Just more than 32,000 people converged on Las Vegas recently to attend InfoComm, an annual commercial A/V show.
With 925 exhibitors over 475,000 square feet, the show floor is massive. Since I was mainly interested in the digital signage aspects of the show, I was able to see most of what I wanted to in two days. Here are my five takeaways from the exhibit floor:
1. Continued innovation in display technology. While LCDs and plasmas may be considered a commodity, there are a number of innovations going on in display technology.
First, Christie continues to make a splash with its MicroTiles product. The 16-inch by 12-inch tiles can be stacked in any number of ways, and the product is being used on the sets of a number of cable news shows.
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Prysm unveiled its digital signage tile, which uses laser phosphor display (LPD) technology. Similar to Christie's product, in that it can be configured in any number of ways with a very small seam, Prysm's key selling point is the low amount of power needed to operate. Indeed, the video wall being demonstrated at the show could be run by a simple wall plug.
Superimaging was showing its MediaGlass transparent graphic screen, which works by placing a special film on glass. When a projector is used, it makes the images appear as if they are floating.
While cheesy scrolling LED signs gave LED a bad name, today's LED signs are still a strong option in really large format and outdoor uses. I particularly liked the lightweight LED from PIXLED. Their product can be curved or in virtually any shape or size.
In the consumer market, LCD LEDs are the rage with their thinness, brightness and clarity. Expect to see more LCD LEDs used for digital signage as prices come down or where aesthetics are vitally important. Horizon Display was demonstrating one of the first touch-enabled LCD LEDs I've seen.
2. 3-D. Unless you've been on another planet, you've seen the plethora of new movie releases in 3-D. With the success of movies like Avatar, consumers are also interested in bringing the 3-D experience into their home. 3-D faces some challenges, though, especially outside of the home. It's not practical for viewers to don glasses in most instances. The best option for 3-D digital signage seems to be the glasses-free kind (as shown by Magnetic) and will most likely be used for grabbing someone's attention rather than long-term viewing. In spite of these challenges, don't expect 3-D to go away anytime soon.
3. iPhone/iPad apps. There were many showing off the fact that they had an app for the iPhone and/or iPad. No company stood out in my mind in particular, but it was certainly a theme from the show.
4. Screen manufacturers touting their own software and services. NEC made waves right before the show when it announced that its VUKUNET digital signage software would be available for free. LG has its SignNET solution, and the Panasonic Solutions Company was announced to offer a full scope of services, including content creation and distribution.
5. The small get smaller, the big get bigger, the bright get brighter and the simple get simpler. Digital signage media players are getting smaller, and screens are getting thinner with smaller bezels. Screens are also getting larger: Panasonic showed off its 150-inch plasma, though at $550,000, it may be awhile before many are sold. Screens are getting brighter, particularly important for outdoor signage. Vertigo Digital Displays has a high-brightness screen with a patent-pending cooling system for outdoor use, for example. Since digital signage can be confusing and overwhelming to the uninitiated, many companies like DT Research are touting its "plug and play" ability.
David Drain is the executive director of the Digital Screenmedia Association.