, $150 and $200. After the campaign ended, it was determined there was no discernable difference between the number of consumers who accepted the offer when it was $150 compared to when it was $200, so $150 became the offer for the broader campaign.
Marketing to small businesses. ATM cards tied to a business checking account can trigger cross-selling opportunities, such as mobile banking or remote deposit. Offers can be as simple as “click here to learn more about our mobile banking solution,” which, when clicked, would feed the contact information into a database for a call center to follow up at a later time to close the sale.
Generate advertising revenue. Financial institutions can co-brand the ATM screen with local restaurants or other small businesses and generate advertising revenue. Messages can be as timely as that day’s lunch or dinner special.
Community relations. Financial institutions can further embed themselves in the community by promoting their involvement with local charities, and they can post timely public service announcements, such as missing child notifications.
One-to-one marketing campaigns at the ATM are only limited by the robustness of the financial institution’s CRM system, and the ROI has proven to far exceed traditional marketing methods.
Lewis is the director of global marketing for North Canton, Ohio-based Diebold Inc.
A few months ago, I started reading a new blog called “Buzz, not Buzzwords.” And as I continued, I wondered if someone had magically tapped into my stream of consciousness and made a blog out of it.
After covering the digital signage industry for three years and coming from a PR background, I’ve painstaking sifted through many a bad press release and wondered what corporate communication department actually gave it their blessing. Apparently, there was someone else out there thinking the same thing.
That man is Dave Haynes, known to many as one of the veterans of the digital signage industry, having worked for EnQii, Broadsign and now with the Preset Group. But Haynes is also a former journalist, and like me, reads through all the digital signage press releases that hit the wire (both good and bad).
Seeing that a lot of the mar-com in this industry needed some refinement, he launched the Buzzwords blog along side a service called PressDOOH in 2009, which is geared specifically at improving public relations in the digital signage industry.
As an industry journalist, let me say that companies that have taken him up on this offer have reaped some rewards with the digital signage journalism community (as small as we may be). I know when I see an email coming from PressDOOH, I can expect an organized press release, images and quotes that actually have some meaning to them.
That’s because, from my point of view, Haynes writes for the modern multimedia journalist. Here are several examples:
1. Unlike traditional PR, he doesn’t walk the line between providing key information for journalists and making an executive board happy. This means that we don’t have to dodge terms like “best-in-class,” “leading provider” and “next-generation.” (or “bleeding-edge!” Grrrrr!)
2. He takes the most relevant and appealing information and puts it first. Bottom line: I have a reason to keep reading.
3. When possible, he adds images and video to any releases he sends out. This allows us as editors to create a more complete story, and these days, that kind of multimedia reporting is almost expected.
Let me say that not all press releases are bad, but the ones that are, I get the impression that they’re coming from a small company where someone untrained in public relations or professional writing was tasked with throwing something together at the last minute. Or, the release is so jargon-heavy that I can’t understand what the product even does (this usually occurs in release about media players or connectivity hardware).
Now, the Buzzwords blog hasn’t existed without any criticism. I’ve heard several mar-com people knock Haynes for being overly judgmental of their press. For those folks, I encourage them to just take a few minutes to take a look at the blog and be open to a few things that Haynes has written. The advice is coming straight from the source (several of us industry editors are quoted in posts) – and it will help us work better together in the future.
For those who do want to enlist Haynes services, especially with “tradeshow season” coming up, he’s started a new program for the spring called the “Message Tune-Up.” Basically, he’s relaxed his minimum engagement policy for the next few months so you don’t have to do a full-blown campaign, maybe just a few hours of copy editing.
Digital signage offers advertisers and marketers the chance to reach consumers at the point of purchase via a medium that's powerful and appealing.
The latest figures from The Nielsen Company, the outfit that's best known for tracking TV watching and compiling viewership statistics known as ratings, reveal the number of dollars spent on advertising in the United States during the first nine months of 2009 declined 11.5 percent, a drop of $10.9 billion to $83.4 billion, compared to the same period the previous year.
To help put the decline in perspective, consider that this total exceeds by nearly $2 billion the approximate cost of a pair of Nimitz-class super aircraft carriers, like the USS Carl Vinson and the USS John C. Stennis. If the decline proves to have continued on pace in the fourth quarter, throw in another Nimitz-class carrier to visualize the annual decline for 2009. By the way, that's nearly a third of entire U.S. fleet of Nimitz-class carriers.
Hardest hit was the local Sunday supplement advertising category -down 48.3 percent compared to the first three quarters in 2008, Nielsen reported. But many other categories, including spot TV, local and national newspapers, network television, radio and local, national and B-2-B magazines, all suffered double digit declines in advertising spending.
Without question, the precipitous fall reflects the ongoing economic struggles in this country. Looking a little more carefully at the findings also reveals advertisers are reassessing where to spend their dollars. That's nowhere more apparent than in the continuing migration of advertisers away from print. According to Nielsen senior VP for new business development Terrie Brennan, local newspapers saw 12,000 fewer advertisers in their pages last year, while nine of 10 top cable TV categories saw increased ad spending.
Why would so many fewer advertisers spend their precious ad budgets in newspapers, while other advertisers embrace cable TV? One important reason is declining newspaper circulation. In October 2009, The New York Times online reported U.S. newspaper circulation fell 10 percent since the end of 2008. People reading fewer print newspapers turn to new media like the Internet and other traditional sources, such as cable TV.
The uptick in cable advertising also likely can be traced to the ability of cable channels to serve special interests, i.e. cooking, home improvement, movies, news, weather, etc., as well as that of cable operators to allow advertisers to target specific geographic areas of the cable service area.
Beyond these specifics, there's a more basic reason: tough economic circumstances focus the mind, sharpen thinking and force reassessment of spending. It appears from the numbers, that reassessing media selections comes down in favor of the popularity of video in a form that can be targeted to reach desired consumers.
This sort of reasoning is easily transferable to digital signage. It too makes use of all the appealing elements of television. It too can be used to target specific, desirable demographics. But unlike cable TV, digital signage also offers the added benefit of reaching shoppers at the point of purchase -or more accurately at the point where a buying decision is being made. Advertisers forced by the recession to sharpen their thinking and reassess media choices should keep in mind that more than 70 percent of consumer buying decisions are made at retail, according to the Point of Purchase Advertising Institute.
Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Given today's economic climate, advertisers can no longer afford to make tried-and-true media choices. Declining budgets are forcing them to reassess their options in a bid to remain as effective as they have been in the past with fewer dollars to spend. Mindlessly remaking old media decisions would be insane, and ignoring how digital signage can help achieve desired goals would be downright crazy.
Editor’s Note: All posts from LinkedIn have been copied exactly as they appeared in the discussion forum.
Over the last several months, I’ve been leaning more on social-networking outlets for news. I’ve come across some interesting tweets on Twitter, and in-depth discussions on LinkedIn through the groups I’m involved with.
One group discussion, initiated several months ago within a group called “ATM Group” grabbed my attention. The topic: “What do you think is the greatest challenge facing the ATM industry over the next 2 years?”
Some of the responses might surprise you.
Mark Smith, business development manager for Long Beach, Miss.-based Triton Systems of Delaware Inc., pings security as the hottest issue. He also suggests that the United States needs to seriously consider making a move to EMV, the Europay, MasterCard, Visa standard that mandates chip and PIN use in Europe and other parts of the world.
Smith writes: “Security will begin to play a major role in deployment strategy. From physical devices that prevent ATMs from being removed from a location, to added surveillance to assure all who access the ATM are using the device legitimately. In bad economic times, we need to be concerned about increased attacks on ATMs and the individuals that load cash in to ATMs. We must remain vigilent and learn from the other parts of the world that are currently dealing with very sophisticated criminal operations.”
Jasbir Anand, fraud product manager at Actimize, agrees that fraud losses will be the most devastating realities facing the industry in the near future. But Anand does not see physical ATM security as being the primary concern, as Smith does; rather, Anand sees massive data-security breaches that compromise PINs and card numbers as posing the greatest threats.
Anand writes: “I believe the largest risk to ATM as a channel is fraud losses as a result of Mass data compromises. Mass data compromises involve the theft of millions of cards track data which and can also include PINs. We still have not seen the organized crime groups that perpetrate counterfeit card fraud work in conjunction with hackers that steal data. Hackers are still selling stolen card data in smaller batches. If these groups get together the potential fraud losses will be significant enough to bankrupt smaller issuers and also seriously erode consumer confidence in the ATM channel.
”Individual attacks on ATMs, although a serious problem, are well managed and limited to consumers that use a compromised device in the time period that it was compromised. Existing strategies to identify the common point of purchase and reissue high risk cards works well for individual points of compromise, but cannot be used for mass compromise scenarios where tens of millions of cards are compromised.”
Andrew French, ATM sales manager at TestLink Services, sees the advent of prepaid-card dispensing and contactless-card technology taking more center-stage positions.
French writes: “I do agree that data security is the largest risk. However, i think the expansion of prepaid technologies, contactless payment systems and the lack of international standards on compliance will also create challenges.”
Eddy Truitt, vice president at On Site Financial Inc., says processors are likely in the near future to put more demands on ATMs and the companies that deploy them to comply with higher security standards.
Truitt writes: “I think after another major security breach on the processors level — they will require better security on that side, then we are going to go thru another ridiculous des- encryption-equip upgrade, then 6 months later, Visa will decide it is not good enough for them, so there will be another 2 tier equipment upgrade — then we will probably be getting away from mag readers in the next 3 years too and moving towards the smartcard.
I will bet anyone a cheeseburger thats how it goes down.”
I agree that security, both physical and system-based, will be top-of-mind for ATM deployers. But I don’t know that I would consider security the greatest challenge. In my mind, the implementation of advanced technology poses the greatest challenge — not in that it will necessarily be difficult to launch advanced technology, but in that deploying advanced technology will no longer be an option, but a necessity.
While basic cash dispensers have their role to play, over the next two to five years, consumers will demand more functions. It’s that simple.
…won’t ever been seen in the marketplace. That’s because Intel’s “proof-of-concept” digital signage application, like a concept car, is designed to show the capabilities of “tomorrow’s digital signage,” using today’s processors and software.
For those who haven’t been paying attention to the computing giant’s foray into digital signage, Intel last week showed a multi-screen retail digital signage installation at CES. The nearly eight-foot-tall structure made an appearance again this week at Intel’s booth at the National Retail Federation’s BIG Show in New York City.
I spoke with Intel digital signage director Jose Avalos yesterday while he was at the show, and he said that the proof-of-concept is the first step in a six-month push from Intel to make its digital signage efforts more apparent to the public. Based on the conversation, I understand the efforts consist of three main things at this point:
1. The retail proof of concept, which serves as a way to let the retail industry know what is possible through the use of digital signage. As Avalos said in the interview, the concept won’t be put into production, and the technology is still several years off, but the processing units and the software platform is in fact available on the market today. The concept essentially has three screens – two back-to-back LCDs and a clear holographic screen that is supposed to support augmented-reality-like shopping experiences. It’s also equipped with a CognoVision anonymous audience metrics system which gathers audience demographic data and relays it to advertisers. The applications can be left to the retailers, but Intel suggested it could be used to explore merchandise, find out about promotions, submit feedback on products, read customer reviews, view past purchasing histories and share information.
Here is a video of the concept to give you a better idea:
We have a new member of our team at here NetWorld Alliance (my employer and the company that operates the Digital Signage Association), and honestly we are very excited. Andrew Davis has been with Condé Nast, Time Warner and the New Yorker. Below is the press release issued by NetWorld this morning:
NetWorld Alliance, a growing business-to-business publisher with properties including Web portals, executive summits, and associations, is pleased to announce that Andrew Davis, a former Regional Director for Condé Nast and Time Warner, is joining the company as Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing. He will be based in the company’s Louisville office.
Andrew Davis has over 20 years of experience in sales and management with a number of well established publishing companies. A 13-year veteran of Time Warner’s Entertainment Weekly, Davis was also the founding Publisher of Modern Luxury’s The Atlantan and Atlantan Brides magazines, leading luxury lifestyle and bridal magazines in the greater Atlanta market. Most recently, he opened the first Southeast office for The New Yorker, a Condé Nast Publication. In his new post, Mr. Davis will provide his knowledge to support the sales and marketing departments and all nine of NetWorld’s portals, four associations, and three executive summits.
“We’re extremely fortunate to have someone with Andrew’s expertise join our team,” said Dick Good, CEO of NetWorld Alliance. “He has the kind of experience with large accounts and agencies that our company needs. While we had a solid 2009, we’re looking forward to Andrew taking us to a new level of profitability in 2010 and beyond.”
The strategic addition of Mr. Davis replaces ten year veteran of NetWorld Alliance, Bob Fincher, who will be spearheading the company’s ambitious media launch into green residential construction later this year.
I’m making my prediction for the top disruptive technology for 2010, and that is 3D. Three dimensional movies are nothing new – they were around before I was even born. And admittedly they’ve made leaps and bounds in the digital era (many are claiming Avatar to be a defining moment in cinema technology), but on the advent of CES 2010, 3D is looking like its going to go somewhere its never gone before – into the home.
Several announcements over the last few months point to the fact that in-home 3D is about to become a reality, teetering on a cusp much like HDTV did a decade ago.
For one, screen manufacturers are developing high-definition 3D screens designed for consumer use. LG announced in early December a 23-inch model, and rumors are going around the blogs about models from other manufacturers shown at CES this week that will come in at about $1,300.
It also looks like we’ll have the content to support those screens. Just today we learned that ESPN is going to launch a full-3D channel this summer during the World Cup, which will broadcast 85 games through June 2011. The channel will go dark when a 3D event is not being broadcast.
Also, the Discovery Channel, Sony and Imax signed a letter of intent today to create a joint venture to create the US’s first full-time 3D cable channel. According to USA Today, “the channel initially will feature lots of shows about science and nature, much of it from Discovery's and Imax's libraries. But the partners plan to license TV rights to general entertainment 3D movies, music videos, and game-related content.”
This is a big step that will require a lot of investment from the networks, as 2D shows can’t be converted into 3D automatically. The show will have to be shot twice with two different kinds of cameras. For ESPN, this means that they will need two film crews at each game, and even two sets of announcers.
The success of 3D will also initially hang on the cable, phone and satellite providers, who have the option of carrying the channels and how much of a premium they will make consumers pay to watch them. My guess is that big companies like DirectTV and Comcast will jump on board right away but charge a high premium, while more local providers will hold out for awhile.
What’s also important here is to watch how this technology impacts our industry. Since we can’t wear 3D glasses everywhere we go, out-of-home 3D applications have to be autostereoscopic, also known as no-glasses 3D. This is achieved by placing several lens filters on an LCD over specially-designed content. If you’ve been paying attention over the past several years, you’ll have noticed that the technology is getting better, meaning that the images look a “lot more 3D” than they did several years ago.
As they say in the media business…watch this space!
The digital signage has no shortage of leaders. If it did, the year-over-year expansion the industry has enjoyed wouldn’t have occurred. Already, especially as economic signs are trending better, 2010 is shaping up to be an action-packed year. As we head into it, here’s a quick look at five execs poised to make much of that action happen.
Keith Kelsen, CEO, The 5th Screen
Not only has the former chairman of MediaTile launched a new company, called The 5th Screen, he will release “Unleashing the Power of Digital Signage: Content Strategies for the 5th Screen,” a book to be published by Focal Press. I was able to preview a few chapters recently, and can say the book is unique in that it’s the first to focus strictly on digital signage content and usage strategies. An accompanying Web site allows users to see video examples of content discussed in the book. It will be interesting to see how the book is received and what Kelsen does with the 5th Screen company. Kelsen’s still not saying.
Pierre Richer, president, NEC Display Solutions
All eyes in the digital out-of-home world will be on NEC and company president Pierre Richer, at least for the first part of 2010. In November the company launched its VUKUNET video ad distribution platform, which was touted as a way to unify the 300-plus ad-based digital signage networks already in existence. This, of course, will require VUKUNET to “sign up” enough of those networks to gain critical mass sufficient to make the tool beneficial to its users. In other words, will it achieve the “universal” status it’s going for?
Lou Giacalone Jr., CoolSign
Giacalone might be one of the most passionate digital signage advocates around when it comes to the overall well-being of the industry. He has said boldly that the industry needs to make a lot of changes if it is going to “get out of the playground,” and says that 2010 is a “year for the industry to get back on track.” Giacalone said he is going to work through several organizations in order to bring more education and cohesion to the industry in 2010, including the POPAI Technical Standards Committee and the Digital Signage Association, in which he plans to submit his name for presidency.
Brad Gleeson, president and CEO, Vertigo Digital Displays
Brad Gleeson is a self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur. Like Giacalone, he’s a long-time industry veteran, having started the first digital signage-specific distributor, ActiveLight. Based on his previous successes, it will be interesting to see where he takes Vertigo Digital Displays, his newest endeavor. Gleeson and partner Scott Hix, along with help from Chilin Technology, purchased the outdoor digital signage company in October 2009. http://www.digitalsignagetoday.com/article.php?id=23177
Jason Cremins, CEO, signagelive
One of the bigger names in digital signage software in the U.K. is signagelive, a product of Essex–based Remote Media. There, CEO Jason Cremins has built the small company into an innovative and successful SaaS-based platform. Cremins has solidified all kinds of strategic partnerships for the company, as well as experimented and implemented emerging digital signage software technologies such as Twitter content feeds, mobile integration and triggered retailing. Look for Remote Media to land more content and distribution deals in the next year.
SEE INDUSTRY FEEDBACK AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS STORY ...
The last year has been eventful for the ATM industry. From the seemingly sudden decision from NCR Corp. to move its base of more than 100 years from Ohio to Georgia to the eventual collapse of the much-touted and anticipated acquisition of United States retail ATM manufacturer Triton Systems of Delaware Inc. by Korea-based Nautilus Hyosung, I look back on 2009 with a little relief. We've come a long way, and it appears that 2010 will be a year for the industry to use some of the progress it's made for improvement.
After reflection and a scan of the year's story archives, I've listed the top five best occurrences and the one greatest let-down. Even then, I have to acknowledge that some positive things have come from that so-called worst event. So, let's take a look.
No. 1 on my list of the top-five best things to happen in 2009 is NCR Corp.'s move to Atlanta. I admit that when the story broke in June, I was a bit skeptical. Who just picks up and moves the corporate headquarters of a multibillion dollar company from one state to another, especially after more than 100 years? There had to be something rotten or awry, I insisted to myself.
But I see the move as a positive, and here is why: The state of Georgia and the city of Columbus, Ga., where the company's 340,000-square-foot manufacturing facility for the SelfServ ATM line is located, gave NCR a number of financial incentives to relocate. And companies like NCR need to look for incentives.
The move also benefits Georgia, since the facility expects to employ more than 800 people, once it reaches capacity. And here's the other thing that makes the move cool and significant: It signifies NCR's commitment to bringing the manufacture of its ATM line back in-house, in the United States. It means an end to so much outsourcing, and that's a good thing for the industry and the end-user, i.e., NCR's financial-institution customers.
No. 2 on my list: The rebranding of TRM Corp. to Access to Money, following TRM's April 2008 acquisition of Access to Money. Each of these independent ATM deployers had a lot to offer the other · TRM's portfolio and locations, Access to Money's reputation and savvy to manage and operate high-transacting and profitable ATMs.
Let's face it. TRM was struggling, and had been for quite some time. Frankly, I don't know how the company was able to keep itself afloat for so long. To its credit, in 2008, TRM managed to trim some fat, make some executive shifts at the top and regain a focus that had been blurred after years of spreading its business far too thin. All those years of financial struggle really hurt the brand's reputation. By taking on the Access to Money name, the one-time ATM giant is able to take another shot at greatness.
Following the June 2009 announcement to rebrand, TRM president and CEO Richard Stern said:
"This is the final step in the long transition process associated with our acquisition of Access to Money. While the TRM name had been associated with leadership in the ATM industry in its early days, we believe that the name Access to Money not only describes our primary service, but is also readily identifiable with our business of distributing and servicing ATM machines. Our new name provides us with a great opportunity to rebrand the company with the name associated with our operational excellence and industry leadership."
No. 3: Diebold Inc.'s focus on integrated services. In April, Diebold invited a host of journalists and industry analysts to its headquarters in North Canton, Ohio. The purpose was to announce a shift in the company's focus from products to services. After 150 years, the move marked a significant shift and a trend that is being seen throughout the industry.
Germany-based Wincor Nixdorf AG also has spent the last few years focusing greater attention on outsourced services, especially in the United States, where the company's service coverage has been relatively weak (when compared with NCR and Diebold).
Diebold CEO Tom Swidarski told journalists and industry analysts in April that Diebold expects to evolve into a company that is more focused on services than hardware. For the last five years, the company has striven to reach the nearly 50-50 revenue mix it now has between products and services. Over the next five years, Diebold will push to hit a 75-25 revenue mix of services and products, respectively.
2010 will mark a year of continual ATM replacement and upgrade, as FIs the world over continue their migration to automated ATM deposits, cash recycling and mobile-device interaction with the ATM. Once those upgrades ramp up, over the next five years, the replacement cycle won't occur quite so frequently. These new, hyper ATMs are expensive, high-tech and easy to upgrade based on modular designs. Bankers aren't going to replace them in the future; rather, they're going to upgrade them.
What that means for ATM manufacturers such as Diebold is that solely relying on products for revenue, beyond sales in emerging/developing markets, is corporate suicide. An opportunity, however, lies in the complexity of this new hardware. Bankers can't afford to service these ATMs, nor do they want to. They'd much rather rely on the experts, and that's where outsourced, integrated services come in.
No. 4: Canada's nearly complete migration to EMV. Will the United States ever get the clue? Canada's completion of the migration to the Europay, MasterCard, Visa standard, which admittedly will take a few more years, is going to rock the United States card market. The advanced security of chip-and-PIN technology already is pushing more fraud to the United States, where the feeble and inferior magnetic stripe still reigns.
At the moment, U.S. FIs don't have a great deal of incentive to make the shift from mag stripe to EMV. Coupled with a perceived lack of fraud is the fact that EMV/chip technology also has not lived up to its full potential, where the storing of additional information such as biometric or additional account details is concerned.
Some experts in Canada, such as Wendy Macpherson of Interac, Canada's payments association, say U.S. FIs may have bigger worries than they think.
"I think that one reason the U.S. has not moved to EMV is that the financial institutions there might not have a good handle on exactly how much fraud there is," she said. "Because the country has so many small FIs, and so many FIs overall, it's hard to really have a handle on what's going on everywhere."
And No. 5 on my list of the best stories of 2009 is Global Axcess' (dba Nationwide Money Services') decision to break into the DVD-rental kiosk business. I know having a focus on a core competency is critical, but if anyone can pull off a shift toward a new, yet complementary, business market, it's George McQuain, GAXC's CEO. I've watched George turn GAXC around, pulling the once-struggling ISO from the depths of debt and imminent death to profitability and a company with vision.
McQuain in September told ATMmarketplace.com that the decision to move into the DVD space really isn't that much of a business leap. However, he argues that getting into the DVD-kiosk business has more nuances than most ATM deployers appreciate. Besides, self-service DVD rentals have been tried and proven. They work. Self-service financial services, such as check cashing and billpay, however, are still hit or miss in the market.
"The business model for DVD rental is very similar to today's ATM-placement model, McQuain said. "You've got the cost of the machine and the cost of getting that machine installed. You've got the cost of the inventory, which corresponds to cost of cash. And then you have maintenance and the cost to conduct the transaction."
So what made the worst story of 2009? The collapse of the acquisition deal between Nautilus Hyosung and Triton.
If these two companies had joined forces, they would have created a powerhouse in the retail ATM space. Triton, a dominant and well-respected brand in the United States, and Nautilus, which is pushing to make a stronghold in the U.S. retail and financial markets — the companies could have made some waves. But concerns about an industry monopoly by the Department of Justice led the two entities to sever their ties and call off the $63 million deal.
James Phillips, director of North American sales for Triton, said at the time that both companies had been going through the antitrust review with the DOJ and just decided to walk away.
"It looked like impediments with the DOJ were going to continue on, and it was better to just stop and go our separate ways," Phillips said.
Phillips said that had it gone through, the acquisition would have made an impact on a global scale.
"Nautilus and Triton are very strong in certain markets globally," he said. "I think there was some good synergy to be had on a worldwide basis in various markets overseas. Certainly in the U.S. there would have been some synergies on the financial equipment side and on the retail ATM side, also."
But all stories have two sides, and some positives did emerge from this let-down. First, had the acquisition gone through, it likely would have meant the end of Tranax Technologies Inc., which once distributed ATMs in the United States for Nautilus Hyosung. Tranax would not have been able to compete with the Triton-Nautilus powerhouse. And having diversity in the market keeps everybody honest.
Also, since the deal's collapse, Triton has opened a new servicing arm, ATMGurus, and reinstated its focus on the retail ATM market. I see both decisions as positives, not only for Triton but for the industry overall.
Looking back on the year 2009: It started with ...
Oil $41.58 a barrel — today it is $78.87
Gasoline $1.85 a gallon — today it is $2.45
The won — a year ago the won was 1,372 to the U.S. dollar — today the Won is 1,164 to the dollar.
Dow Jones — a year ago was 8,174 — today it is 10,571
NASDAC a year ago was 1,504 — today it is 2,291
2009 was a radical year for a lot of industries and a lot of companies. I look at 2009 as a year that experienced a lot of changes — some good — some not so good. For Tranax it was a defining year. The year was shaped by a competitive market — tight money for ATM investing; vault cash was tight; credit card rates were through the roof; and states attacked the industry trying to milk additional tax money.
It was no secret that my competitors would have relished my death. (They sure tried hard enough.) It was definitely a recipe for doom. And the fact that Tranax not only "made it" but managed to have a banner year of more than 8,000 units sold — far above expectation from both the competition and upper Tranax management — speaks volumes.
So how did Tranax survive? It all started with the introduction of new products that fit the market — at the right time. And it was boosted by a group of distributors that saw the need not only to keep Tranax in the market for their competitive edge, but also for the innovation that the "new" Tranax brought to the market. This survival is in no way linked to what NH and Triton did — or how they could have combined in the market to "kill Tranax."
Tranax has the right products in the right place at the right time at the right price — that is what allows Tranax to survive 2009 and beyond — nothing to do with a merger or buyout. Yep. A lot of ups and downs in 2009.
I hope that your 2010 is great — and that next year Tranax will be mentioned in the top 5 good things that happened in the ATM industry.