DSE13: Toshiba the latest tech giant to make a digital signage play
Like yet another corporate Godzilla rising out of the sea of commerce and heading for a digital signage Tokyo, Toshiba is headed this way.
But instead of radioactive breath and a size-200 footprint, Toshiba is bringing an interesting approach and plenty of muscle to the digital signage beach.
After acquiring IBM's point-of-sale business last year, Toshiba looked around at the decreasing market for paper printing services and figured out it was time to venture into new ground. Working "90 percent" with third-party digital signage providers (display manufacturers, software developers, media player firms, content houses), Toshiba is bringing its managed services model to bear on the digital signage market.
Joseph Contreras, Toshiba's director of product and solutions marketing for its Electronic Imaging Division, said the company's model for printing fits for digital signage, and its pre-existing partnerships and relationships give it a built-in market. In printing, Toshiba has provided copiers to companies and charged them per copy or per print, instead of selling them the copier itself. The call for printing out hard copies of documents is dwindling, but the model works for digital signage, he said.
Toshiba, acting essentially "like an integrator," will provide screens, software, content and players to companies and charge them a per-screen managed services fee instead of selling them the equipment.
"It's a solution sell," Contreras called it, and the company will initially focus on four key verticals, health care, financial institutions, education and retail.
Toshiba already is rolling out product, he said, after a soft launch in November.
DSE13: Samsung making waves with system-on-chip
DST will be taking a more in-depth look at Samsung's Smart Signage Platform in the near future, but for now it's a bit of an understatement to say the idea of taking the media player out of the digital signage equation had the show floor abuzz.
Samsung has partnered with well-known digital signage players such as Capital Networks, Four Winds Interactive, Scala, Signagelive and Wireless Ronin Technologies to integrate their content management software and eliminate the need for an on-site digital media player. That should result in significant cost savings, and could reduce power consumption considerably.
Numerous people from other companies brought it up unbidden, either addressing it directly or taking indirect potshots at the project, and others were more than happy to do so when asked.
Wireless Ronin's Steve Goertz, who was in the Samsung booth showing the WRT solution's integration with the system-on-chip platform, called it "a game changer for our clients."
Samsung itself was the first to acknowledge that its SoC solution that, in the words of one software provider, turns displays into tablets with apps embedded, is an entry-level solution aimed at end-users wanting to move from static to dynamic signage.
That fits in well with the comparison made by another digital signage executive, who compared the Samsung SoC system to the cheap TVs that came with a VCR or DVD player embedded but also said, "a rising tide lifts all boats," and, "there's always room for innovation."
DSE13: Harris says "We're not going anywhere"
Denise MacDonell, the director and general manager of digital signage for the Harris Broadcast Communications Division, said at last week's show that the recently-divested division is here to stay in the digital signage industry.
"We're not going anywhere," she said.
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Former parent company Harris Corp. recently sold off the Broadcast Division to the Gores Group (a "control oriented private equity firm specializing in acquiring and partnering with businesses that can benefit from our operational expertise and flexible capital base," according to its website), and the Division's digital signage group made sure to have a presence at DSE 2013, as much to plant its flag as anything else. The Division will retain the right to use the Harris name for three years, MacDonell said, but probably will soon be starting re-branding efforts, possibly at the National Association of Broadcasters' NAB Show in April.
"The divestiture hasn't slowed us down from a product development standpoint or from a deployment standpoint," MacDonell said at the show. But it has been a distraction, she admitted, so it is good to get back to talking about new deployments and new products, both of which should be coming aplenty in the next six months, she said. "It's going to be nice to have the opportunity to talk about where we go from here."
DSE13: Chief on top of video walls
The AV mounting specialists at Chief brought their FUSION Series freestanding video wall carts and ceiling-mounted video wall solution, among others, to this year's show.
The FUSION bolt-down video wall mounts come in a variety of landscape and portrait configurations, the company said, and the modular solutions can be combined to achieve video walls up to three displays high and any length.
The three-by-three ceiling mount for video walls drew plenty of attention on the show floor; the solution includes key features such as independent height, plumb and lateral shift adjustment knobs for easy alignment and an adjustable offset piece that keeps the weight of the screens directly under the columns to eliminate ceiling stress and swing caused by gravity.
The ceiling mounted menu board configurations include Centris tilt so screens stay where deployers place them for "effortless" multiscreen alignment in seconds, according to the Chief website. The menu board ceiling mounts also come with Centerless lateral shift for tight screen positioning, ControlZone Leveling, and landscape or portrait options.
The company also showcased a series of iPad mounts designed to provide a range of mounting options for the increased use of the iPad for digital signage.
DSE13: ComQi goes mobile
ComQi showcased its Passport application aimed at providing a seamless screen-to-mobile transition for digital signage. According to ComQi, the Passport application allows users via their smartphones to control content on a digital signage screen to play games, select videos on demand, get coupons and link to their Facebook and Twitter feeds. The product already has been deployed in cinemas and quick-service restaurant outlets in the U.S. and Israel, the company said.
DES13: NEC games new displays, goes big with projection tech
NEC Display Solutions of America brought its usual array of new displays, touting its LED-edge-lit backlighting and superslim displays with 2.5- and 3.5-inch inch depths for smaller footprints and reduced power consumption and environmental impact. It also showcased its optical-imaging touch integration for up to six simultaneous touches.
NEC's booth also featured a video wall equipped with a Microsoft Kinect for gamification, with a gesture-controlled game that had booth visitors hopping from side to side to "catch" objects on the three-by-three video wall.
Along with the video wall, the other big eye-catcher at the NEC booth was its dual projector system for dual images or seamlessly edge-blended single images on one huge projection video wall.
DSE13: RDM rolling right along
Real Digital Media CEO Ken Goldberg said the new 4.0 version of his company's NEOCAST digital signage platform was born out of user input from clients, largely from a client focus group the company brought together to help the company create a prioritized wish list for the software.
"We've re-thought how content is put together," he said last week at DSE. "Customers want complete flexibility."
According to a release sent out at the beginning of the show, the 4.0 version introduces multiple new enhancements and features, most notably the release of the new Presentation functionality that offers advanced multizone layout creation, scheduling and playback capabilities that allow network operators to quickly and easily design and sequence complex layouts comprised of independently programmable zone configurations. Zones may be continued from layout to layout for seamless transitions during a presentation, as well as synchronized to provide a method for creating fully integrated and engaging audience experiences that promote brand as well as cross-sell and upsell opportunities.
The new software also features multi-output player support reducing player investment for multidisplay arrays, according to RDM.
RDM also has brought out a new media player, the Z3, that can sync zones on dual screen arrays, Goldberg said. Using one player for two screens helps cut both capital and operating expenses, he said, as well as helping to set up fail-over and redundancy strategies.
RDM also featured a 10-inch screen with embedded media player, one that also will likely be available without the media player, tentatively scheduled for a summer release. (And at a price point that means "they could be everywhere," Goldberg said.)
Jeff Scheider, digital producer for RDM client Incite! Technology Services, said at the show that the new NEOCAST platform provides significant time savings from a content management perspective, meaning he's been able to quote projects to his clients for nearly a full third less than he'd have been able to before.
"It's a very powerful tool, and it's something that for me is a game-changer," he said.
DSE13: Scala releases "major" UI upgrades to CMS
Scala's Peter Cherna, the company's senior VP of technology, focused on two Scala projects at DSE last week: Scala's integration with the Samsung Smart Signage Platform and "major usability improvements" to the company's flagship software, the Enterprise Content Manager.
The improved user interface for Enterprise is "a giant leap forward" in fluidity of use, Cherna said.
Scala also has been pushing into HTML5, he said, and optimizing its solutions for a "new wave of devices," such as the new Android-based players that won't need a bridge to connect to the CMS.
DSE13: Sony follows Prodokol
Sony Electronics highlighted its full lineup of digital signage solutions and technologies at this year's DSE, including its expanded Prodokol digital media platform and new "Simple Signage" products designed for smaller organizations — as well as its full capabilities and services, from content design and development, content scheduling, management and distribution to network monitoring and onâsite installation and technical support.
Sony is expanding its Prodokol digital media platform with the introduction of the Prodokol Enterprise, Prodokol Kollage and Prodokol Snap solutions.
Sony calls Prodokol Enterprise "a robust and scalable platform designed for large or complex networks." It features the Prodokol LOGIK content management and scheduling application that simplifies the content workflow process and eliminates the need for complex playlists. Instead, users tag content with metadata and playback criteria and LOGIK determines the appropriate playback destination, the company said.
Prodokol Kollage offers expansive content distribution capabilities while allowing users to manage content locally with a simple Web-based interface, and the Prodokol Snap self-managed solution features technology from SpinetiX, which formally unveiled its Elementi software to the U.S. market.
DSE13: SunBriteTV gets superlative
SunBriteTV is going to "revolutionize" the outdoor digital signage market, with its line of 24/7 sunlight-readable, weatherproof outdoor displays that go for about $7,400 for a 47-inch display in portrait mode, or about $700 less for landscape mode, according to Tom Dixon, the company's VP of marketing.
Dixon said the weatherproof displays and their low price point are going to "open up" the outdoor market for deployments that would have been prohibitively expensive before.
The enthusiasm was infectious, at least, and time will tell if the displays are as well.