The digital signage year that was (so far): The top stories of 2011-and-a-half

July 20, 2011

Since we're just past the halfway point of an interesting year, we here at Digital Signage Today thought it would be a great time to ask a variety of digital signage industry figures their thoughts as to what have been the biggest trends or stories thus far in 2011.

Increased interactivity is on the rise; companies are merging or shifting strategies; the for-now impracticable idea of pay-per-view DOOH raised its head; and perhaps not the most important business-wise but certainly in some ways the best story was seeing members of the digital signage and DOOH communities step up to support the victims of natural disasters in the wake of the Japan tsunami and tornadoes in Alabama and Missouri.

But here — with minimal editing — is what those inside the industry had to say about the year that was, so far:

(Some, obviously, wrote more than others, but I tried to squeeze it all in — except for the reply from one respondent, BrightSign CEO Jeff Hastings, who got so into the topic he wrote an entire commentary piece about it. Read that here.)

Steve Acquista, director of digital signage, Black Box Corp.

We are seeing quite of bit of sales and interest in corporate or employee inward-facing messaging. This includes everything from lobbies and sales floor signage to production facility safety-notification boards.

Jose Avalos, director of retail and digital signage, Intel Corp.

During the first half of 2011 we have seen new intelligent digital signage installations across many vertical industries. We are seeing connected, interactive, energy-efficient, remote-managed and transactional digital signage solutions that have been deployed into petrol stations, retail stores, universities and a wide variety of venues.

There is no question that intelligent digital signage solutions are becoming pervasive; from Indonesia to Brazil to the Ukraine, digital signage is a worldwide phenomenon.

But perhaps the biggest new trend is the focus on the end-user experience. Advertisers and venues strive to deliver a rich brand interactive experience to end-users that is memorable, transformational and enjoyable.

Alan Brawn, principal, Brawn Consulting

The only constant in digital signage is change. We are in a revolutionary period as we speak. I mean right in the middle of it. No longer is DS simple. It is becoming a complexity of mobile applications blending into fixed display networks with unique and varying objectives. It is about ROI and ROO and just good old fashioned dissemination of information.

There is a list of "minor" trends but the 800-pound gorilla in the industry that will eventually revolutionize it, is analytics. In short, understanding who the viewers are, what they are actually looking at/seeing, how long they are seeing it and at what frequency — and measuring it all so we can respond to it. As of the last few years, DS has been passive in the sense that people walked by and were confronted with it in one form or another. It will morph into a "go-to" group of integrated technologies that people use as easily as they use Twitter of Facebook. Just think of the possibilities, but we must understand the results of proper analytics if we are to grow exponentially.

Lyle Bunn, BUNN Co.

A highlight of 2011 Q1/2 has been the very insightful reports in areas such as industry trends and content, the executive survey of banking applications, as well as the report on campus deployments. A top trend is in the increased collaboration of suppliers, distributors and integrators, of associations and trade shows, of dynamic and static signage providers and most important, of dynamic and location-aware media providers.

Jeff Collard, president, Omnivex

Major technology players are starting to take the digital signage market seriously and devoting resources to this space. On the heels of Windows 7, Microsoft now has a much more flexible and capable embedded product, and they are focusing resources on digital signage applications. Intel has made some significant investment into the digital signage space, demonstrating proof-of-concept applications for the store of the future at several major shows, raising awareness of the technology and capabilities of high-end systems. Intel has also introduced much better graphics performance with the latest Core i7 processor.

Up until now, AMD has been the only supplier providing quality hardware targeted at the digital signage space. Intel was a dominate supplier to the market but their integrated graphics capabilities used by many small-form-factor computers was often inadequate. Today the GPU is as important if not more important than the CPU in your digital signage player. Older legacy systems will need replacement with more powerful computers in the future, and it has been difficult to find a small, reliable, cost-effective PC with the performance needed for the new high-definition screens. We now have a much stronger foundation to build on.

David Drain, executive director, Digital Screenmedia Association

As far as trends, I think we will continue to see more campaigns or projects that combine digital signage with mobile. As far as a market segment, there seems to be tremendous interest and opportunity in digital menu boards.

Lawrence Dvorchik, general manager, Customer Engagement Technology World

Since 1999, when our focus on using technology to engage with clients began, customer preference for choosing the channel of engagement in making their purchases and picking up their purchases remains on the rise. As technologies continue to develop and deploy, integration of these technologies will be tantamount to successful campaigns. Whether through digital screens, mobile screens or self-service processes, organizations that deploy multichannel engagement campaigns will have the most success because customers will expect to be met on these multiple channels. To that end, companies that expand the purchasing opportunities through cross-channel integration will also likely see higher yields and ROI.

Keith Kelsen, CEO, 5th Screen

I believe the big story of 2011 is still yet to come. But for the first half we had two areas that are significant:

Cross-media platform and technology integration and socialization: Driven by smart phones' newfound abilities, digital signage has embraced this simply because DOOH is a key activation and engagement point for mobile interaction in the marketplace along with social platforms. Five stories reflect this; one is from ScreenReach in the U.K. where they have a unique interactive digital media platform that allows anyone to create real-time two-way interactive experiences between a smart device (through the Screach App) and any content, on any screen with no need for additional hardware. They have made Screach a social experience too, effectively checking users in on their Facebook Wall to experiences, brands and locations when they engage. And EnQii (now ComQi) recently launched a new mobile phone application that takes another step toward mobile and social integration of digital signage. Third, MediaTile unveiled its 19-inch version of the Human Kiosk. This is a face-to-face experience that will drive new models of engagement and social interaction with real people! The fourth has to T-Mobile's Angry Birds display in Spain. That was just brilliant. And one of the most significant: RMG Networks' announcement at CETW that it was incorporating Groupon and NFC (near field communications) and QR codes.

M&A: The big stories are still to come. But the most two most significant are one on the technology side and one on the DOOH Ad network side. First, the EnQii and Minicom merger forming ComQi. Why? It's simple: distribution. While EnQii has the technology, Minicom has the distribution channels worldwide. Great merger! Second, RMG Networks' announcement of the acquisition of Executive Media Network Worldwide (EMN), the leader in airport executive lounge media. And they are on a path of raising a war chest. More consolidation in both technology and ad networks will continue to be a significant trend.

Janice Le Litvinoff, director and general manager, Digital Media Systems business unit, Cisco

The biggest trend that we have seen so far in 2011 is that customers are evolving their use of digital signage from a communications tool to a collaboration tool. Customers are considering how they can create video content to increase interaction and engagement with viewers. Wireless screens, touchscreens and social media applications are also being used to deliver additional collaboration capabilities to digital signs.

Don Pierson, founder and president, Flypaper

I'd say the most interesting trend is the momentum being gained in behavioral targeting, as illustrated by Intel's AIM Suite. This means that digital signage is starting to close the gap with the rest of the digital marketing world, where messages are targeted to individuals based upon what is known about them, through their browsing habits and other means.

Graeme Spicer, general manager, Digital Media, NEC Display Solutions

I would have to consider these two headlines as the top stories of the year (so far):

1) The incredibly fast rollout of what could become the largest DOOH network in the US by 2012: the 7-Eleven Network from DDN and Harris.

2) The adoption of digital signage for menu boards amongst the big QSR players (finally).

Ben Stagg, director of R&D, Vital Media Inc.
I would say the biggest trend in DS this year has been the technology. Though the economic situation of the last couple years has taken its toll on many businesses, those in our industry that were able to stay the course now have access to hardware and software platforms that nearly perfect the balance between performance and price. This plays itself out in several ways, from large-format displays (LED and LCD) to PC playback devices to the opportunities presented by the recent influx of smaller-form-factor options, including tablet PCs and Apple's VPP, allowing a realistic method for deploying iPads in a B2B role.

Topics: State of the Art Digital Signage , Trends / Statistics

Companies: Digital Screenmedia Association , MediaTile , NEC Display Solutions , Black Box , Customer Engagement World , Omnivex , ComQi, Inc. , AMD , Minicom Digital Signage , Intel Corporation

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