Now that we've closed the book on 2015, it's time to look ahead at the New Year and what's to come in digital signage.
We've already looked at what were the biggest blogs, news items and feature stories of 2015 in terms of pageviews on DigitalSignageToday.com, and we've also heard what a panel of industry experts thought were the top stories of the year that just ended.
Now we turn back to them to hear what they think will be the biggest trends of 2016 and the hottest stories of the year to come.
Their predictions run the gamut of possibilities, from the digital signage convergence of data and devices to the increased regulation of outdoor displays, so let's get right to it and turn to what they had to say about the year to come:
Doug Bannister, CEO and CTO, Omnivex Corp.:
2016 promises to elevate experiences to a whole new level with the convergence of devices, data and digital signage. Devices such as sensors are opening the doors for a whole new level of personalized digital experiences across all industries. In retail, imagine walking into a store and having the information on your mobile and the digital screen by the products you are viewing customized to reflect your interests, or even the products in your online shopping cart. In manufacturing, screens can provide real-time updates on inventory in transit and estimated arrival times. In education, schools can tie sensors from fire, security alarms and other maintenance systems into digital signage to provide real-time visual alerts of critical information. In 2016, organizations will realize just getting information to mobile devices isn't the route to business success, in reality it is the mobility of the individual that is important, and getting information to people where and when they need it on any device.
Nick Fearnley, CEO, SignStix:
2016 will see a significant shift away from monolithic, on-premise installs. As the digital signage marketplace matures, we're seeing less investment in traditional platforms and players; 4K is now becoming commonplace and the proliferation of ARM based devices from China means that low-cost, high performance players can be obtained for $100. These devices are sufficiently reliable and accessible; we're starting to see them wholesale in panels manufactured by the big names - so we should start to see real performance from the player-less (SaaS) systems out there.
Digital signage is almost old-hat - the industry is spending less time convincing the market they need digital and more time helping differentiate retailers, in particular, with enhanced digital offerings. Much of this is coming from real-world technical integration of digital systems, and we're already finding that digital signage platforms comprise 90 percent of what's required; the other 10 percent being the integration specifics with things such as ERP, PIM and location-based technology. Digital signage has very quickly become "digital engagement," and any signage platform without a strong level of interaction (whether that be with individuals or with other technologies) is one that will be at risk over the next 12 months.
We've seen "digital" move from "nice to have" to "must have," with retailers integrating digital as part of their core in-store strategy. That's exciting from a retail perspective as it offers real-world omnichannel opportunity, finally moving away from the conceptual noise we've all been subjected to for far too long. 2016 will see some real innovation — organizations are starting to experiment a little more, and organizations like ours are seeing the benefits of being part of a much wider, more collaborative ecosystem.
A. Jay, Senior Director of Business Relations, Mvix:
Expect 2016 to be a breakout year for "Individual Function Screens," i.e. smaller screen projects such as door signs, POP signs, endcaps, directional signs, etc. We haven't seen much activity in this area, and small screens (15 to 20 inches) have yet to show significantly positive ROI on a mass scale. These screens, unlike traditional 48- to 65-inch screens, are more individualized/customized due to the fact that they target a single eye set at a time. The majority of such projects are also more functional in nature (e.g., door signs with event listings). Larger screens on the other hand are designed for mass appeal, and are more generic in functionality, e.g. improving overall branding.
We also expect a significant growth in multiscreen video wall implementations, fueled by the reduced cost of zero-bezel screens. Here I expect significant growth in nine-plus screen projects, where we'll see exponential ROI compared to smaller, fewer-than-six, screen projects. Office lobby and retail store video wall projects will likely lead this growth.
For the past two years, we all have been talking about an upcoming consolidation across the industry. Apart from the three to four interesting deals in 2015, we haven't seen anything major happen in 2015. Most investors and consolidators are probably waiting to see how the industry matures before making merger decisions.
2015 has brought about a significant increase in customer acquisition cost, and if this trend continues in 2016, we will witness new entrants folding. Products are also becoming increasingly commoditized, which has led to a highly fragmented industry. While new entrants will find it difficult to differentiate themselves, existing companies will continue to leverage their longevity, experience across projects and a broad product portfolio to run ahead of the pack. Keeping fixed costs in check, while investing in growth (with surgical precision) will likely be the mantra for winning companies.
Giovanni Mancini, Senior Director and Head of Global Marketing, E Ink:
- Increased regulations on outdoor displays - In 2016, communities will increase regulations controlling outdoor displays. Since not every community wants to become a local version of Times Squares, digital signs and signs with video or changing images will become more pervasive. Communities will take an increasing role in understanding the impact these signs have, and suppliers of such products will increase studies trying to address these concerns.
- Digital signage is no longer an afterthought - This year we saw retailers and businesses introduce digital signage in their stores, and in 2016 we will see the movement to design for digital signage increase. Retailers will realize that digital signage has a large impact on the customer experience and the general branding associated with the company. Rather than being an afterthought, digital signage will become better incorporated to enhance the corporate brand rather than damage it.
Sean Matthews, President and CEO, Visix Inc.:
In 2016 I expect to see additional, real-world evolution in the markets we serve. First, all things wayfinding. You can expect to see more integrated mobile apps utilizing interior beacons with visual cues at every hallway intersection. These apps will be tied to alert notification systems that will provide directional guidance in the event of an emergency. Point-to-point, text-to-device directions will be standard with every effective wayfinding kiosk. Near Field Communications and RFID tags will be integrated into room-booking systems to better facilitate walk-up reservations. Auto-updating content specifically designed for the digital signage medium will begin to replace dependence on video stream and cable television hooks. HTML 5 will become a more common visual source wrapped in more elegant media designs. Lastly, social media responses to messages will become an indicative measure of audience engagement in corporate campus and higher education deployments.
Navdeep Reddy, co-founder and CIO, Enplug:
"2016: Wintel is Coming" - The primary market force behind Android-based players has been price. The ARM-based architecture they run on has historically been an order of magnitude cheaper than any x86 option on the market. However, this is about to change. Intel has made some major leaps in lowering the cost of its "Atom" line of X86 processors. Codenamed "Cherry Trail," Intel's latest line of chips have incredibly low materials costs. Combined with Microsoft's aggressive OEM pricing of Windows 10, we expect to see a host of low-cost Windows/Intel devices from manufacturers supporting the latest features like 4K output but competing on price with ARM/Android offerings.
Neil Willis, CEO, Hypersign:
Throughout the second half of 2015, intelligent wayfinding using Bluetooth Low Energy has become more popular. Businesses are using it with their marketing and sales efforts. Airports are using wayfinding as interactive maps. For 2016, I believe that there is huge potential with using emergency alerts along with wayfinding to keep individuals safe and secure in any environment, especially within education. However, this could bring about new challenges regarding privacy versus safety.
/ 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.