Industry News

Daktronics Snaps Up Canadian Digital Signage Company

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Adflow Networks

Daktronics buys Canada’s Adflow Networks to bring Adflow’s digital media platform capabilities to Daktronic’s customer segments.

Adflow Networks offers a dynamic platform for digital signage across telecom, retail, banking/financial services, hospitality and others.

Check out this graphic on “the new adaptive shopper experience” to see the new doors that Daktronics will open for itself with this acquisition…

While Adflow Networks is primarily a software company, like many digital signage software companies it has become a de facto integrator—gaining knowledge on hardware along the way and offering that knowledge to complete solutions.

Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed. But the deal makes sense for Daktronics, an industry leader in DOOH displays, whose recent fiscal Q3 performance saw a substantial loss. (Q3 is normally their weak quarter but Y-o-Y results showed disappointing results.)

Their usual business is based on awards of large projects and, by their ownn admission, those large account orders are difficult to predict, may not be repeatable, and are outside their control.

Orders for their fiscal Q3 2016 (the nine months ended January 30) decreased 7.0% as compared to Q3 fiscal 2015. Orders declined in the billboard segment of the Commercial business unit where customers decreased spending during this year primarily due to changes in their capital allocation plans, the economy, and lengthened replacement cycles. The Live Events business unit orders were down, blamed on order timing differences of large projects. Meanwhile High School Park and Recreation orders did increase as Daktronics continues winning a number of sports video projects.

“To meet and exceed customer and market demands for long-term success, we believe solution development investments are critical. Our near-term efforts are focused on ultra-high definition, software integration, control systems, and a new generation of outdoor products,” notes Reece Kurtenbach, Daktronics CEO and chairman of the board.

The value of Adflow Networks to Daktronics is cear: it’s an opportunity to grow a business unit that has constant, regular opportunity, the profit margins of software—as well as a chance to add the platform into their megaprojects. No more sitting around waiting for the Big Guys when you can go out and knee-cap the mid-market.

Daktronics says the Adflow business will operate as a subsidiary of Daktronics, remaining at its Ontario Canada headquarters, with its sales, service and software engineering teams continuing to focus on delivering digital media solutions to new and existing customers.

Kurtenbach acknowledges Adflow brings an impressive list of existing customers and their interior and interactive offerings complement Daktronic’s current commercial business unit for on-premise solutions.

“Over the coming years, we plan to integrate our sales and market channel efforts and extend Adflow’s digital media platform capabilities to all Daktronics customer segments,” Kurtenbach says. “We also look forward to developing and delivering new combined offerings to the market through this partnership.”

The Q3 results suggest that Adflow Networks may be even more important than Daktronics bargained for—and a business unit that jumps ahead of other traditional priorities.

Go Daktronics Buys Canada’s Adflow Networks


Solus Robots at DSE 2016

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Solus Robots

Solus Robots, maker of life-size robots between $5000 & $12,000, were on show at DSE 2016.

This supports, once more, our contention that “robotics” are a new category of digital signage that should be recognized—and exploited by integrators. We are hardly over the battle of “Are We in the IT Business?” and reluctant to start the new dialogue about drones and AV… but the truth is we must go where video messaging goes in order to thrive.

Solus wants to provide commercial enterprises with affordable and easy to use robots to engage in customer service, advertising and even loss prevention.

Solus Robots is backed by Solus One-- a multi-national software company, founded in 2004, that specializes in call center software, customer service interfaces and polling software solutions. They’ve built on their software to deliver affordable, life-sized robots for between $5,000 & $12,000 with a ROI they say is “under 1 year.”

Robots will integrate video, holography and other technologies—and they will become a hybrid of digital signage, security, and customer service.

The big question is what is the route-to-market for robot manufacturers? Will these robots be sold by new distribution channels which will introduce themselves to your customers in retail, hospitality, corporate reception? As we shrug our shoulders and take the video high road, will that distribution channel ultimately feel obliged to add our AV products as a one-stop solution?

If we sound crazy or far-fetched, you need not go too far for an analogy—look at all the digital signage specialists that have appeared out of nowhere, filling a vacuum that opens whenever new technology comes along and extent industries don’t rush to fill.

Go Solus Robots

Seneca and Navori Labs Align

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Swiss digital signage software specialist Navori Labs and American hardware company Seneca (an Arrow Electronics company), enter into a non-exclusive partnership to bundle reliable, high-quality hardware and software solutions for digital signage networks.

Seneca

The alliance teams Seneca’s purpose-built media players with Navori Labs’ QL digital signage engine, with the intention of minimizing costs and labor for systems integrators; and simplifying ease of use of network operators.

To accelerate deployments, Seneca will pre-install QL Professional or QL Express software on its media players, allowing integrators to focus on hardware installation. Customers will have the option to self-host the QL software – used for content creation and management – or leverage Navori Labs’ cloud hosting options to outsource system maintenance and management.

The latter offers customers a software-as-a-service (SaaS) operation that further reduces total cost of ownership for the end user. And whether deployed on-premises or in the cloud, QL’s intuitive user interface offers a quick learning curve and ongoing ease of use for operators of any experience level.

Jami McGraw, product manager, visual media for Seneca, says “Navori Labs matches our dexterity and high performance when it comes to software innovation, making this partnership the perfect recipe for integrators and end users alike. Additionally, Navori Labs’ global presence and strong customer base opens many new opportunities for our bundled solutions.”

The turnkey systems include Seneca media player and Navori Labs QL software licenses in each bundled solution, eliminating unexpected costs and configurations for customers upon deployment. Systems integrators will also benefit from a wide variety of Seneca accessories to support challenging installations, including player mounting systems and internal power supplies that reduce the amount of visible components.

Navori Labs exhibited its latest generation QL digital signage engine with Seneca media players, at the recent Digital Signage Expo.

Go Seneca and Navori Labs



Hilton Hints at Robot’s Future in Digital Signage

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Hilton Worldwide and IBM collaborate on a Watson-enabled robot concierge.

IBM and Hilton's Connie

Named "Connie" in honor of Conrad Hilton, IBM has developed a robot specifically for the hospitality market that uses knowledge from Watson and WayBlazer to answer guest’s questions about local attractions, dining recommendation, hotel features and amenities.

On display at CeBIT 2016 (as well as the recent ITB Berlin), the 2.5-foot-tall (.76m) robot uses Watson APIs that include Dialog, Speech to Text, Text to Speech, and Natural Language Classifier. It's able to greet guests on arrival and answer questions about amenities, services, and operations. It uses WayBlazer’s travel domain knowledge to be able to suggest local attractions off property.

The first hospitality robot of its kind to use IBM’s Watson, it offers applications for assisting hotel front desk staff, as well as playing a role in meetings and events. 

And Connie may be the first IBM in her category, but she is not alone. Business Intelligence estimates that the market for corporate and consumer robots will grow to $1.5 billion by 2019.

Scholars at Oxford have predicted the computerization of almost half of the jobs now performed by humans, as soon as the 2030s. In the next two years alone, global sales of service robots—like the dinosaur that checks in guests at the Henn-na Hotel in Japan, or the robots who deliver room service in a group of California hotels, or the tri-lingual robot that assists Costa Cruise Line passengers—are expected to exceed 35 million units, according to the International Federation of Robotics.

Starwood’s Aloft brand debuted Botlr, a robotic bellhop in 2014. Last year in Japan, a new hotel opened that uses robots for nearly all of its hotel operations. This spring, humanoids (“Pepper”) are sailing in Europe on two of Carnival’s ships. And Toshiba is now showing off Chihira Junco, the world’s first tourist information android, at Tokyo Waterfront City.

Hotel guests also appear to be receptive to robots. A Travelzoo survey of 6000 travelers (in Asia, Europe, No. America, and So. America) shows nearly 80% of respondents expect robots to play a big part in their lives by 2020--and almost two-thirds of travelers say they would be comfortable with robots being used in the travel industry.

Here at DIGITAL SIGNAGE NEWS EMEA we believe this creates a new category in digtal signage, a category that integrators need to consider (and possibly embrace). Robots will increasing be used to deliver signage (as well as services).  They will be bought by your current customers-- they may replace or complement other solutions you are proposing.

There is an odd reaction in the travel industry where this concept of hospitality robots is treated with the attitude, “This is not something new.”

Of course, it’s not. But this is like saying “flying cars” are not new. We’ve dreamed of them (and even seen many prototypes) over the years. So when they finally land in our lives—will flying cars be “new?"

What’s new is the reality, not the concept. Robots are not coming; they are already here.

Go More About IBM and Connie

Watch Connie at Work

On the Wings of Drones, Stampede Comes to Europe

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Mark Wilkins

American distributor Stampede opens a UK office, headed by Stampede founder and CEO Mark Wilkins.

Before founding Stampede nearly 20 years ago, Wilkins served as the Managing Director of UK-based Maverick Presentation Products, Ltd. In 1997, Wilkins saw the opportunity to bring the Maverick business model to the United States and he formed Stampede, which is today the oldest and largest value-added distributor of pro AV solutions in No. America, serving customers throughout the United States, Canada, and Latin America.

“Thus, in a very literal way, this new expansion by Stampede marks my return home. I’m looking forward to making the third act of my career the biggest and best yet for our partners in the region.”

Stampede is highlighting growth opportunities available from the increased use of drone video systems (DVS) and other Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and has hosted the Drone Arena at InfoComm. It will continue to promote these opportunities when it hosts a Drone Arena at the ISE show.

Wilkins said: “The adoption rate of drone technology and the regulatory environment in the UK and western Europe is very different than in the United States. And, as a result, the emerging vertical market business opportunities are an order of magnitude greater here. Our pioneering leadership of this category, our established vendor relationships, and our strategic alliance with Unmanned Vehicle University combines to present us with an extraordinary opportunity to meet UK and European reseller and customer DVS needs better than any other distributor.”

Stampede

Stampede president and COO Kevin Kelly added that while drones and DVS solutions are the driver of the expansion, the company’s goal is to replicate Stampede’s entire business culture and philosophy in the region.

“We intend to be for UK and western European resellers and customers what we are now for resellers and customers throughout the Americas — a single, one-stop source of smart, profitable high value added pro AV and IT integration solutions that exceed customer expectations in ways that generate long-term repeat business for our partners,” he said.

“We are open for business in Europe,” Kelly stressed, “and we are looking for experienced sales professionals who share our values to join our team and we are actively recruiting manufacturers in the region for our manufacturer portfolio. If you want to always stay ahead of the herd in offering the market fresh new thinking, new technologies, new revenue generating business opportunities, we want to meet with you.”

Well, that invite should cause a real “stampede.”

Go Stampede