Notes: 2009 DisplaySearch Digital Signage Conference

I’m attending DisplaySearch’s Digital Signage Conference today held at the San Jose Marriott in downtown San Jose, CA. Actually, I’ll be here tomorrow and the day after that too. It’s not like listening to Steve Jobs at MacWorld, but there should be some interesting morsels in the presentations. I’ll be updating this post throughout the day so make sure to come back to get a synopsis of presentations.

Samsung is promising that zero-bezel LCDs will be in the future. Not thin bezels but absolutely none: now that would be cool. You can tile together 250 LCDs on a display wall using Samsung technology. It is interesting that Samsung is dissing very large LCDs for digital signage (I’m thinking indirectly Sharp), especially the 100-inch and larger ones. Here are the reasons: High production costs & low yields, viewing samples & demo units, pre-site inspection required (US$500+), special delivery & install charges (US$500-$1000), high freight costs (~US$1000), wall load-bearing factor (~600lbs), energy consumption (4x versus titled 2×2), service maintenance (de-mounting).

Did you know that Intel is using its Atom CPU for digital signage applications? I didn’t. The Atom powers Intel’s “Basic Digital Signage” architecture that is described as, “Single-player per screen, Single-source video advertisement content, Limited content blending.” The extreme architecture is called “High End Digital Signage” and described as “Extremely Interactive and Wall of Displays” and powered by Intel’s i7. The Core 2 Duo gets to play in the middle of the pack, as expected, called “Mainstream Digital Signage” and described as, “Remote Managed Interactive Rich Media DS.” I’m not sure what all of these words mean in terms of how it looks to consumers at a retail location but just know that Intel is invested in digital signage because the computers that run the ads on digital signage use the company’s CPUs. Not surprising since Intel pretty much owns the PC market. Intel is also getting into software management tools too: Support Metrics for Advertising Effectiveness (Anonymous Video Analytics), Remote Management Capability (Repair & Maintenance: Intel Active Management Technology, Energy Efficiency: Scheduled Power On/Off), Support Rich Media Content Processing & Blending. What’s the big deal? Intel helps reduce total cost of ownership for digital signage solutions and increases ROI (Return on Investment) for customers.

HP is working toward providing the whole enchilada with hardware (dynamic display, USDT/TC, server, mount) and services (design consulting, installation & deployment, network monitoring, service & support), with software (content creation, data management software, device network management software) to be coming in the near future. HP will also be coming out with HP-branded mounts in the near future: smart, since mounts still have one of the highest profit margins in the IT industry except for maybe bags and cables. The bottom line is HP wants to be a one-stop shop that provides everything you need to deploy a digital signage solution.

Figure: Cisco Digital Media Suite

Cisco is in on the game too and thinks that video is where it’s at. Among Cisco’s video strategy, digital signage is the fastest growing. Cisco looks at the overall digital signage system to be composed of the display, IP network, content, technology partners, management and software systems. The company believes that collaboration is the most critical element to scale digital signage deployments. If you look at the figure above that shows Cisco’s Digital Media Suite, the company is involved in hardware and software areas related to digital signage.

It’s 12:42pm and I’m ready to take a lunch break!

2:52pm Lunch was great. Yummy salad, chicken and cake. Coffee was good too.

What are the differences? MTBF or Mean Time Before Failure. The consumer versions has a MTFR of about 50,000 hours vs. 100,000 for professional-grade displays. It makes a big difference when you’re running the display 24/7. RS-232 is another feature that is only available on professional-grade displays. There are many more differences. The bottom line is you don’t want to sell consumer-grade displays into a professional environment. The initial cost of a digital signage implementation might be reduced by using consumer-grade displays but the total cost of ownership over the long run will increase due to failures. In addition the consumer-grade display’s warranty will become voided when used in a commercial environment.

From simple static images to digital signage the next step is interactivity via touch-enabled displays. Horizon Display is pushing interactivity to improve the experience. There are many touch solutions including SAW, infrared (Samsung: 32- to 82-inch), optical (Panasonic: 103-inch), DST (NEC), etc. Standardization for touch is important and Horizon Display has aligned with Ingram Micro to educate via a Digital Signage Roadshow and Bootcamp events. NEC M46 LCDs were deployed at Oakley stores as part of an immersive display concept that enables customers to research products, test lens performance, and email photos of themselves wearing fashionable sports optics to their friends, family, or colleagues for immediate feedback. Oakley has reported a 30% increase in sales where this immersive display has been deployed. Some examples are: Samsung touch-enabled 305T displays were deployed at Raytheon to improve training regarding the Patriot missile systems. Other markets that a touch-enabled display system could foster interactivity include healthcare (education, training, patient care), automotive (custom model creation by potential customers), sports (interactive statistics), and education (Central University: donor wall), etc.

GDS Displays displays presented information sharing that the company is focused on outdoor displays. Since 1996 the company has shipped more than 500,000 outdoor displays. The overall digital signage market was 1.3 million units in 2008 with displays that are 26-inch and larger. GDS is focusing on the display hardware side and work with others to provide the total solution. MIDAS is the company’s outdoor display brand. MIDAS has enhanced optics due to bonded laminated anti-reflective safety glass to improve sunlight readability. Bonding also eliminates dust particles or condensation between glass and the LCD panel. There is also an ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts the screen brightness level depending on ambient light condition for power saving. Diagnostics are built-in with sensors that send the status of the display via RS-232 ASCII codes to a local PC. The diagnostics include TFT primary colors, backlight, humidity, internal temperature, controller temperature, fan speed, fan stall, vibrations. MIDAS displays can work in a wide temperature range from -30C up to 50C degrees and can operate in direct sunlight and features an anti-vandal glass, a weather-proof design, IP65 (NEMA 4) rated, hinged for on-site maintenance, a MTBF of greater than 100,000 hours with a technical life up to 15 years. There is also a dedicated AC line surge device that protects from line spikes and lightning, which is a common challenge for outdoor LCD displays.

Delphi Display Systems is also focusing on outdoor digital signage (ODS) and in particular the connectivity challenges such as: content, size, resolution, interactivity, location, access to power & data, security, temperature, humidity, shaed or direct sun exposure, environmental considerations, etc. There are wired and wireless connectivity solutions: wired may be impractical or cost prohibitive while wireless connectivity may not be reliable in some outdoor environments. There are several connectivity architectures: wired, wireless, video extender, streaming video wired/wireless, cellular, broadband over Powerline (BPL), etc. The correct choice depends on the particular requirements and limitations of the digital signage deployment.

Picture: McDonald’s Viva in Las Vegas

Lyle Bunn from BUNN Co. talked about the gradual development of the digital signage market. “Let there be light… and there was light.” -Genesis 1:3. Light was invented and then used for enhancing health (cooking food). Light from stars were used for navigation to explore the world. Managing light enabled the changing of the world. Thomas Edison developed the light bulb that made possible the industrial revolution. Light was then used for outdoor lighting that allowed people to move about at night. Entertainment was catalyzed when film was created. Now we have an assortment of light creation such as LED. The managing of light has created wealth. Light has influenced, educated, informed and entertained. Digital signage is used to describe digital out-of-home (DOOH), in-store TV, the “OuterNet”, location-based media and narrowcasting. Content is specifically created to an audience based on location and only as often as needed. The “Enabling Effect” allows for cost reduction (doing the same with less), quality enhancement (doing more with less), extension of current approaches (doing things differently), establishing a new paradigm and business (doing different things). Mobile digital signage is developing and WRAL is trailblazing this space and broadcasting its radio into buses in North Carolina. McDonald’s is changing what it is concentrating on food, fun and folks by incorporating digital signage as you see in the picture above. CognoVision is an anonymous image analyst company that allows for identifying whether someone is looking at the display and measures ethnicity, age range, sex, etc. Content in the context of the viewing environment that provides measurable results is relevance: content is no longer king; relevance is king.

NEC is touting digital place-based media due to some advantages: visually engaging, mass reach, consumer focused, highly targeted, just-in-time delivery, accountability, proximity to purchases. Digital signage can generate 32.8% more in-store traffic and increase the average purchase by 29.5%. Digital place-based advertising is evolving: difficult media planning, test situation rather than integrated into overall communications mix, complicated due to no centralized serving tool, hard to validate metrics. Place-based media will improve foot traffic and dwell time to improve revenues. Digital place-based media has the potential to change the media landscape in similar ways to the Internet.

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