Digital Non-Conference recap

2010 Digital Non-Conference session

Unique Pub Locations

The 2010 digital Non-Conference is now behind us.  And everyone I spoke to seemed to really enjoy the conference and the quality speakers at the event.  The “Non-Conference” is so named because of it’s non traditional format tailored after a similar non-conference in Ireland in the early 2000’s where each session was held in various pubs.  The Cincinnati event held it’s main sessions and keynotes at the Millennium hotel and then each topical session was in a nearby bar, art gallery or lounge which kept it fun and interesting. As a sponsor of the event we were very pleased with the overall conference.

2010 Digital Non-Conference Keynote Panel

Ugly Betty's America Ferrera

The keynote speakers included a panel with Ugly Betty’s America Ferrera who is producing the first bi-lingual telenovela with MTV that will allow viewers to interact with the outcome of the show called “Pedro and Maria. Another compelling keynote was Tim Westergren, founder of Pandora online radio. While building the music website, Westergren said he maxed out three credit cards and accumulated a quarter million dollars in debt in 2003. But by listening to its consumers and being persistent, the company now represents 60 percent of online music, showing that the proper mix of passion, persistence and  technology can make all of the difference in the digital world.

As a presenter I enjoyed talking about digital signage to this audience of mostly ad agency staff, designers, media, bloggers, marketers and brand managers who are likely to know little about digital signage.  I hosted a panel on the topic of “Trends and Insights: Digital Signage Opportunities for Marketers” which tried to convey the benefits to this audience as well as some basics of our industry. On the panel was Christopher Hall of DigitalSignageToday.com, Chuck Gose of The MediaTile Company, Bill Collins of DecisionPoint Media and myself.  We were hosting our discussion in a place called “Passage Lounge” which is an upscale lounge bar with a secret passage to the VIP lounge which provided a relaxed environment.  We kicked off the discussion with some basics on digital signage along with photos to ensure the audience was up to speed on what we were discussing. Then our panel fielded very relevant  questions from the audience on important topics such as:

  • “Why should marketers invest in digital signage, when social media and smart mobile phones are so hot?”
  • “Many brands see the value of Digital Signage at retail, but they have been frustrated by the lack of good opportunities that they have to tell their story at retail.   What do you expect the brands to do in order to break through at retail?”
  • “Why should marketers invest in digital signage at all?”

The discussion was lively and the panel did a professional job with no “selling” to the audience. Although I saw several audience members get business cards afterward to be able to continue the discussion. One audience member drove all of the way from Toronto Canada after reading about the conference and our panel online.  He was wanting to start a new digital signage network in Toronto and had many questions for the panelists after our event.

Tim Westergren - Pandora

Tim Westergren - Pandora

It was good to see traditional agencies and marketers taking an interest in digital signage. Several people asked me how they could learn more and I directed them to the digital screenmedia association web site and handed them a brochure.  They expressed interest in using digital out of home media to target their audiences but felt that the biggest problem they have is the lack of network ubiquity (just as Tim Westergren had noted was a key to Pandora’s success). Until there are large ubiquitous networks available for them to spend their ad money, digital signage will not be perceived as a primary vehicle for out of home advertising.   We discussed the integration of social media and used the Foursquare / Local Moda example to show how brands are leveraging social media with digital signage in their bricks and mortar locations, which was of particular interest to many in the audience.  This lead to some interesting tweets from the audience which can be seen here: http://digitalcincinnati.org/2010/top-tweets-from-145pm-breakouts/

So, did they get it?  Yes.  The audience got it and they seemed jazzed about many of the technologies that can help them measure digital signage.  This is something most marketers don’t realize is available to them.  I wouldn’t doubt that our discussion helps to grow the digital signage industry in our region as well as perhaps getting some of the global brand managers to become more open to the use of digital signage spend in the upcoming years.  We have already begun working with a lead that we met at the conference, so our firm is happy with the exposure it has given us.

2010 Digital Non-Conference session

Hands-On Session on Innovation

The digital non-conference was put off by the Cincinnati Ad-Club and the American Marketing Association. This is the third year for the event and has grown quite a bit.  This year there was a real emphasis on growing the reach to other cities in the midwest including Columbus, Indianapolis, Louisville, Lexington and Dayton making this a Midwest digital conference not just a greater Cincinnati event.  Our panel had someone from Louisville, Indianapolis and Cincinnati so it was a diverse group.  I believe that the next couple of years will see dramatic growth of the conference.  And the event is always timed to coincide with the Midpoint Music Festival which adds a bit of cool factor to the experience.

I hope you can plan to attend next year’s event.  If not, consider how you or your company can help to expand the knowledge and education around digital signage in your part of the world.  Get involved, sponsor, speak and provide a consultative approach to helping others realize the potential of digital out of home marketing.  When you give unselfishly, you will always get back more than you anticipated.  It may be as simple as volunteering to staff the DSA booth at an upcoming event or giving a show and tell event for your local chamber of commerce.  Lean on the DSA to provide you with content, networking with other industry professionals and membership materials. Its your association, use it!

KioskCom & the Digital Signage Show

Well, its that time again when we pack up touch screen kiosks and LCD screens and rush to get our software apps ready to display at the upcoming www.KioskCom.com trade show in Las Vegas on April 14 & 15th 2010 at the Mandalay Bay resort and casino.  We’ve exhibited at this show for many years and  are happy to be a part of it all again.  This time we have a larger 10 x 20 booth and have one of our many hardware partners who have offered to share the booth with us.  The good folks at www.Zivelo.com are providing their kiosk hardware for the booth including the C10, C2, C6 and the NEW C5 model being built just for the show!  We resell all of their models and are always impressed with the quality of the craftsmanship.  We often partner with Zivelo and provide the software applications for many of their clients.  Come meet Ziver and Ross from Zivelo at our booth.

Also, you’ll see our www.Lobstr.net product that has been rebuilt with new CSS3 based programming and a new pricing model for local operation (no subscriptions!).  And a new kiosk application that offers SMS coupon and lead generation services to drive traffic to your store, along with many of our past projects for various fortune 1000 clients.

Some news, next year the show will have a new name and location.  Goodbye Las Vegas, hello San Francisco! And the new name focuses more on the customer and less on us vendors:  Customer Engagement Technology World which will be at www.CETWorld.com . I like the new direction and the guys at JD Events who put on the show are some really nice folks that do a great job!  We are looking forward to the new format next year. See the press release here.

Are you planning to come to the show or perhaps still on the fence?  Well, let me offer you a free pass into the Expo show floor so you can come visit us  and our peers in the industry.  We will be in booth #205 right across from our business partners at Samsung.  Use the discount code at checkout of:   2LV49F and you’ll get the $50 expo fee on us.   Stop by and see us!  Register at http://www.kioskcom.com/register.asp

I hope to have some good photos and interesting products to discuss after the show, and you can follow my tweets on Twitter during the show at:  http://www.twitter.com/KioskGuy

Do you have a comment?  Add your comment below and I’ll give you a special shout out at the show!

Digital Signage Expo 2010

I will be attending the DSE  (Digital Signage Expo) again this week in Las Vegas.  Partly because it’s warm and sunny but mostly because I need to keep up on the latest and greatest in hardware, software and unique offerings in our industry.  This show is very large and was very good last year (See my review here).   We came away from that show last year with some new partners, vendors and customers.  We hope for the same this time around.  I will be attending networking events each evening and rubbing elbows with many of my partners as well as prospects.  Always a good time.

This year we are sure to see tons of Atom based digital sign players devices, new screen models from the big players like Samsung, LG & NEC.  Last year they were really highlighting 3-D screens but it has only been the past few months that 3-D LCD screens have been getting a lot of media attention as these same manufacturers are all bringing 3-D to the consumer market as well.  So I expect 3-D to have a large part in the show again this year, even though my own personal opinion is that it is a small niche in the digital out of home (DOOH) experience.

There has also been a lot of talk about the DSA & DSE competing with each other.  This should make for some interesting Digital Signage Association (DSA)  board meetings the day before the show.  I sit on the advisory board for the DSA and am currently the chair of the Marketing and PR committee.  Our ranks have really grown tremendously over the past year and we have several new members such as Intel and HP joining and taking an active role.  I hope to have more to report after the show.

2.4 inch LCD

2.4 inch LCD

Will I see you there?  If so, say hello.  You won’t be able to miss me with my Twitter Tshirt pointing you to my Twitter page @KioskGuy.  And I’ll be wearing a 2.4 inch LCD screen on the lapel of my sport coat showcasing some of our recent projects.  I like the idea of using these Personal Media Players (PMP) as a way to communicate and get noticed at these huge tradeshows.  If you have anything that you’d like me to research for you while I’m at the show, please send me a note by commenting here or using our Contact Us page on our web site.  I have several meetings set with our partners at Samsung, AOpen and more.

Digital Signage Expo in Review

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.

Digital Signage Association MeetingThe 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.

Premier Mount with player shownWe 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.

Tek Panel touch LCDAt 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.

Outdoor digital signageWe 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.

touch windows

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.