Archive for July 2006

Platt’s take on the business

July 28, 2006

Industry-watcher Steven Platt puts out a regular e-mailer about research trends in the business. His latest includes a round-up of where things stand globally:

“In the U.K., for example, the apparent failure to generate significant advertising revenue streams has blunted new retail deployments. We believe that our British friends could benefit from proposing non-ad supported business models to their clients. Notwithstanding, inroads in some ad supported verticals in the U.K., such as hair salons, pharmacies, non-governmental managed post offices, malls, and pubs, for example, are being made. We see this same pattern in ad-supported businesses developing in the U.S., where broad-based ad programs are not materializing, but specific verticals with a more localized focus appear to be gaining traction.

Retail deployments in the U.S. in general, while active, appear to still be moving slowly. We believe that this situation will reverse itself, but not necessarily before 2008. This opinion is being driven, in part, by the fact that we see a slowing in the U.S. economy, and believe that DCN’s will be the short-term losers in the retail quest for budget allocations.

Other markets, however, are more robust and beginning to open. South Africa, China and India present interesting opportunities. Industries beyond retail, such as governmental, financial services, and out-of-home, also have promise. In addition, many large, well-capitalized multi-nationals, with lots of clients’ in-tow, are starting to get serious about DCN’s. For now, we generally suggest avoiding putting all of one’s energies into the U.S. market, and in traditional retail markets, specifically.”

Dual use signage

July 28, 2006

I have long worried that Hamilton, Ontario-based ADSN had no chance of making it in the marketplace because their website and materials were almost completely incomprehensible to anyone but propeller-heads.

A press release issued the other day suggests they’re still kicking, still incomprehensible, but up to some interesting stuff. While just about everyone else is going after mainstream advertising and marketing-based business, these guys are heading down a side road chasing institutional business with companies and/or government agencies that want an information system that also doubles up as as emergency messaging/safety system.

Near inpenetrable statement of that, via a reseller: “In-Store Merchandising Solutions, Inc. announces the industry leading “out of the box, outside the box” plug and play ADSN Dual-Use solution for electronic and digital signage Competitive Buy-Back Offer.

The release goes on to say: “Capitalizing on years of experience in automated building technology and life/safety strategy and tactics, ISMS is the sole provider of Signapse Electronic Exit Signs© directly enmeshed in the building’s sensory nervous system for heat, smoke, fire, intrusion and surveillance. Public spaces including municipal and commercial multi-floor building infrastructure, transit, malls and campus environments can now obtain a visual augmentation to traditional embedded systems that are in full compliance with ADA requirements and operate without controlling or influencing the incumbent technology.” 

Now there are other digital signage systems out there that could take read some external triggering message from another system and play out a file, but it would usually take at least a little development. These guys have made it front and centre in their offer, which is something I’ve not otherwise run into in this business.

The consolidation continues …

July 20, 2006

Planar, which makes high-end displays, has acquired Clarity Visual Systems, which peddles high-end displays and digital signage software.

“Beaverton, Ore.-based Planar also aims to enter the high-end home theater market later this year with the introduction of a new large-screen display, the Xscreen.

The cash and stock deal to acquire Clarity is slated to close late this year or in early 2007, according to Planar. Plans call for Planar to leverage Clarity’s expertise in digital signage hardware and software systems to offer more vertically focused displays for medical, government, retail, industrial and consumer applications. Planar already offers display hardware and software for markets such as hospitals, shopping centers and banks.

Wilsonville, Ore.-based Clarity specializes in display solutions for transportation and traffic control, security and defense, energy, broadcast and telecommunications. Many of the solutions use multiple displays integrated into giant wall displays.”

Planar picks up a range of displays aimed at the digital signage market as well as the CoolSign software suite in the $46 million deal.

Expect to see more and more of this as the herd is thinned out and some of the bigger boys inside and on the edges of the industry choose dance partners or simply buy their way into the business.

Smaller LCD prices actually going up

July 18, 2006

DigiTimes, as relayed by Insight Media’s Display Daily newsletter, is reporting a Chinese LCD panel maker is actually raising the prices on its 15-inch monitors by $2-$3. This is hardlyu a seismic event, except that it marks the first time in a long time prices have not continually slid. Priceds on 17s are also expected to nudge up.

Before you panic, keep in mind the industry-wide average for a 15 incher is $98, and another $5 for a 17 incher.

It’s amazing to think when I got into this game seven years ago the volume price for a 12″ inch LCD was more than $2,000. 

Bunn makes a move

July 13, 2006

If you have been to any industry trade shows in the past couple of years you have no doubt met or at least come across Lyle Bunn, who has been a busy cheerleader for this sector while working for Toronto-based BTV+.

Bunn sent a note around to contacts yesterday saying he’s joining Alchemy Media, which is a digital media networks content production wing of the giant St. Joseph Communications publishing group.

His focus, he said in the note, will be on “areas of strategy, content and the integration of marketing and content approaches for digital, business and retail media.”
Best of luck, Lyle, and enjoy the commute you just doubled or tripled! ;-]

Strategy Institute back at it with industry conference

July 12, 2006

Toronto-based Strategy Institute is back at the digital signage trade show game. It staged a string of events n fairly short order last fall and earlier this year, and from what I experienced and/or heard, attendance was modest and enthusiasm for what transpired lukewarm. It was pretty pokey at the Toronto show.

A few industry friends were curious if the company would drop this sector and build on other “summits” they do for everything from food traceability to transport and healthcare.

But it’s back, promoting an October event in New York focused on the investor sector. That’s an interesting angle, and the program doesn’t include many of the usual suspects who’ve been handed a mike at many of the earlier events.

I doubt anyone already in the business will learn all that much (we already know raising funds is tough and takes determination, time, a rock-solid, realistic business plan and a big dollop of luck).

But for investors sniffing around in this space, or entrepreneurs looking for money guys, the $2K for this event might be money well spent for the learning and networking.

WSJ While You Wait

July 7, 2006

This was bound to happen.

A Chicago-based company has borrowed a page from Focus Media in China and established a network of LCD displays in the elevator wait lobbies of office properties.

Called the Office Media Network, the company’s business approach is to place large LCD screens set in landscape mode on a wall at or near where people wait endlessly for elevators during the morning and noon rush hours in these high-rises. This is a truly captive audience and building operators will love these things because they distract tenants from the fact (or at least feeling) that the elevators are too slow.

The interesting approach here is a very overt partnership with the Wall Street Journal, which actually has the brand for the service. Stories are fed to the screens through the day and the company makes money through an advertising window on the screen.

The WSJ should love this, as it is a great way to get their brand steadily in the face of their core reading audience every business day, and ideally drive newsstand sales when people see a snippet and decide they need to read the whole thing.

Where I think this will struggle a bit is that most or all advertisers will want the full screen option and will not want to fight for attention with the weather and other bits that fill up the screen. There is a full screen option and that’s where media planners will want to be.

The online demo and screen captures look like Flash and HTML, which makes me think this is not so much a digital signage app as a browser window on a big screen. Nonetheless, it looks good, though busy.

The network is now live in a handful or markets, and will have to move quick, as I know there are other companies looking at the office lobby space – no doubt inspired as well by the success of Focus.