Archive for March 2007

One airport – at least three sign networks

March 29, 2007


So much for having one throat to choke … The people who run Montreal’s Trudeau airport have three companies running signage networks in their public areas. Perhaps more, but I only saw three in the last couple of days.

The one I really liked, having seen bits of it months earlier, is run by telecom giant Bell. It has a series of mid-sized displays, all ceiling-mounted and in portrait mode, hanging in the departure areas as well as some arrivals, from what I could see. I like the way they’ve done it because the screens look like they belong there. Bell has installed enough of them that they are also ubiquitous.

The best part of that install is around the food court area, where there is a string of them in a long curve outside several eateries.

So then I went through security and headed to my gate, and saw the Astral Media Aero TV screens that I also saw about a year ago, as they were getting set to light up. They are Samsung screens, back to back, installed in the middle of departure seating areas. They seem to run the same sort of thing as the ClearChannel-CBC thing in Toronto’s Pearson, though free of the teeny headlines and weather bits no one can read.aerotv.jpg

Kind of OK, I guess. But then I noticed on the other side of the walkway. More Bell screens!

So we have Bell selling against Astral for the same eyeballs, within a few feet of each other (see the little red circles in pic). Sheesh.

Then there is PassePort Media, which has screens in arrivals – most of which were doing the Windows freezie thing when I was going through Customs the other morning. It is owned by Astral Media now, but still seems to carry the PassePort brand and look.

How the airport ended up with three networks, who knows. How they manage to recover costs while selling against each other may be a greater mystery.


The importance of nailing the little things in contracts

March 28, 2007

metro1.jpgI took the Montreal Metro subway to get out to the JADN.TV conference, and while standing on the platform noticed something peculiar. A firm called MetroVision has ad screens running in some Metro stops, particularly the big ones. Projectors with long-throw lenses blast motion images on to a wall-mounted screen on the other side of the tracks.

There’s a nice, uncluttered show – with some useful, very sticky content that sees the system steadily polling train operations and letting people know how long ’til the next train.

Problem is, the ambient lighting was totally washing the screens out. It took some concentrated staring to get much from these screens, and I hopped on the train trying to sort out in my mind what the logic was for spending the time and money for something you can’t see.

metro2.jpgAt the conference, I ended up yakking with a guy who does some of the firm’s content work. He explained how the screens looked great when they first went in. Then a few weeks later, the transit authority decided the platforms needed brighter lighting to enhance safety. And all of sudden the screens looked like crap.

Presumably, this will get dealt with – but you have to wonder if this sort of thing was even contemplated when the contracts were done. The Metro people should be helping remedy this, one would think, but I betcha they’re just shrugging.

Meanwhile, one level down, the lighting is more subdued, and the screens look great.

Many operators think to build in contract language to deal with what happens if gear needs to be moved. But who’d have thunk about changed lighting conditions???

JADN.TV conference in Montreal

March 28, 2007

olytower.jpgAfter a trip from Las Vegas that, courtesy of United Airlines, was worthy of a Salvador Dali painting, I made it to Montreal in time for the inaugural JADN.TV digital signage conference on March 28.

In short: well organized by Arsenal-Media; cool venue atop the Montreal Olympic Stadium tower; wine at lunch (gotta love the French take on life); and a useful set of presenters. Or, at least I gather on that last bit.

There were only two presentations in English, and one of them was me. To summarize my yak, I just about tipped off the narrow podium, spilled my water, back-handed the mike, and blabbered on about something or other for 20 minutes. I did manage to push the right button to turn on my mike!

The other Anglos on the bill were Marnie Boucher and Jon Ward, founders of ShopCast, the Toronto-based start-up that has the deal to roll out screens across Wal-Mart Canada’s portfolio.

In short, Marnie joked about how she and Jon put this thing together from very humble beginnings in her basement, and related the long trip that finally resulted last fall in a long-term commitment with the retailing giant.

Interesting things they learned along the way:

  • screens at the entry to a Wal-Mart went completely unnoticed, as in COMPLETELY.
  • the first five minutes of the so-called consumer journey are a blur for consumers
  • screens mounted too high don’t get seen, and screens too low intimidate consumers, who then skirt around them
  • screens don’t much get noticed by transient shoppers, but loyal Wal-Mart shoppers start to notice them over time and eventually rely on them

Boucher related a couple of interesting points about the firm’s sales model:

  1. the screens sprinkled around the store are being sold on a cost per screen per location model;
  2. the row of screens at checkout are being sold as an aggregated mass audience, competing with TV.

Ward, who runs the creative side of the firm, says they also learned through trial and lots of error that what shoppers want to see in terms of content is material that treats the shoppers as friends. In other words, spots that provide some value to the shopping experience, as opposed to pure hard sells on price or other, more conventional approaches.
The rest of the presentations were in French, and beats me what they were going on about. I’ll be chasing down some English translations on a couple of the chats, and will pass along.

Organizer Denys Lavigne was happy with the turnout, and gave every indication there would be another. There was certainly lots to suggest there’s a very active industry community in Quebec.

DigiCurve, aka GSBC, now trading

March 28, 2007

For the, ummm, enthusiastic investor:

The hottest tech stock on the planet … well the founder says so, so it must be true … has back-doored its way on to the over the counter NASDAQ board and started trading this week. For $8, honest, you too can grab this rocket.

Thanks for the tip, Ricardo!

Interactive projection whatchamacallit thingdoodle works better on walls than floors

March 26, 2007


I have watched the projection stuff from Reactrix and GestureTek and thought it was pretty cool, but noticed kids were all over the things when they were floor projected, but adults zipped by.

I saw one at CES projecting on to a wall and liked it, and saw another one today at Mandalay Bay (yes, I am back at my new second home again) that I liked and people definitely noticed. When they walked by the Shark Reef display, the water rippled and distorted.

The install was put in by Monster Media, which is doing more and more of these around Lost Wages.

GSBC founder says he’s got hottest tech stock on planet

March 26, 2007

So I hadn’t heard or read anything for a few days on DigiCurve, also known as Global Satellite Broadcasting Corporation. The stock is not trading as yet, as far as we can tell.

In looking around, I did manage to find a fascinating interview with GSBC founder Ronald Flynn, who tells the venerated business trade journal all about his company and apparent stroke of brilliance …

“I personally believe that our company is the hottest tech stock on the planet and we will fly by anyone in the digital signage business. In 2007 we will corner the market by controlling the largest network of smart screens on the planet,” said Flynn, who also conceded in the interview he would be taken to task for his claims.

“I now realize as the founder of GSBC that a man who is anybody and who does anything is surely going to be criticized, vilified, and misunderstood. This is part of the penalty for greatness.”

The interview is useful because it actually provides a little detail as to why he and his backers think the thing is so freakin’ amazing:

“The bottom line is our smart screen is far superior to any screen on the market at present. Are roll out of the technology is second to none. Our business model is already a proven winner as FMCN has made big money by using our patented technology. Our new revenue model is not only incredible but undeniably refreshing and a profit center for everyone involved.

The world today is much different then it was 30 years ago. Our technology can and will save lives. Just imagine any emergency on the planet could be broadcast via our smart screens with just one click of a finger. We could warn people of emergencies and crises in their areas just by using our emergency news strip on the bottom of the smart screen. We also could broadcast live coverage through the downloading and streaming of the SMS technology. Our screens are equipped with (3g) (4g) and Wimax inside this allows anyone with a mobile phone to make telephone calls free of charge as long as they are within 100 feet of our screens additionally our smart screens have (RFID) inside enabling us to recognize a person through radio frequency identification.

Also our technology allows the viewer to interact with our screens as we turn your mobile phone into a credit card allowing you to buy products by simply pressing the product code and your personal pin code on your mobile phone thus paying for the product and you receiving the product to your home a few days latter. Our screens will enable people to play games, download music, receive discounts for products, and earn prizes and money just for interacting with our screens. We have created a playground for children and adults and will capture the target audience that advertises want potential customers to see.”

And if you walk up to the screen, and touch it with your forehead, your arthritis will be gone.

NOTE: Among the more interesting claims is how the smart screens are already equipped with 4G.  Communications standards bodies and the biggest wireless carriers haven’t yet even fully defined or agreed upon what exactly 4G will be, other than stinkin’ fast.

Cisco opens up about its offer

March 26, 2007

James Bickers has a piece in his Digital Signage Today news site on the interview he did with a senior Cisco guy.

Thomas Wyatt, director and general manager of Cisco’s Digital Media Management division, leaves the strong impression this is far more than an interesting little sideline for the networking giant.

“There are quite a few vertical industries that have expressed interest. Our challenge right now is scaling and focusing, quite frankly. But if we look at financial services and retail, those are the markets that tend to have not only the biggest part of the addressable market but also the biggest need to move quickly.

We’re making a big bet overall on enterprise video. We’ve introduced four new markets, all of which we believe have billion-dollar potential over the next five to seven years. Those are video surveillance, telepresence, desktop video and digital signage. Cisco is making a very big bet with this — as big a bet as we made with the acquisition of Scientific-Atlanta.”

The Tivella box is impressive – small, light, supposedly capable of 1080P HD, and set up with HDMI out. It’s a streaming device so there’s all kinds of networking gear needed to give a client high quality service, and that’s where Cisco will really aim to make its money.

You can poke around on the Cisco site, which also now has data sheets and bumph about their gear.