The Digital Signage Expo 2009 was described as “successful” by several retailers in attendance, according to event organizers. The conference and trade show at the Las Vegas convention center, which ran in February drew just over 3,000 attendees, down from last year’s 3,500, and 188 exhibitors, a record number. The trade show floor was 19 percent larger than 2008, with over 58,000 square feet of exhibitions. I’ve attended this show for years and could not see all of the expo booths in the short time I was there. But what I did see was great, so I’ll share with you some of my favorite items from the show. I was posting a lot of what I saw on Twitter that day and by the end my feet were sore and my eyes were bleeding from all of the signage.
We did not exhibit at this show due to time and budget constraints, but we will be exhibiting and speaking at the upcoming KioskCom.com Self Service Expo May 6-7th, 2009, also in Las Vegas. KioskCom has a broader audience of both kiosks and digital signage as many deployments utilize both technologies. There is a lot of crossover in the two technologies, which is why agencies such as ours attend, since we offer solutions in both segments. By the way, I wish the show management would pick some others venues from time to time. Seems like I’m always in Vegas and that town can wear you down. But I digress.
The DSE show was much larger than the DSE east show in Philadelphia back in October 2008. That event was very small and didn’t have much traffic. Disappointing to everyone. But the Vegas show always seems to be huge. I went to Vegas early to attend the Digital Signage Association’s bi-annual advisory board meeting, of which I’ve been a member since the beginning. We had some new board members from Target and Six Flags Inc.. who added to the lively discussions on how to improve the mission and structure of the organization. It was good to see many of my peers in the industry and I was fortunate enough to share some drinks after with several of them.
Now for the review of the products and services I enjoyed at the show:
It was interesting to see the number of 3D screens from makers such as LG, Samsung, Phillips and others. Everyone was trying to impress with this new variation of the medium. Photos don’t do it justice but the effect can be really interesting. Most people I spoke to think it is a bit of a fad or gimmick and are unhappy with the shallow viewing radius. You also must be many feet away from the screen to get the effect and not make the eyes strain. So this is not to be hung too close to the audience. Another consideration is that the content must be rendered in 3D using tools such as Maya or 3D studio max. It is often more costly and time consuming to produce content in 3D. With that said, I think the early adopters will get a lot of buzz around their use of it, if done well. And for many brands, this point of difference is worth the investment. We hope some of our customers will consider the use of 3D when appropriate.
We met with and really like the Premier Mounts folks. Their products incorporate a oval tubular design that gives their stands, wall mounts and ceiling mounts a upscale look. Their easy to swivel mounts make switching between portrait and landscape modes very easy. Check them out online at www.Mounts.com . These guys can fabricate just about any metal mounting need you may have.
The good folks at Tightrope had a very yellow booth and were showcasing their content management tools. We’ve never used their products but I enjoy their Twitter posts about the industry. As I was driving to Vegas from California I was keeping up with them and several other DSE attendees. At these events there are literally dozens of management products. Most very good, each with their own unique spin. We are VARS for several as some are better for certain campaigns then others. We saw our partners Scala at the show, as well as Stinova, Wirespring and Web DT. Stinova was showing off their web based management tools which we like very much for the middle market. This German based firm is now making headway in the USA with VARs such as Electronic Art. Web DT have really good thin client players that we resell and they’ve made some good improvements to their software. They also have a nice app we can offer our clients that you’ve probably seen which allows for triggers to play content. For example if you pick up a cell phone in a wireless store, it triggers the tool to play content on screen about that particular phone device. By utilizing this tool, we can deploy this solution much faster than building from scratch and can focus more on the content being provided. We are excited about offering this tool and will have more details to share soon.
The guys at SpaceNet provide satellite networks for digital signage and kiosks. They provide the network for Shell Gas & C-stores for the video content at the pump. This solution broadcasts a variety of media (news, ads, TV shows) via multicast enabling both local and national media/ads with day parting. Integrating this solution could also provide a retailer with a backup network should a store network ever go down. Great idea and cool technology!
Another product which we use here at Electronic Art that was seen at DSE is LogMeIn. This remote management tool goes way beyond remote desktop or VNC. It provides a unique web based remoting tool that enables providers such as ourselves to help maintain remote systems, do file transfers, remote printing and even mini-meetings like WebEX. The new product from them that I like is the LogMeIn Embedded product. It supports the Windows XP Embedded OS found on many kiosks and digital signage players, and enables a one-to-many centralized management interface that can allow us to work in the background while users are still interacting with Kiosks or signage. All with an 256-bit SSL encryption. This tool is awesome.
GestureTek was back this year showing off their multi-touch table hardware. This is similar to Microsoft Surface and their product along with many others are starting to show up in retail and hospitality. While I liked the hardware and overall concept, the WW2 Tank game they showcased didn’t respond very well. I was disappointed in the multi-user game that wouldn’t allow me to change direction of the tank. Not sure why, but I’m sure it was due to being in a trade show environment. Things go wrong. But GestureTek has been around for a long time. I first saw them at a kiosk show in Orlando back in 2004 where they showed off the AirPoint system. It’s good to see they are still in the marketplace and innovating.
At Electronic Art we offer a lot of commercial LCD screen options, and each were present at the show such as LG, Samsung, Phillips, and more. But a unique screen provider that we really like is Tek Panel. They have military grade screens with built in player PC’s and are available with touch screens. We are big proponents of interactive digital signage to allow your customers to touch your digital signage and be ultimately measurable. Their new thin bezel hardware enables us to give you an all-in-one signage solution much like our IBM AnyPlace kiosks are an all-in-one kiosk system. Too often with other screens we have to have a touch overlay put onto a client’s screen, but this system is ready to go out of the box and makes for a really clean installation. Contact us for pricing.
We also saw our new large format outdoor signage hardware at the show. Symbicon is based in Finland and makes a really nice system with built-in HVAC to keep the enclosure warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It is water tight with built in PC and great for retail, ski resorts and more. This sign is impressive and built to take the brutal outdoor environment that most signs just cannot live in. Contact our sales staff for an introduction and pricing.
A much smaller screen that we liked is the AdView DM10i Smart Sign. This retail onshelf player allows for a low cost and easy to deploy video player. We really like the 10.4″ LCD display and multi-level drill down menus to select up to 80 different video files. It supports Mpeg, Jpeg and MP3 file formats and has a replaceable custom frame. It even records which keys were pressed most and can export to a USB format in Excel format for a simple reporting interface. Let us know if you’d like a demo of this really nice retail shelf talk solution.
One of my favorite items was the projection touch signage from Brain. This film enables us to project either traditional passive content onto a glass storefront window, or provide an interactive touch film to the window to allow guests to search through interactive catalogs after hours, view specials and coupons, or play a branded game. All through the exterior of the glass, though the film is applied to the inside of the glass. They were showing that even with a low cost project ($600) you can get a good quality projection onto their product. Even better with a higher quality projector, obviously, but the projectors they used were great. This is also a way to enable a multi-touch screen as described above for GestureTek. But this enables us to fabricate a custom enclosure or simply use your existing window and contour cut the film to any shape you like. In many ways it is better than a plasma screen! It is available in up to a 145″ diagonal size, as a wide viewing angle and is even good in high ambient light environments. We were so impressed that we are setting up a reseller relationship to begin to offer this product to your company.
I enjoyed catching up with some old friends so I’ll give a shout out to Ed Crowley formerly of 5Point now with OneSource, Dick Trask formerly of Scala now with StarMount, Linda Hofflander of Wireless Ronin, Tom Nix of Dynamax, Mike Honkomp formerly with ESP now with DigiKomp, Bill Gerba & Michael Smith at Wirespring, Jimmy Dun of DynaSign, Bob Fincher and all of the guys at Networld Alliance, and Margo Meyers formerly with the USPS and now consulting in our industry. She is a great resource and has been on the user side of interactive for years. I enjoyed my time with each of you, even those of you who are my competitors. It’s good to see a class act like you helping to grow our industry.