Industry News

LCD Inventor Wins Prestigious EPO Award

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Martin Schadt

The European Patent Office (EPO) announced the winners of the European Inventor Award 2013.

Some 500 guests attended the award ceremony in Amsterdam, including Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, Sander Dekker, the Netherlands Minister for Education, Culture and Science, and Michel Barnier, the European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services.

The 2013 awards were presented in five categories, in addition to the Popular Prize:

The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Martin Schadt (Switzerland), inventor of the world's first flat-panel liquid crystal display.

It looks like rather an ugly award but nonetheless the EPO President wears an expression that the award will have to be taken from him forcibly.

But well-deserved is well-deserved and here’s why Martin Schadt deserves it:


Maturing Without Slowing Down; Digital Signage Keeps On Pushing

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by Neil Felton, FESPA Managing Director, Exhibitions & Events

Throughout history, new technologies have often needed ambassadors and evangelists to highlight key benefits and demonstrate best practise examples to enthusiastic - though uninitiated - potential users. This has certainly been the case with digital signage, but the work of various industry bodies is now showing signs of bearing fruit. The industry is moving into its next phase of maturity, as events such as European Sign Expo (ExCeL London, 25-27 June 2013) start to address issues such as system integration, convergence with other media, and ensuring that systems are robust and easy to manage.

Display wall at European Sign Expo

The emergence of new digital signage techniques and products is not slowing, and there are many innovative and exciting new ideas that need to be explored and understood. In the past social media  has generally been regarded as fringe or trivial aspects when integrated with digital signage. More recently, however, successful campaigns have shown how they can be used to encourage audience participation and enhance the ability of digital signage to support engaging real-time communications. Accordingly, mobile and social-media integration has been moving into the mainstream over the last couple of years, and is probably one of the most important developments in digital signage today.

Today’s consumers, who are familiar with multi-touch smartphones and tablets, now tend to expect almost any type of screen to be touchable. Consequently, multi-touch capable digital signage is emerging, enabling communicators to mimic phone-like controls that invite interaction from viewers. Similarly, Near-Field Communication (NFC) is another technology from the mobile industry that is likely to feature prominently in digital signage campaigns of the future. NFC provides a channel for communicating with mobile devices and is easy to use, offering an enjoyable experience for consumers. It can allow communicators to extend the level of engagement with their target audiences, as well as capture data for purposes such as measuring the effectiveness of their campaigns. Widespread use of NFC in digital signage will, of course, be contingent upon the uptake of NFC-enabled phones reaching a critical mass.

Digital screen media also brings opportunities to integrate sophisticated technologies that are not directly linked to the mobile world. Facial recognition is one example. Over the last few years the technology has moved from scientific laboratories into real-world applications, and offers benefits for certain types of campaigns such as those involving advertising or a call to action.

There are, of course, simpler ways for communicators to grab the attention of their focal public, as demonstrated by the steadily growing adoption of displays that enable creatives to work outside the confines of the 16:9 box. These include videowalls and other displays built using panels with the latest ultra-thin bezels, as well as display systems that can be built into concave and convex curves allowing the construction of videowalls of almost any shape or size and enabling deployment in challenging or unusual locations. 

Overall, the technical developments currently emerging, or about to emerge, demonstrate how digital signage provides extra flexibility and new opportunities for brand owners to satisfy their core goal. This is, and has always been, to draw the attention of their target audience by standing out against the host of other factors competing for attention. 

The increasingly widespread use of digital signage, and integration with other digital technologies to enhance the effect of campaigns, provides evidence that understanding of the medium is growing. The role of industry associations and other not-for-profit organisations, in presenting the case for digital signage, has been significant in enabling such growth. It is critical that their initiatives should continue and become even more effective in showing potential adopters how to enter the arena and contribute to further advancement.

Class at European Sign Expo

Digital screen media is still a very new and rapidly evolving field, bringing numerous opportunities. It is also subject to few restrictions. In such an environment, it can be difficult for communicators to set targets and establish strategies to achieve them. This is why knowledge sharing is vital; the industry needs effective platforms such as conferences, educational programmes and awards schemes that create a suitable environment to encourage information sharing and industry networking. Knowledge sharing is critical to realising the full potential of this sector, and this is a role that associations such as FESPA continue working hard to fulfil.

The huge opportunities that are now becoming apparent mean that digital signage is today an extremely highly energised sector drawing in developers, vendors and end users characterised by a tremendous thirst for learning. One striking aspect is the positive response from among those working with established communication technologies such as print and signage. Printers and sign-makers are seeing the potential that digital signage offers when combined with their existing service range, and are keen to find out more about the technologies and the opportunities it can bring them. Registrations for this year’s European Sign Expo include a significant number of attendees from the graphics sector, who will be visiting to see the latest developments on display in the exhibition and to learn how to get the most from digital signage by attending the free content programme.

The topics to be tackled by the various conference threads at European Sign Expo show how the digital signage sector is maturing. Leading practitioners from developer and end-user communities will present on important practical issues; for example, how digital signage comes together with other media channels such as mobile, social and online, and how signage can be designed to work effectively with the surrounding built or natural environment. There is also a special thread on Digital Signage Integration, which will discuss how the many techniques and products now available can be combined to create a solution that is both robust and easily managed. Other threads, such as Signs & Stores, will look closely at how digital signage is being used effectively in specific industries like retail. 

The fact that the industry is having these types of discussions, led by experts who are accomplished and highly regarded in their respective fields, shows that digital signage is transitioning successfully into a serious visual communications medium. 

Neil FentonNeil Felton is the FESPA Managing Director, Exhibitions & Events. Neil joined FESPA in May 2011 as Managing Director in charge of exhibitions and events.

Neil is a highly experienced exhibitions director. He held a variety of senior exhibition roles prior to joining FESPA, culminating as executive director at William Reed where he presided over a three-fold growth in event revenues from his division. 

Neil is a board director of the AEO (Association of Event Organisers), an influential organisation in the international event industry. 

Go European Sign Expo incorporating Screenmedia Expo, is a dedicated signage event at ExCeL London from 25-27 June 2013. It provides a comprehensive demonstration of the latest developments in visual communication channels from conventional signage, digital signage and out-of-home media. During European Sign Expo visitors will be able to take advantage of free high quality educational information through two conference theatres on the exhibition floor. European Sign Expo is managed by FESPA.  The exhibition and conference is free for visitors who register online  in advance (£55 on the day).

Go FESPA  Founded in 1962, FESPA is a global federation of 37 member associations for the large format print community. FESPA’s dual aim is to promote the industry and to share knowledge with its members across the world, helping them to grow their businesses and learn about the latest developments. FESPA adopts a Profit-for-Purpose business model, reinvesting millions of Euros into the global printing community over the last seen years to support its growth. 

Christie Wins DSE Award for Own Lobby

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Christie left Digital Signage Expo (DSE) with a Silver Apex award (Business, Industry and Government category) for its own digital signage display.

Christie HQ West Wing

Christie Digital Systems at HQ in Canada created a display where technology, architecture and artistic design intersect in iconic fashion in their West Wing lobby.

The project was to create a display that was architecturally provocative and technologically innovative as a state-of-the-art canvas for artists and content partners as well as for the company’s Artist-In-Residence Program.

The outcome is a lobby wall that consists of 115 Christie MicroTiles and a unique Christie media management solution to drive content on the 70-megapixel wall. The 70 megapixels occur over five displays that are separate yet are capable of driving interlocked content to appear as if they are one canvas. Streaming this many pixels simultaneously required some excellent video cards.

The media management solution involves the use of a Christie Spyder image processor to manage the sheer amount of pixels and video possibilities, while a customized version of Christie JumpStart software acts as a media player and manager facilitating greater ease of operation.

The solution included RP Visual Solutions designing and building a custom metal ladder section that now serves as mounting for the Christie MicroTiles and the drywall.

Go Christie West Wing Lobby in Ontario, Canada

Digital Signage's Role in the Boston Marathon Crisis

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FBI Sign

We tend to think of digital signage mostly as advertising or wayfinding—until there’s an emergency or crisis. Clear Channel Outdoor in Boston shows us (via their Facebook page) how digital signage can transform into a vital public safety communication system when necessary.*

The tragedy of this year’s marathon, the inconceivable act of blowing up athletes at the finish line of a contest of personal endurance, stunned the American city of Boston.

The bombers, while on the run, decided to rob a grocery store to finance their run and to hijack a car for transit. One MIT campus police officer was shot to death in his cruiser, and another police officer wounded in a shootout.

With killers on the loose and in their midst, Bostonians, still reeling from shock, managed to cooperate with one another, assist proper authorities, and improve upon an anxious and confusing situation. And they did this with technology…with smart devices, internet, and social media. And they did this because local technology stakeholders, like Clear Channel and its digital signage network, contributed to the urgency of the civic cause.


Armagard Wins Queen’s Award for Enterprise

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UK-based Armagard wins the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise.

Armagard exports protective enclosures to ensure safe working environments for outdoor digital signage screens, computers, printers and other electrical hardware and have been awarded the 2013 Queen’s Award from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth because of their success in overseas markets.

They achieved substantial growth in overseas earnings over the last three years, with exports growing by over 300%.


Armagard says their export success is due to planning and focus, started as the UK was plunged into recession.

“We conducted a strategic analysis of overseas markets and competitors, and formulated a targeted market entry strategy to grow export sales within outdoor digital signage. All this was prior to the recession but we decided to continue the plan against the advice of some of our then financial advisors as the recession hit in 2008,” says Managing Director Mark Neal.

Armagard’s strategy has seen foreign sales increase from just 6% of annual turnover in 2007, to 63% by 2012.

The Queen’s Award for Enterprise is an annual prize awarded to UK businesses for outstanding achievement. Her Majesty the Queen chooses the winners of each year’s award after taking advice from the Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee.

Go Armagard's Award

New Director Named for Amscreen Solutions Division

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Amscreen hires former O2 head of sales Paul Atherton as Commercial Director to build a new solutions division responsible for the selling of digital signage solutions in the UK and overseas. 

Atherton will report directly to company CEO Simon Sugar.

paul Atherton

With Europe’s largest Digital Outdoor Network, Amscreen runs a network of 5000+ screens.

After adding new screen sizes to its portfolio, Amscreen now offers a variety of low-cost scalable digital signage solutions intending to offer one-stop shopping to a broader market.

To further that goal, Amscreen is developing their own plug-and-play technology, cloud-based software and managed services.

Atherton, previously Group Sales Director of Mamas & Papas and Global Sales Director at Breville, is expected to be instrumental in further growing the digital signage company.

Go Amscreen Solutions

We’re Not Obvious Enough, Says European Report

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With smartphone ownership up almost 34% Y-o-Y and a 10X rise for near field communication (NFC) smartphones, you wouldn’t expect only a 2% increase in NFC awareness by consumers (from 6% to 8%). 

This big gap reinforces the need for the industry to further educate consumers on the benefits of the interactive advertising technologies available. 

“People now have the technology to interact, if not necessarily the understanding and the awareness,” says CBS Outdoor International after completing its latest Interactive Europe report, a pan-European survey covering nearly 5300 urban consumers in six countries.

“Creative should be explicit in communicating the core message and in showing people if and how they can interact with the ad,” advises the report’s author. Their research into the way European consumers interact with outdoor advertising suggest some “golden rules” for the medium. (See link at bottom).


Sharp Selling Off Pioneer Corp Shareholdings

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Sharp Corporation of Japan says it is selling off its 9.2% shareholdings in Pioneer Corp.

Currently Sharp is the largest shareholder on record in Pioneer with 30 million shares of Pioneer valued at 6.3 billion yen or US$63.80 million.

Back in 2007, the two firms made a partnership to jointly develop consumer electronics products. Now that seems like a luxury to Sharp, a luxury they can’t afford. So Sharp is looking for a buyer. The proceeds of the sale would help pay off Sharp’s corporate debt of $2.14 billion which is the equivalent to a Mt. Everest of LCDs.

Pioneer would continue to retain ten million shares or 0.8% shareholdings in Sharp.

Even with the divestment, the two companies would continue to partner on a smaller scale in fields such as optical discs.

Go Sharp Wants to Sell Pioneer Stake

Digital Signage Expo Breaks Last Year’s Record

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The 10th annual Digital Signage Expo (DSE) in USA show was held last month in Las Vegas and rAVe USA covered it via their rAVe NOW Microsite -- more than 350 videos, 20 blogs and over 350 tweets..

Show management has just confirmed the new benchmarks established at DSE 2013 last month include:

  • 4080 qualified attendees (excluding exhibitors)
  • Record conference attendance
  • Record international attendance from a total of 77 countries
  • Record 211 exhibitors
  • A record show floor space

rAVe USA has put all the DSE stats together in an easy-to-read infographic. By the photo you can hardly tell it was held in Vegas…

Go DSE Infographic

Go All the News and Best Products from DSE in USA