Archive for August 2006

Wireless Ronin still planning IPO

August 30, 2006

This from the biz news wires:

Ronin Technologies, Inc. today announced that it has filed a registration statement on Form SB-2 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission relating to a proposed initial public offering of its common stock. Pursuant to the offering, Wireless Ronin expects to offer 4,500,000 shares at a price range between $4.00 and $5.00 per share.

Wireless Ronin provides dynamic digital signage solutions targeting specific retail and service markets through a suite of software applications called RoninCast®.  RoninCast is an enterprise-level content delivery system that manages, schedules and delivers digital content over wireless or wired networks.   

An $18 million raise in an industry that still has a pretty short list of ongoing success stories seems mightily ambitious, but it will be fascinating to see what happens if this actually gets out to the investment community.

There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about what this Twin Cities-area firm does — their schtick is that they deliver wirelessly, which anyone can do with wi-fi gear — so I’m a little skeptical about this ever going ahead.  

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The odd digital signage couple

August 24, 2006

Now here’s a partnership I didn’t see coming … and I doubt many others did, either.

AKA reports that LED big board manufacturer Daktronics has set up a joint company with VST Media, which does the screens on the top of gas pumps thing. Big honking screen company meets little LCD guys.

Says AKA:

VST International is partnering with Daktronics, a major supplier of LED-based electronic signs, to extend both companies’ reach into fuel-pump digital signage.

The pair are forming a new company, FuelCast Media International, which will grow Daktronics’ presence in the digital-signage market while providing smaller VST, already a specialist in gas-station networks, with resources to enable it to continue product development.

FuelCast will provide turnkey solutions including pump-top displays, installation, network management, and advertising sales. It will offer Daktronics’ ProCast LCD technology, which may solve some of the ambient-light problems that have faced this particular application of digital signage.

I wasn’t even aware Daktronics did LCDs, but a quick zip around the company site indicates they have screens starting at 26 inches and a high-bright 1,200 nit 46 incher that must cost as much as Lindsay Lohan’s weekend bar tab.

The piece doesn’t indicate what software is being used going forward, with Scala being in VST’s boxes until now.

It’s likely a good move for VST, which has gained a lot of traction on the site acquisition side of the business but has undoubtedly being struggling on the cash side, because of the high capital costs of putting screens in and the so-so response from the advertising community in Canada, where more than 1,100 screens are running.

It’s a good move for Daktronics as it gives some people a reason to escape from South Dakota to Vancouver or LA during the winter.

The jury is still out, I think, on whether the screens at gas pumps thing is a viable business, but continuing best wishes to Jim Maynard and the guys behind it.  

Tesco TV finally goes below the line … where it should be

August 21, 2006

Word out of the UK is that the lightbulbs finally went off inside Tesco and its managers have largely given up on the third-party advertising model.

Out of home giant J.C. Decaux is out and Dunnhumby, which does transaction data and loyalty cards for Tesco, is in. 

The managing director of Decaux’s sales conceded Tesco TV was “increasingly seen by clients as an integral part of their below-the-line strategy”.

Well no kidding.

It has been pretty clear for a long time that the way these networks are going to work is by tapping into trade and product launch dollars and not by trying to duke it out with broadcast networks for automotive ads.

The other interesting snippet from the announcement: reports that Tesco store employees were tampering with the screens and turning down the volume after becoming annoyed with the programming.

Isn’t it strange that people working in largely dead-end jobs get a little cranky after hearing a jingle for salad dressing 96 times a day?

Pump it up and play it out

August 21, 2006

Came across this screwball instant big-screen on the the gadget blog, Gizmodo.

I suppose if a client has a one-off public event and really, really wants a big screen, this beats the hell out of whatever scary number it would be for a rent and roll-in LED board. These ones cost $900 and come with a patch kit.

VAR Business looks at this space

August 21, 2006

VAR Business, a trade publication for technology integrators, has cranked out a piece about the emerging digital signage industry.

It is more of a primer for the unitiated but has some interesting comments and numbers:

Scott Stanton of the Digital Signage Group, out in Washington state, suggests corporate communications is a target-rich sector.

“It’s easier to understand how things get paid for, and it’s an ROI they can communicate,” Stanton says. “I think it’s an easier deal for the VAR, and we see a lot of movement in that area.”

For example, displays in an outbound call center that show metrics such as current caller hold times, number of callers on hold and up-to-the-minute product-inventory information could drive both productivity and sales for end users, Stanton says.

The piece also quotes the market research firm Isuppli about forecasted demand and revenues:

The number of displays and projectors used in retail signage is expected to grow to 1.4 million in 2010 from 342,000 units in 2005. But at the same time, display prices are expected to continue their downward spiral, so total revenue for the retail-signage market is predicted to grow only modestly–from $1.3 billion to $1.4 billion during that same time frame.

CRTs fading fast

August 11, 2006

Back from holiday, having spent most of that time on golf courses or in lawn chairs. Always nice to turn off the brain at least for a few days.

Back at it now and encouraged that summer continues to be very busy in this space, despite all the people also on holiday.

Catching up on reading, I saw a piece in Display Daily about the imminent demise of conventional CRT TVs. Within a few years, maybe far less, tube-based TVs will not be manufactured.

“On Monday, August 7th, there was an article in the New York Times business section with the headline “Picture Tubes Are Fading Into the Past.”  The article quotes Geoff Shavey, the TV buyer for Costco, as saying After the holidays, the days of picture-tube TVs are gone.  One year from now, we will not sell picture-tube TVs.

People have been forecasting the demise of the CRT “within five years” for a couple of decades now.  Is it possible that the forecast is now correct?  The article discusses the CRT-based product offerings from Sony, Panasonic and Toshiba.  All 3 companies have cut their lines of CRT sets dramatically, with Panasonic eliminating them altogether.”

This is lamentable for a couple of short-terms reasons:

1 – Standard definition TV signals look way better on tube TVs than they do on LCDs. They smooth out fonts and give a nice rich image, while LCDs reveal every imperfection of a 720 by 480 image stretched to fit the larger resolution screen. I have a large LCD at home and regular TV, which is what a lot of digital signage media players are pushing out, really doesn’t look so hot.

2 – They cost far less, and in a lot of cases, CRTs make perfect sense when screens are just popped in a corner and then there is no real gain from using a thin profile flat panel.

That said, LCDs look great when HD is used and that’s clearly where the market is going. And as it goes, LCD prices will start to come in line with better CRTs.