Industry News

ScreenMedia Expo Round-Up

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ScreenMediaExpo (5th edition) in London was a busy show with over 3,000 visitors and 120 exhibitors.

Christie was showing its new signage specific product, MicroTiles. Intel was showing how its chip can fit in the Digital Signage (DS) ecosystem with a plethora of partners sharing the stand and demonstrating their solutions. Harris Broadcasting, continues venturing from the broadcast industry going deeper into the DS market. Sony was showing its Ziris product line and NCR showcasing its Netkey digital signage solution, a software that helps companies develop, deploy and manage networks of digital signs and interactive kiosk solutions. A big player missing from the show stands was Samsung.

Christie at ScreenMedia Expo

Sharing the knowledge
To show digital signage in all its glory you need to show how it works within its digital eco-system. There is no use in showing, for instance, a screen with no content or capacity to share content within a network. The exhibitors at Screen Expo knew this and several chose to team up with other companies to show what they do best and how they fit with each other.

Intel was one of these as was MiniCom Digital Signage, who also runs the Digital Signage Showcase (DSS) providing on-floor education to the end users and integrators. DSS presented an end-to-end solution, giving a bird´s eyes perspective on how to plan, create, rollout and operate a full scale digital signage solution, covering from content creation to measurement.

Minicom also runs the known Digital Signage Experts Tour on the show floor, with the goal to give an overview of the show highlights along the food chain of the typical digital signage application.

As previously announced by rAVe Europe, Minicom showed the first Remote Device Management solution with Proof of Performance capabilities. The solution features a unique Media Feedback Mechanism for Proof of Performance so advertisers in DooH networks can validate and audit advertising for quantity and quality of the broadcasted ad.

Where are the creative agencies?
Something that was missing from the exhibitors at the show was creative agencies that would actually put interesting content in the right format for signage. Pink Banana was showing some of its creative material in the Bus outside the expo.
Creative agency Amigo Digital also had a stand, which was manned by manikins looking into a huge Panasonic screen. Digital production company Grand Visual was also at the show.

Some companies commented that creative agencies had visited the show asking what they needed for DS, which is excellent news since this means that the end user is asking about this.

For next year it would be nice to see a stronger presence of the creative side on content creation.

However; two companies came to the rescue with an interesting proposition for people needing to fill their screens fast. One was Doohstuff, which provides images to use on signage background or to be used as icons. Piet Hein Goosens from Doohstuff, explained that, unlike Getty Image, where the customer is charged by the way and the frequency in which the image will be used, Doohstuff offers unlimited use of the photographs bought, no questions asked. ‘This is a much more convenient deal for customers,’ he remarked. 

Doohstuff is a Dutch based online content database with a 100 per cent focus on digital signage. All people can search in our database for up to 100,000 HD clips, 2.5 million stills and the weather news from the entire globe. Next to this Doohstuff provides editing and consultancy services to upgrade every screen worldwide.

A promising company highlighted at Rave - and creating some stirs at Screen media Expo 2010 - was Flypaper Studio. Flypaper provides a simple to use Flash Content Creation Platform that can very quickly turn a simple presentation into an interactive signage solution with no previous programmer knowledge needed. 

In fact, at the show, Turkish company Digital Panorama (www.3dpros.com) which was exhibiting at the Intel stand, went and bought the Pro software from Flypaper and on the second day of the show it had an interactive presentation on a touch screen using Flypaper’s tools and its interactive solution.  Digital Panorama will be opening an office in Leeds by June, offering its 3D content creation, management and delivery of interactive messages.

With the creative agencies not having a big presence at the show floor, Screen Media Expo had a space for the advertising, marketing and communications professionals to meet, learn and do business at the DOOH Expo – a dedicated show-within-a-show for the digital out-of-home media community. No technology there, just a space for networking.

From 2D to 3D and into the 4th screen
At this year’s Screen Expo there was a lot of hype about the implementation of 3D for DS and the increased use of the 4th screen, that is the mobile phone, for audience engagement.

Various sceptics doubt that DS will ever go 3D. 3D ready screens are inefficient  for DS with only one of two hot spots. If companies opt for stereoscopic images, people will be unlikely to want to wear 3D glasses when shopping to enjoy the advertising.

However research company Futuresource, on the Futurology conference, said that the DS industry should watch out for 3D. ‘3D is a hot topic in the tech world at the moment,’ said Futuresource researcher Mike Fisher, ‘3D is impacting the end user market driven by the 3D cinema phenomenon.’ He said that 3D is definitely getting into our living rooms with a forecast that by 2014 all 40in and above flat panel TVs sold will be 3D ready.

‘3D will be used for entertainment, not to watch the news,’ Fisher clarified, ‘but the way that the public interacts with 3D images is changing and DS needs to start thinking about this medium for brand immersions and other marketing experiences.’
3D, according to Futuresource, could be a game change for DS that will provide value-add to customer’s campaigns.

Ivan Franco, from YDreams, also thinks that the intuitive interaction that augmented reality provides is here to stay and grow. YDreams has been involved in projects with giants such as Coca Cola and Adidas where they created an immersive brand experience, which also used mobile phones for interaction.

On the content creation side, companies such as Zero Creative (3DZignage) and Magnetic 3D offer fully web-based and interactive 3D digital signage for glasses-free 3D digital content. Magnetic 3D, a global provider of glasses-free 3D display and 3D digital signage solutions, is working with Signagelive, a Software as a Service (SaaS) digital signage platform, on this project.
The 2010 event attracted first timers such as Intel, and new themes including mobile integration and 3D arrive new to the show.

More ScreenMedia Expo news

2010 Digital Signage CHAMP Awards

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rAVe DS [Digital Signage] in USA releases their 2010 DS CHAMP Award winners.

Includes categories such as Best New DS Product 2010, Best New DS Technology 2010, Most Innovative New DS Hardware Product and Best NEW Indoor DS Display along with a dozen other categories

Go We Are The Champions

InfoComm Ups the Digital Signage Ante

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digital signage

InfoComm International has been putting out programmes on digital signage for more than 5 years, but this year they are ramping up to match the swell in market interest.

For example, InfoComm is partnering with NewBay Media to offer a new virtual Digital Signage event on April 22, 2010.

And the InfoComm 2010 event (June 9-11 at the Las Vegas Convention Center) will feature the world's largest Digital Signage exhibition. The show will include a Digital Signage Pavilion, with exhibits showcasing displays, mounts, and networking and software solutions.

InfoComm 2010's Digital Signage Application Showcase, now in its 4th year, will feature digital signage in fully-integrated environments.

Beyond the show floor, InfoComm 2010 will feature a full array of digital signage training. Plus, InfoComm has also partnered with the Strategy Institute, to offer a two-day Digital Signage Technology Summit June 7-8.

Throughout the year, InfoComm offers training related to digital signage but

Go Virtual for Digital Signage

Go In-Person for Digital Signage, InfoComm 2010

Digital Signage vs. Digital Signage: Round 1

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Okay, so sorting out what has happened in the brouhaha between the two year old Digital Signage Association (DSA) and the month-old Digital Signage Federation (DSF) hasn’t been easy, but it has been entertaining.

Actually, it’s been like the reading equivalent to watching the slow-motion reel from a prize fight. In real time, there were some fast punches, some awkward responses, and then someone was on the floor.

Let’s recap, shall we? Exponation, the producer and owner of Digital Signage Expo, announced the formation of the not-for-profit DSF on February 17, one week before Expo. Stressing the fact that DSF is a non-profit is a finger in the eye to the DSA, who has long been tied to their parent company NetWorld Alliance for funding. The terms of the DSA/NetWorld Alliance relationship was often a sore point for the industry and there were accusations of NetWorld influence over the DSA.

At the time of the DSF announcement, a Web site was already in place, as was the interim board. While the announcement itself may have been a small surprise, it seems like Exponation had put key elements in place before opening their collective mouths to tell the industry.

Meanwhile, the DSA was caught a bit flat-footed. David Drain, executive director of the DSA, and Bob Michaels, president of Magenta Research and an active DSA board member, both tell me that a full board meeting was already planned to happen at Expo. On the voting docket was changing DSA’s status to a non-profit. “NetWorld has been our incubator for the past two years, and now it’s time to gain our independence,” says Drain. And Michaels swears that in the year-plus he’s been involved with the DSA, he never saw any undue influence from NetWorld.


Fair enough. So on February 24 (right in the middle of Expo), DSA announces they are incorporating as a non-profit and are securing proposals with trade show companies to establish a digital signage show and conference of their own! According to their announcement, “DSA is set to announce its plan by May 3 for a conference & trade show to be held in 2011.”

(DSA was a very visible sponsor at Expo, too. Awkward!) So net-net, here’s what we have. In one corner, there’s the DSA – older, many more members, switching to non-profit status, and seeking to start their own show. In the other corner, there’s the DSF – very new, a handful of members, a non-profit from the get-go, and sharing the parent company who owns and operates Digital Signage Expo.

A few issues are up in the air. First is that when I contacted the DSF during the week of March 15, the response I got from Angelo Varrone, CEO of Exponation, was this: “My company’s role, as producer of DSE, is to support the start-up of the independent, not-for-profit organization. We helped get it started and backed the initial launch at DSE 2010, but we don’t speak for the organization. There is an interim board and they are in the process of holding elections for officers. Because of this there is no one who could or would speak to you officially or on the record at this point prior to the upcoming election (which won’t occur before your deadline).”

Okay, so big splash of an announcement and then there’s no one to speak for the DSF? Why not hire a talking head PR flack in the interim? (There are plenty of them who are out of work right now and would welcome the assignment.)

Second issue is that DSA really was a big supporter of Digital Signage Expo (and we can only assume that relationship is over.) Drain says that “we’ve had a good relationship with industry trade shows. In announcing our plans, we want to create a world-class show for the industry.” Ouch! So all eyes on DSA for 2011 to see what world-class really means, I guess. And eyes on Expo 2011 to see who steps up to replace DSA as a sponsor.

So, I also had to ask Drain about comments made by Adrian J. Cotterill, editor-in-chief of the Daily DOOH, that called the DSA “arrogant” and “dawdling.” Drain says he was taken aback by those comments. He points to the openness of the DSA and their willingness to communicate via groups like LinkedIn and Facebook, and really found no evidence of arrogance.

Drain also says that in the past 60 days, their memberships have grown from 425-ish members to over 450 now. So, is more being made of this rift than need be? His response: “I think so.”

So, who will win this fight? Only time will tell. DSF has attracted some big names like NEC Display Solutions, Harris Corporation, and Wendy’s International to their board. A rush of members from DSA to DSF will tip the boat in their favor, for sure. In the meantime, Michaels urges that industry members need to make their own educated decision as to which one to choose. I couldn’t agree more.

Linda Seid Frembes is a rAVe columnist who covers AV technology, installs, market trends and industry news. Linda has worked with high profile AV manufacturers, trade organization, systems integrators, rep firms and dealer/distributors in the industry including John Lyons Systems, Eastern Acoustic Works (EAW), Northern Sound & Light (NSL), and InfoComm International, among others. Reach her at linda (at) ravepubs.com.

Go Digital Signage Association (DSA)

Or go Digital Signage Federation (DSF)

Ouch! Nortek Files for Bankruptcy Protection

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In USA, Nortek (NTK Holdings Inc.) has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after agreeing the restructure plan with $2.78 billion of creditors.

By filing for Chapter 11, Nortek hopes to restructure to eliminate $1.3 billion in debt. Thirty-seven affiliates, including Nortek Inc., also sought protection.

Nortek owns many prominent AV companies including SpeakerCraft, OmniMount, Elan, Magenta Research, Niles, Panamax, Gefen, Xantech, Panamax and others.

Nortek released a statement on Sept. 3 that says, "…the company's operating subsidiaries remain well supported with cash on hand in excess of $170 million as of August 31, 2009." Nortek secured a commitment for a $250 million asset-based revolving line of credit earlier in October as part of its pre-packaged reorganization plan.

So it seems the subsidiaries are less affected at this point, despite the vulnerability of the parent corporation. Bankruptcy in this case end with a come-back or the group could see a new owner step in, or watch a sell-off of subsidiaries piece-by-piece, including-- one supposes—some management buyouts.

Typically in this situation, if some subsidiaries are bleeding much more than others, the parent has to abandon these ships to save the fleet. Any subsidiaries that are cash-positive will become the lead ships.

Key financial highlights for Q2 2009 include: Net sales of $488 million compared to $647 million recorded in 2008 and an operating loss of $216 million compared to earnings of $46.9 million in Q2 2008. Clearly Nortek is another victim of the global recession as its Home Technology Products suffered a 23.9% decline in sales in Q2 when it had probably been accustomed to double-digit sales growth.

Nortek chairman and CEO Richard L. Bready says: "We continue to believe that Nortek has fundamentally sound businesses operating in established markets that are poised for growth as economic conditions improve. The Chapter 11 process will enable Nortek to emerge as an even stronger company with substantially less debt. Going forward, we anticipate no disruption in product availability or delivery of products and remain focused on meeting customer needs worldwide."

Go Nortek Files Chapter 11 in USA

NCR Buys Netkey

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Netkey logo

 NCR Corporation purchases the assets of Netkey, a provider of kiosk and digital signage software apps used by in multi-industry self-service apps such as gift registry, guided selling, endless aisle and human resources functions.

Terms were not disclosed.

Netkey's enterprise software platform uses a scalable architecture to enable development of apps for kiosk and digital signage-based solutions.

NCR will combine Netkey's software platform with its own technologies to provide a best-in-class enterprise solution, which includes software apps, one of the broadest hardware portfolios in the industry, and a suite of services. NCR will continue to provide multi-vendor hardware support with the Netkey solution.

Netkey has over 75,000 kiosks and digital signs installed by more than 400 clients in the retail, finance, transportation, and government sectors. Many of these customers also use NCR's kiosk, self-checkout or POS solutions.

Go NCR Buys Netkey

POPAI Sets Guidelines for System Interoperability

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POPAI introduces a set of guidelines designed to help facilitate system interoperability for digital signage systems as the digital signage industry continues to grow with a multitude of retail and other out-of-home applications.


"This standard is the first of a group of comprehensive POPAI standards to address the need for interoperability between different providers of Digital Signage systems. The core objective is to establish a foundation or baseline of performance and behavior that all standard signage systems will follow," says Dick Blatt, POPAI President and CEO.

"The business case is clear- fewer projects with wasted efforts and lower barriers to adoption of standardized systems. All suppliers are encouraged to exceed the standard, each with their own blend of performance and innovation.”

The Standards were developed by POPAI’s Digital Standards Sub-Committee which includes more than 30 member firms representing the world’s leading digital signage companies.

Companies that agree to the standards may identify themselves through the use of a POPAI compliance logo. The digital standards are available

ScreenMediaExpo 2009

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Maintaining The Momentum

By Richard Cobbold, The Screen Forum

These have been stressful times for marketing sector trade fair organisers. With a general savaging of marketing budgets by both potential exhibitors and their customers - getting halls filled and traffic on the floor has been a significant challenge.  The effort though seems to have been worth it-- all the shows so far this year (including ISE, DSE & last week's ScreenMedia Expo) have been well attended, and have helped maintain Screen Forum 2009a good sense of momentum across the digital signage and digital out-of-home industry.

However putting a finger on that momentum and trying to work out what it actually means remains a little tricky. It doesn't look like many companies are enjoying bumper times - and most conversations one way or another seem to revert back to surviving 'the credit crunch'. So having just spent a few days at ScreenMedia Europe, I have pulled together some thoughts and impressions that may explain why, given these conditions, the market still seems to feel like it is moving ahead with confidence...

1) The industry is no longer a side show.

The media industry is starting to believe that digital out-of-home might provide some salvation from all the red ink around. The show's MediaWeek conference saw a record amount of 'non-tech' attendees and though not all the speeches made for particularly comforting listening, they did at least confirm that digital is on the map (Samsung's marketing team for example confirmed that digital was now an established part of its media mix, even if they still plan to spend less money this year!). At the 'big four' traditional outdoor media companies - the rush is on to claim leadership credentials. A couple of years ago it was pretty difficult to drag a head-honcho from CBS, JCD or Clear Channel to a digital signage show - this year however they were conspicuous by their commanding presence around the bar. At the big tech companies too it would appear there something of a plan. Sony this year pulled out of ISE (and recent reports suggest they are pulling out of IBC too), but they were at Screen Expo. Whilst Samsung openly declared Digital Signage to be their primary focus for sales growth in the coming year. 


2) There is some real and interesting data around.

The organisers at ScreenExpo really pulled out the stops with the amount of conferences and seminars held over the two days. How many times have we been to these 'conferences' just to be sold to and given the same old worthy platitudes about the industry. I am not saying you can't still find that, but there is a growing weight of real useful data and interesting experience emerging. This data is the result of the major investment in digital infrastructure that has taken place in the last couple of years, some grown-up research from mainstream advertisers who have spent real money across the medium, and the growing profesionalism of some of the key suppliers. This is driving better decision making, and the industry is now beginning to benefit significantly from the franchisable nature of believable stories of reasonable success from trusted sources. 


3) There are companies making money in the sector.

With external finance hard to come by and most of the early entrepreuneurs having run to the end of their 'friends and family' funds - what is left are companies that are actually making a living out of the industry. Companies that are charging the right amount of money and employing the right amount of people to deliver a service that real customers are valuing. They may not be growing exponentionally, but they have got some established customers and have focused their skills and propositions accordingly. This has evened out the playing field - and though it may give the impression of fewer 'conversations' happening on the floor - the reality is that those remaining conversations are more worthwhile, and more likely to lead to real and profitable business opportunities.  


 4) Everybody's Friends Now.

No longer is every company development a closely guarded secret and competition a matter of 'life and death'. That's not to say that deals aren't being aggressively fought for - but companies have worked out that overall they are better off sharing information and working together where ever possible. As customers and contracts get bigger the common enemy are either the 'big iron' tech companies (with their reassuring balance sheets) or simply alternative media formats (with their established research and trading histories). This excellent trend is now finally driving real momentum to the adoption of common standards - as companies seek to protect their market positions and focus on their skills. It is also finally improving the quality of presentation and message, enabling our customers to see a unified industry that is able to properly explain itself and be worthy of serious consideration.


5) Realistic, But Still Optimistic.

Things Are Tough Out There. The industry may be growing, but not at the rate that the old-timers, the new entrants or their investors would like. However for every frustrating negative, there is an underlying exciting positive. Below are just a couple of completely unrepresentative soundbites, but each still belies an important story...

  • "investment decisions may take 18 months to happen - but for every new media rights tender that comes out in the world of transit there is a significant digital element"
  • "it may be fragmented and bureaucratic to the point of impossibility - but healthcare is growing and digital is fast becomming mainstream within it"
  • "they may have limited funds for further expansion - but there are networks that have reached the scale where they are attracting real advertising dollars"
  •  "they may be weighed down right now with other 'sick' ventures - but the Private Equity Industry has woken up to and is actively tracking our sector

I'm sure there are many many other trends one could assess - but at the risk of repeating yet more platitudes, in summing up the show I would say it was a genuine success for the industry. No doubt we will hear that exhibitor and visitor numbers were up - but for me, the real success was in the overall improvement of quality. Quality of presentation, quality of information, quality of proposition, quality of education and quality of professionalism. We're on the map, we can prove what we say, we can work together and we can make money.


For those who didn't exhibit or didn't visit - you missed the chance to be a part of this key milestone for the industry. 

Richard Cobbold is Chairman of The Screen Forum and a director of Digital View Ltd.

Go The Screen Forum