March 2012 Question of the Month

April 11, 2012

"What technology did you see at DSE 2012 that you believe will be of most value to the industry, and what didn’t you see that you would like the technology providers to introduce, and why?"

Answers:

Jim Velco, The John Marshall Law School

I was encouraged to see more focus on interactivity because it is the way forward for digital signage.  Without interactivity the industry could st

Jack Sullivan, Starcom Worldwide

I liked any technology that utilized mobile and tablet platforms.  When digital signage links with these other very personalized gadgets I see comm

Linda Hofflander, Saddle Ranch Digital

Since I live on the content strategy and content creation side of digital screen media I think there is tremendous value in cloud storage and pushi

Jeremy Gavin, ScreenFeed

I believe the further expansion of the support of Media RSS as a standard delivery method for dynamic and syndicated content is extremely valuable.

Loren Goldfarb, Everwell/MediVista Media

I saw two technologies at DSE that have the potential to bring real value to end users.  

Bryan Meszaros, OpenEye

DSE is clearly becoming an essential showcase for the "who's who" in the industry!

Dan Alpern, Alpern Media

At DSE 2012, I thought the training sessions on the show floor and formal education taking place in meeting rooms will be of most value to the indu

Randy Dearborn, MGM Resorts International

Did see: large format multitouch screens that actually work.
Didn't see: digital sign integration to mobile devices.

Lawrence Chang, Calgary Telus Convention Centre

One technology that I saw at the DSE 2012 that I think may hold a lot of promise, is virtual reality.   With the proliferous use of smart phones, t

Len Dudis, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

Two technologies stood out for me as having the most opportunity to impact the future direction of digital signage.

Peter Vrettas, EDR Media, LLC

Value was everywhere at DSE 2012, but here are three developments that caught my eye: (1) the latest generation of facial recognition software that

Adrian Weidmann, StoreStream Metrics, LLC

The fact that DirectTV made its presence felt at the DSE was noteworthy.

John Miller, Lamar Advertising

The technology at the recent Digital Signage Expo was very good.  The interactive displays are quite nice and getting better.

Chuck Strottman, RMG Networks

DIRECTV’s new Message Board product has got to be among the most game-changing technologies on display at DSE this year.

Anne White, PRN

Gesture based technology, like Kinect, opens up exciting new possibilities for engaging and informing consumers, but a new piece of technology is n

Jonathan Brawn, Brawn Consulting

I’m going to give a controversial answer to this one.

Gary Halpin, Agency 225

I saw a couple of very cool 'new tech' toys, one was the many different Android devices, mainly because they were less expensive and smaller.  We s

Pat Hellberg, The Preset Group

Much of what we saw at DSE represented incremental improvements - faster, brighter, smarter, thinner.

Jim Velco

Chief Technology Officer, Information Technology Services
The John Marshall Law School

I was encouraged to see more focus on interactivity because it is the way forward for digital signage.  Without interactivity the industry could stagnate and may no longer be seen as an innovative technology; digital signage might be seen as a useful tool (menu boards), but not innovative. 

I would like to see the hardware providers work on better touch interaction, preferably capacitive touch screens because that is what most consumers are familiar and comfortable using.  By meeting the user expectations for a touch screen experience, the industry can ensure relevance.

Jack Sullivan

SVP, OOH Activation Director
Starcom Worldwide

I liked any technology that utilized mobile and tablet platforms.  When digital signage links with these other very personalized gadgets I see communication, information gathering, and commerce expanding at a fast pace.  Digital signage in and by itself can not do the heavy lifting expected of today's and tomorrow's ad campaign's.  It requires the combined power of place-based messages with the ability to act and purchase.  I see digital signage being that portal that sends other wireless messaging to these other personalized gadgets to enhance a more custom ad that the consumer can act on immediately.

That is the type of technology I was most interested in seeing and exploring at this years exciting DSE show.  Technology that benefits today's and tomorrow's consumer. 

Linda Hofflander

Saddle Ranch Digital

Since I live on the content strategy and content creation side of digital screen media I think there is tremendous value in cloud storage and pushing tools seen at the show; and I like the LED back lighting on screens to enhance color and viewing.

Jeremy Gavin

Head Content Chief, ScreenFeed

I believe the further expansion of the support of Media RSS as a standard delivery method for dynamic and syndicated content is extremely valuable.  We've been pushing this standard through the delivery of our products for a number of years.  Its been surprising to find how when faced with the request to provide an automated way to deliver a daily video weather forecast, or video news that updates throughout the day - how many digital signage software solutions fall short.  Its the job of every reputable software solution to be able to solve this for customers who simply want to include dynamic content that updates automatically without them having to take manual steps to refresh the content - beyond a simply XML data feed.

We've been excited to see more and more support for Media RSS in 2011 and expect that continued adoption in 2012 will make life easier for network operators, software companies and content providers.

Loren Goldfarb

COO, Everwell/MediVista Media

I saw two technologies at DSE that have the potential to bring real value to end users.  

1.  The cost of hardware, while continuing to decline, is an impediment to large-scale adoption of signage solutions.    I saw one vendor exhibit a $199 ARM-based player.   I had hoped to see more.  I'm excited about the potential for ARM-based products to reduce the cost of media players without forcing software vendors to compromise on features.

2.  RMG's DirectTV Message Board is the first product I've seen that allows a small business owner to adopt signage without having to buy hardware specific to the purpose; any DirectTV customer can implement signage with nothing more than the DirecTV box they already have.   At this point, Message Board offers limited functionality, but for the bar or retail store that just wants the opportunity to promote products while customers watch regular TV, it's a compelling offer.

Bryan Meszaros

Founder & Managing Partner
OpenEye

DSE is clearly becoming an essential showcase for the "who's who" in the industry! Walking the floor has transformed from a "yea that's interesting" moment into a "WOW, I need another look" experience.  Each year it's amazing to see the variety of technologies on display which truly support the growth of this industry.

It's almost an impossible task to narrow down the best of the best, but for us a few standout applications would be: The Nanolumens displays, as we see a lot of potential in creatively using their technology in high-impact & design conscious retail environments. Software groups like Symon and ComQi provide a great flexible software platform that helps create a multi-channel user experience and also groups like Flypaper further demonstrate how great content doesn't need to take forever to create.

We are obviously beginning to see a convergence of technologies and without question some vendors did embrace the use of mobile and interactivity. For 2013 I hope a larger array of vendors continue to adapt their platforms to provide greater flexibility to connect and control multiple channels from a single source.

Dan Alpern

Marketing Director, Alpern Media

At DSE 2012, I thought the training sessions on the show floor and formal education taking place in meeting rooms will be of most value to the industry! It's not the technology, but the understanding, use of, and efficient application of technology by empowered decision-makers that is the biggest hurdle right now for the growth of digital signage. I would like to see the technology providers introduce and sponsor more training and information for end-users that are new to DSE and digital signage to help grow the industry beyond those of us who are already interested, excited and involved.

As for technology, bring on NFC (near field communication)! Let's see digital information that I can bring to my smart phone/portable computing device on demand to truly realize the full promise of the digital age.

Randy Dearborn

VP Multimedia @Guest Technology
MGM Resorts International

Did see: large format multitouch screens that actually work.
Didn't see: digital sign integration to mobile devices.

Lawrence Chang

IT Mgr, Calgary Telus Convention Centre

One technology that I saw at the DSE 2012 that I think may hold a lot of promise, is virtual reality.   With the proliferous use of smart phones, tablets, and other devices, you can start to see that contextual advertising, targeted to a specific audience, looking for the hidden ‘easter egg’, combining social media, mobile devices, and digital signage into one experience. 

I’m not sure that I can answer as to what I didn’t see – the DSE was quite comprehensive; but for our own purposes at the Convention Centre, tying in RFID or NFC badges with personalized information (i.e.  Schedules for an attendee of a conference) popping up on a digital signage system would be interesting to see in action. 

Len Dudis

Director, IT
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

Two technologies stood out for me as having the most opportunity to impact the future direction of digital signage. First was the hand motion interactive displays. Many of us have been very focused on how to make our displays more interactive.  We have tried keyboard, mouse, touchpad, and touch screens to enable the interactivity, but many of those solutions were not conducive to our client desires or our particular environmental factors. Hand motion interactivity breaks through the barrier of having to physically touch the display in some way and opens up a huge realm of very realistic possibilities.

Second, transparent LCD displays, while not new this year have proliferated into several new applications such as vending machines and store displays. I believe this is another technology that has great opportunity for continued impact on display applications.

What I would like to see - Being part of a business that has to deal with external screens in a harsh outdoor environment, I would like to see continued advancement in outdoor displays that don't require bulky enclosures and external cooling.

Peter Vrettas

CEO, EDR Media, LLC

Value was everywhere at DSE 2012, but here are three developments that caught my eye: (1) the latest generation of facial recognition software that reports on viewers’ age, gender, and reactions – all information that allows network operators to continuously improve their content strategy and messaging; (2) the innovative use of tablet technology at restaurants, which could help secure digital signage as the preferred communications solution for an industry that faces cost and compliance challenges; and (3) more content and sources of content than ever, allowing networks to truly fulfill their potential to engage, relate, change behavior, and stay fresh.
For DSE 2013, I would love to see more applications that help build the digital signage market at “the back of the house” – training, informing, motivating, managing, and retaining valued employees.  

Adrian Weidmann

Founder & Principal
StoreStream Metrics, LLC

The fact that DirectTV made its presence felt at the DSE was noteworthy. Given their business model and ability to bring affordable satellite delivery and bandwidth opens up some very exciting digital signage application opportunities to anyone ever interested in having a ‘digital sign’. This opens the door to small business owners to readily incorporate digital signage into their retail environments. It’s always interesting to get ‘under the hood’ insights from technology providers. Unfortunately, many of these technical ‘jewels’ and nuances that may very extremely relevant are lost due to the cacophony of features and functions that are very difficult to absorb as they all begin to sound and appear to be the same.

John Miller

VP & Director, National Sales
Lamar Advertising

The technology at the recent Digital Signage Expo was very good.  The interactive displays are quite nice and getting better. The software facilitating the creative process was also strong. I was surprisingly impressed by the freezer displays that can run product promotions to all nearby shoppers.  However it seems that the real stars of the show have always been the hardware manufacturers who are enticing the network operators with the newest technology.  They are innovative, constantly presenting new ideas in search of an audience.

But the network operators are still struggling to decide the best direction for the industry.  Several are trying to decide if digital signage is a primary or secondary media.  Should they be considered a part of the television business or are they more like outdoor billboards? 

This leads me to the second part of your question.  The technology that I would like to see is the one that will bring clarity for the network operators to find their niche and effectively compete in the marketplace for the attention of the mobile public. Currently they are not clear which way to go. The technology providers are trying to help but with little effect. The situation reminds me of the lines from Alice in Wonderland.

Alice went on. `Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?'

`That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.

`I don't know--' said Alice.

`Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat.

Until the network operators can identify how their niche is constructed, the technology activity is much like the commotion going around in Alice in Wonderland.  It is attractive and enthralling but rarely meaningful.

Chuck Strottman

Vice President, Corporate Marketing
RMG Networks

DIRECTV’s new Message Board product has got to be among the most game-changing technologies on display at DSE this year. In the spirit of full disclosure, my company, RMG Networks,  did work closely with DIRECTV to create this product and bring it to market. But trying to look at it from a neutral point of view,  I still believe that this technology is going to have a tremendous impact on the industry and will place digital signage within reach of thousands of small/medium sized businesses.

Anne White

SVP Content Strategy & Creative, PRN

Gesture based technology, like Kinect, opens up exciting new possibilities for engaging and informing consumers, but a new piece of technology is not going to bring about the evolution we need to effectively move this industry forward. What we need is standardization across technologies so that network owners can build a network that performs in all the ways that are most meaningful to them, without compromise, without confusion… “this needs to be easier” is what I heard over and over again from DSE 2012 attendees.

Jonathan Brawn

Principal, Bran Consulting

I’m going to give a controversial answer to this one. I didn’t see anything in terms of technology that really changed the game in any real meaningful way. It all appeared to be incremental updates on existing products. However, if I had to pick something, the new high brightness Dynascan flat panels, that finally offer a competitive product to LED video displays. Most of what I feel we need as an industry isn’t related to technology, but actually to the concept of analytics. Intel is pushing things closer in this direction, but we need the ability and understanding to provide true metrics for the audience.

Gary Halpin

President, Agency 225

I saw a couple of very cool 'new tech' toys, one was the many different Android devices, mainly because they were less expensive and smaller.  We saw one from Park Media that would fit in your pocket, and very inexpensive ($249).  We are currently testing these, and at that cost point, they are very attractive and much easier to roll out a network. 

Another intriguing piece of technology was wireless HD.  Again, something that we would have to test, but we go into so many environments that have nice flat screen TV's but coax cable running to them, so this technology could be huge, as we certainly try to get our customers to run HD in their locations.

Overall, it was nice to see a lot of the technology continuing to come down in price while getting better overall.  I was a little disappointed in some of the software, especially the ones that only run off of PC's.  For a creative agency such as ours, we are Mac dominant and I wouldn't even consider that technology.

And then there are the companies (won't name names) that are just ridiculously priced.  I suppose, based on my years at Blockbuster HQ, that a large company might associate a better product, but that is definitely not always the case, at least from our 20+ years of experience in this industry.

Pat Hellberg

Principal, The Preset Group

Much of what we saw at DSE represented incremental improvements - faster, brighter, smarter, thinner. We also saw a lot of copycat work, particularly when it came to transparent doors on fridges and vending machines. Of all of that, probably the tech that will be most valuable are the ultra thin bezels that are now quite common on displays. Video walls are a big growth area and there will be even more of them because they ugly seams are disappearing.

We also liked some of what we saw in commodity content creation, like Wave. But everyone needs to keep in mind that technology covers off some basic needs but is no replacement for genuine creative.

If we knew what the industry should be inventing, I suppose we'd do it ourselves. However, we were surprised how little evidence there was of the Android operating system on the show floor, or ultra low cost media processors (made by the millions for smartphones) that will dramatically reduce unit costs on networked media players within the year.

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