Day Two at the annual Digital Signage Expo in Las Vegas is always a race against time. It's the last day of the exhibition hall show, and everything you didn't see, everyone you didn't talk to, has to be hit by closing time. And you'd better not wait that long since there are plenty who slip out just a bit early to catch a plane for home.
So you map out your day, plan your meetings, scope out the cool stuff you haven't looked at closely yet, and off you go again.
And then it's go time. Fortunately, with a few people apparently trying to catch the opening games of March Madness, you have a little more time to stop and talk to old friends and acquaintances in the industry and hear what people are noticing. With more in-depth coverage to come, here are just a few first impressions from Day Two at the digital signage industry's annual conclave:
1. The first domino? – Peerless-AV VP of Global Business Development Brian McClimans may just have had the observation of the day. He mentioned that, while people have always been interested in his company's outdoor digital menu board solution, this year the interest has taken on a new tenor. You can tell QSRs are moving past the "kicking the tires" phase and perhaps into the buying phase, he said. Perhaps it's a reaction to Starbucks finally being the one to start the ball rolling with its recent drive-thru DMB rollout, but it does appear the chain reaction the industry's been waiting for may have finally started.
2. Concept cars? – Planar Systems was demonstrating some future tech at the show, a 0.9 mm ultra-fine-pitch LED video wall solution — as was LG with its OLED Wallpaper concept — and Samsung chose to eschew featuring its staid, 16:9 aspect ratio digital signage rectangles, instead focusing on more dynamic and unusual solutions. Michael O'Halloran, the product marketing manager at Samsung Electronics, said people have seen enough displays out in the marketplace; the DSE show was an opportunity to show more unusual offerings and solutions. (And to be clear, all the display manufacturers were openly talking about customized bespoke solutions that could use their technologies in engaging ways — and OLED.) Jennifer Davis, vice president of marketing and product strategy at Planar Systems and chief marketing officer at Leyard International, aptly compared it to automakers showcasing concept cars at auto shows. Just about every trade show in the world has more than its share of digital signage on the floor now; shouldn't the digital signage show really set the bar even higher?
3. Feast or famine? – I can't count how many times I'd be standing in a booth that was overflowing with people, so much so you could barely move around — right next to a booth where the only people in it were wearing the company's logo wear. But ask those people how their show was going and they tell you it's been great. Maybe I missed their busy time.
4. Invisible tech? – OK, actually this one is really an observation from both days. I went to a session on "intelligent spaces" on Day One and a session on 'immersive experiences" on Day Two, and in both I heard essentially the exact same sentiments: 1) It's not about the tech; it's about the experience (or perhaps more accurately, the tech is about the experience; the experience is not about the tech, since of course we're all taking about technology at a technology trade show). 2) The technology should be so much a part of the experience that it is functionally invisible — the customer doesn't even think about or notice that they're using technology because they're just enjoying the experience. "When digital is done well," Shikatani Lacroix EVP Richard Dirstein said, "you don't even see it."
/ Christopher is the managing director of the Interactive Customer Experience Association and former editor of DigitalSignageToday.com. A longtime freelance writer and reporter, he's bringing a fresh perspective and critical take on the industry.