Archive for August 2007

Now GSBC is in the wireless and GPS business

August 31, 2007

flynn.jpg 

The search terms tracked for this blog have been spiking the last couple of days for Ron Flynn, the rather optimistic fellow who for several months now has been building a company that was going to take over the digital signage industry and, if there was time, the world.

You can get a sense that here, and also a sense of what this is really all about here.

When people start searching his name in a bigh way and my blog activity spikes, that usually means something is up. So I did a securities filing search and saw a new one for Digicurve, the naughty body builder photo firm in Nevada that somehow or other owns GSBC.

The latest says, as boiled down in a press release,  Digicurve has purchased certain intellectual property rights of Fightersoft Multimedia, a Romanian company. Fightersoft invented and holds new software patents for mobile phones. This unique software can be used with virtually every mobile telephone ever made, not just SIM dependable. This new technology enables users to SMS and MMS on their mobile phones virtually free of charge. With Fightersoft’s mobile messaging and MMS delivery application anyone can upload and use the software no matter what mobile network provider the mobile subscriber is using.

Fightersoft also invented and owns the patent rights for a new mobile tracking system that will allow any mobile phone subscriber to track their friends or business associates – not GPS dependable. Tracking friends or children is simple – all you do is enter a name and click the buddy icon. The tracker system immediately identifies the targeted mobile phone and tells you where the person has been (as much as 500 locations, with time and date) and where they are located at present.”

The press release also notes the Board of Directors of Digicurve will be asking shareholder approval to change the name of the company from Digicurve to Fightersoft Multimedia Corporation.

It is hard to tell what this means, though the suspicion would be that whipping up an investor frenzy about digital signage didn’t work (it’s too easy for people to get a true picture through Internet research), so the focus has instead turned to a market that everyone knows and uses, but is also evolving so quickly it would be really hard for non-experts to keep their BS filters working.

The fascinating thing is that when I click through to Fightersoft, I get a video screen that, when loaded up, has Ron Flynn smiling back at me, ready to tell me all about Fightersoft’s pots and pans. Given his choice of clothes and the icons on the phones, he shot this in Bangkok, not Bucharest. And given his delivery, he spent about a minute rehearsing. The best part is when the background music switches over to the theme from Shaft. 

Hopefully, this means Global Satellite Broadcasting Corporation has waved ta-ta to our business and is stirring things up in somebody else’s sandbox. The everchanging corporate website, by the way, is down.

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3D signage still needs work

August 30, 2007

 

The few times I have seen 3D signage have been less than excited experiences. Without exception, it has struck me as having a short-term attention-getting factor, but no sustainability because the image quality was not very good and the content was kind of, umm, useless.

Seeing a product spinning, sort of, in mid-air is cool for about five seconds. Then it is just a thing spinning, sort of, in mid-air.

A piece in Display Daily reports back from a 3D conference and gives a lukewarm opinion on the whole thing.

The writer says the potential for this technology is there, but there are some big challenges – notably the cost of producing 3D and the availability of resources to do it, and do it well.

He also noted some specific technical issues:

“Even at trade shows dedicated to 3D, I have seen demos that are of poor quality or even set up incorrectly. If the people who are trying to sell 3D can’t configure it properly or create compelling demos, that’s a problem.

Case in point. Autostereoscopic 3D displays are ones that do not require glasses to see the 3D effect. To do this, the technology requires that you trade off image resolution in order to enable multiple viewing zones across a fairly wide field of view. One clear lesson with using such displays is to limit content to low resolution images such as icons or larger graphic elements.

At S-3D, I saw one demo that was showing SD resolution video on an autostereoscopic display. As expected, the video was so compromised it looked like it was out of focus. Also, the viewing zones were so narrow that it was difficult to find and keep the image in full stereo.

Other demos showed large rainbow patterns and similar difficulties in visually acquiring the image. Another common mistake is to reverse the left and right images when coupled to the polarization filtering glasses. This creates a stereo image, but it looks funny and will create eye strain. How can manufacturers ensure this doesn’t happen? There are no standards or methods that I know of.

And, 3D needs to recreate, as much as possible, the way we see the world. You can not see stereo pairs when looking at objects beyond 50 feet or so, so don’t try to add dimension to these long distance shots – it looks wrong. And, when moving your head laterally around a stereo display, don’t maintain the same object orientation as you move. That’s not how it works in the real world. Finally, making objects jump out at you may work in a theme park 3D experience, but not if you want to use the 3D display for extended periods.

The bottom line: while we have to solve the technology part, we can’t sell the technology to the consumer. It’s about the application. Let’s stop being obsessed with the technology and focus on making the applications for the technology work. Once it is easy to use and offers a clear benefit over 2D, 3D will be adopted. But let’s not be too over-anxious to roll out 3D systems either. Bad implementations create a poor impression and a backlash that could take years, maybe decades to reverse.”

This is really the same issue facing our industry in general. Just because a company hangs a big-ass screen in a public area doesn’t mean everyone within eyesight will stop what they are doing and stare adoringly at it. If the content is not interesting or relevant, those eyeballs are gone.

A 3D piece might make people stop and look once, and say something quietly like, “Huh…” And that’s going to be pretty much the end of it.

Producing high quality content for this space is already a big cost. I wonder how many will invest yet more dollars to make it 3D.

Mixer reminder

August 30, 2007

Tonight (Aug. 30th) at Alice Fazooli’s, Toronto Entertainment District, 6 pm to whatever. Hosted by Artisan Live.

Viewer behavior needs to be a factor in measurement, prof argues

August 30, 2007

A prof from Ball State University’s Center for Media Design has taken an interest in the dynamics of our space, fascinated by the increased amount of TV consumption outside of homes.

Now we all know digital signage is not TV, but for the purposes of looking at something, it’s a term people can get their heads around quickly.

“In late 2005, we found that almost 30% of participants consumed some sort of TV outside the home in the day they were observed — and 9.4% of all TV viewing was similarly out-of home (work-based, 4.1%; car, 0.5%; other, 4.8%). It’s a safe bet that as the amount of out-of home TV continues to increase, so will the time spent exposed to it, ” writes the author, Mike Bloxham, in MediaPost. “In any event, the scale of the economic opportunity is not insignificant.

Already, we have a plethora of network providers, “platform” owners (retailers, mall owners, transit operators and hotel chains) and content of one sort or another — some familiar, some less so, and some specific to the location.

As the out-of-home video market continues to develop it will — in keeping with other sectors — do so on the back of robust measurement and the continued enhancement of our understanding of the consumption and impact of the content, and the related behaviors exhibited by the audiences reached. Right now we are seeing a significant amount of activity in this area.”

Bloxham notes there are all kinds of efforts to establish some measurement criteria and provide research on how people consume what he calls “shopper media.” But he says the space is far from universally accepted as a real medium and notes it “is complex and perhaps more subject to behavioral and environmental influences than most others.”

He says in stores and other public places that have video advertising screens, those screens are rarely the sole focus of potential viewers. Good exceptions, he notes, are screens in elevators and waiting rooms — where there is little else to look at.

“I don’t have the answer to any of these questions, and I have no doubt that many of those selling inventory of various of these platforms have survey data in their sales kits. But I’m prepared to bet that a good deal of that data is based on self-report and it will be looked at with a good deal of skepticism on the part of the advertisers and agencies that are being asked to part with large amounts of money to stake their brand’s claim on various parts of the out-of-home video landscape.

After all, video encountered in environments that are visited for other purposes are very different from video consumed on a TV screen at home or on a computer when choice is involved. On most occasions in the out-of-home space, there is no choice or control over the content and the video will often not be the primary focus of attention (at least it won’t be for very long). This is where our needs come back to the behavioral rather than simply measurement of foot fall.

As the The Audit Bureau’s “Eyes On” initiative recognizes, it isn’t about who passes the content, it’s about who looks at it and — hopefully — takes something away from it.

No doubt Out-of-home Video Advertising Bureau and others will be announcing their plans in the coming months for enhancing our understanding of issues such as the ones outlined above (and no doubt more besides). When they do, we can expect to see the fight for “TV” dollars warm up as advertisers gain confidence in their ability to reach audiences in locations more relevant to their message than the couch in the family room (assuming that’s what the research reveals, of course).”

GSBC gets bitch-slapped by Financial Mail, then aka

August 22, 2007

My friends at aka have been promising, for a while now, a piece taking a deep look into Ronald Flynn and the other characters at GSBC, the digital signage play from Thailand that was promising world domination.

There was a piece this weekend in the UK’s Financial Mail, and aka followed up with its own researched piece.

Here’s what aka started off with …

“Since late last year, Thai startup Global Satellite Broadcasting Corporation (GSBC) has been the subject of much speculation in the digital-signage community. Despite a series of emphatic press releases and some apparently high-value acquisitions, many have questioned how exactly the newcomer plans to generate its projected revenue of $43bn over five years,” reads the Aka piece.

“Now a recent article in Britain’s Financial Mail on Sunday has suggested that there may be more to GSBC than meets the eye – a finding backed up by aka.tv research.

Central to the Mail article and to our research is that the founder of GSBC, Ronald Shane Flynn, has been connected in the past with companies whose investment offerings were the subject of legal action or warnings from financial regulatory authorities. (Neither Flynn nor GSBC responded to numerous requests for comment made by aka.tv over several months.)”

And here is the Financial Mail on Sunday piece, actually part of a Q&A column by Tony Hetherington.

For background, refer to the Top Posts on this blog. GSBC has been at the top of the hit parade for months now, as investors have wisely done some due diligence research on a company that came into our industry making revenue projections that would conservatively be called “wild-assed.”

Sharp testing ultra-skinny screen

August 22, 2007

Japanese electronics giant Sharp is “experimenting” with a new ultra-thin LCD panel — only 1″ thick, or roughly the same dimension as a framed poster print.

Gadget blog Gizmodo picked up on news from Japan and unearthed a few snippets from a press release all in Japanese script. Among them, a depth of no more than 29 mm (1″), a contrast ratio of 100,000:1 and weight of 55 pounds. It doesn’t say how big the fella is, but the photo suggests 40″-plus.

We can also assume it is a long way from being a consumer product, and when/if it does ship, it will be stinking expensive.

This intrigues me for one key reason: while depth is no big deal for suspended screens, it does make a difference for wall mounted gear. I think anything that can be done to reduce the footprint of these things in retail and public spaces is good. Yes, you can snug things into hollows carved into walls or encase them in boxes, but a screen that hangs on a wall like a framed painting would be awfully slick.

The mixer season is upon us again

August 21, 2007

From Raji and the folks over at Artisan Live:

Hello all, hope everyone is doing well.

It has surely been a very busy summer in the digital signage industry and I hope that we can all look forward to an even busier fall season.

As many of you know we initiated a monthly digital signage social this year that took off to a great success. The concept of the monthly social was simply based on:
• That it was completely informal
• There were no speeches given
• Open for everyone that wanted to attend
• And provided a good time to chat time and catch up with other fellow colleagues in this booming digital signage industry

We were very pleased that monthly social was even graciously hosted by other fine organizations such as Digital View and Advision Systems to a great success.

As the summer winds down, we thought it would be a good timing to announce the next monthly digital signage social before September reaches.

When: Thursday August 30th, 2007
Where: Alice Fazooli’s Downtown Toronto (Adelaide and John)
Time: 6pm till whenever…

Look forward to seeing you all there, and please forward this onto any one else that may be interested.