This year's Digital Signage Expo will mark the 10th time the DSE show has been put on, and over the years it has become the signature trade show event for the digital signage and digital out-of-home industries.
So as the DSE turns 10, DST talked with Chris Gibbs, the president and COO of show organizer Exponation LLC, about how the show — and the digital signage industry it represents — has changed over the years.
First, what is new and noteworthy at DSE this year?
DSE will be featuring new preshow events, such as a full-day educational program targeting architects and design professionals and half-day preshow events focusing on the higher education and restaurant verticals, Gibbs said.
"We're finding digital signage is being incorporated in the build process from the onset instead of as an afterthought," he said. "So a lot of architects and designers are starting to incorporate digital displays in the actual architecture of the building from the onset so we have a full-day program dedicated toward that."
The Expo also has a Digital Out-of-Home Summit, educational Certified Expert trainings and the SPEED ON advanced digital signage training, he said. The show also features 32 educational seminars on the two days of the show itself, Wednesday and Thursday; too many workshops to count in three workshop theaters during the show; and 40 industry vertical discussion groups (size-limited to 24 people) each day focusing on 17 industry verticals.
"Education is still a really big part of DSE," Gibbs said. "There's no larger gathering of speakers, professionals, leaders in the industry to deliver real-world examples and experience for this industry anywhere that I know of than there is at Digital Signage Expo."
This year's show also is tracking from a registration perspective to be the highest-attended DSE ever, Gibbs said, and DSE 2013 has a larger exhibit space and more exhibitors than ever before. He's expecting ultra-HD and transparent displays to be big this year, as well as interactive displays and mobile integration.
"We also have a new innovation zone that we've created this year," he said. "Primarily it's really a first-time exhibitor-type of a program, so companies that maybe come from overseas or companies that are in the startup phase that don't want to spend for a full-blown booth, we've given them this turnkey smaller area on the floor that they can use to showcase some of their products."
Let's talk about how far DSE has come; what was it like that first year and how different is it now?
The first DSE, held in San Francisco, had 11,000 square feet of net exhibit space, and 600 attendees, Gibbs recalled.
"And it was a huge success," he said. "People were high-fiving me in the halls. Everyone loved it, and everyone loved this industry finally coalescing and coming together as a group. It was really amazing."
The second DSE jumped all the way to 24,000 square feet of exhibit space and drew more than 1,000 attendees, he said. Last year's show, in comparison, had 62,240 square feet of net exhibit space, and 4,024 attendees.
"Also, the first year it was more led by the software manufacturers than anyone else," he said. "So a lot of the software manufacturers out there that really wanted to put a stake in the ground were kind of leading the effort."
Now, though, the display and component manufacturers are have come on strong and established their own beachhead, Gibbs said. "They've kind of taken the first couple of rows up."
How do you see the industry itself having changed in the years you've been involved with it?
One of the "really powerful and great things" Gibbs said he's seen over the years of DSE is the change in economies of scale that has allowed more people to invest in digital signage technology.
"When we first started the event, display technology was very expensive, and the capital expense for an organization to put up a digital sign, let alone a digital signage network, was a very large capital outlay, because the screens were five and 10 grand out of the gate," he said. "So as the cost to roll out networks, specifically on the hardware side, has come down, you're seeing more and more and more and more uses of it. It's starting to gain more acceptance, and smaller institutions ... they're starting to carve money out for this.
"The capital expenses still can be great, especially if it's a large network," he said, "but it's nowhere near what it used to be."
Also, as the technology has continued to improve, he said, digital signage has grown from an overwhelming majority of 42-inch screens to a wider variety of displays, both larger and smaller. Using tablets such as the iPad as digital signage has come on in recent years, but the biggest growth has been in bigger displays that are super large but not prohibitively expensive, Gibbs said. And the content shown on those displays also is getting better.
"What we're seeing is that, as everything is in competition for the visual attention of a consumer ... we're seeing two different ways that they're going about doing it," he said. "One is the displays are getting larger, and two is the content is getting more dynamic and better."
The media players are shrinking too, he said, and going to solid-state technology — and everything is getting more efficient and better integrated, with faster processing speeds as well, so the content can be delivered at a higher resolution and more dynamically.
But he sees the changes out in the everyday world as well, Gibbs said. Back when he started getting to know the still-nascent digital signage industry, Gibbs remembered getting excited whenever he saw a store or retailer using the technology.
"I'd go to a mall and count maybe two or three retailers that were using it," he said. "Now you go to a mall and it's almost the opposite; it's almost to the point that you count two or three retailers that are not using it.
"The acceptance of the technology and the cost to deploy it has really changed, and it's exciting," he said. "It's exciting for our industry, I think. It's evolving; it's growing; and one way to kind of see the growth and see the measured acceptance is just by looking at our show and how it's evolved. It's a barometer for the industry."
Digital Signage Expo 2013 will be at the Las Vegas Convention Center Feb. 26-28. For more information about DSE or to register to attend and learn more about digital signage, go to www.DSEnow.com. Early registration discounts for DSE's Annual Educational Conference program, Feb. 26-28, have been extended through Wednesday, Feb. 13. Qualified attendees also can contact their exhibitor vendors for codes giving them free exhibit hall access.
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Christopher is the editor of DigitalSignageToday.com. A longtime freelance writer and reporter, he's bringing a fresh perspective and critical take on the industry.