Archive for June 2008

Ex-GSBC mogul now a garbage man

June 30, 2008

The guy who a year ago was peddling a company that was going to take over the digital signage business globally – though no one had ever heard of him or the company – is now heading up a concern in the Philippines that plans to turn waste into energy.

Ronald Flynn, who when last we’d heard from him was going to take over the mobile and GPS worlds, is now head of Manila-based Spectrum Blue Steel.

The latest press release, written with Flynn’s always curious ringmaster bombast.

The big news is a fresh foreign investment at $18 billion will create greener environment and cheap electricity for the Philippines. This is the announcement by Ronald Flynn, President of the Spectrum Blue Steel. Flynn said that the problem of garbage and high costs of electricity in the Philippines will soon be a thing of the past as he quoted, “Your waste, our Future.”

Recently, Spectrum Blue Steel, a local Philippines company landed an exclusive contract with public company Global Environmental Energy Corporation (GEECF.OB) and now has started to implement the 10 year plan for the Philippines using the patented Biosphere and Eco Technology. Biosphere creates electricity by destroying waste in a cost-effective manner without polluting the environment. The Biosphere Process creates electricity by gasifying traditional and non-traditional waste materials and/or fossil fuels using extremely high temperatures. This process is done in a limited-oxygen environment thereby significantly limiting atmospheric emissions.

If you read on you see that the company does not actually have $18 billion, or a deal to GET $18 billion. That’s just the size of a potential order if all of the Philippines bought into this waste regeneration thing.

Happy to see this guy moving a little further away from our space.

Local control of playback added to network

June 27, 2008

Real Digital Media announced a weird but potentially very useful feature on its platform that I don’t think I’ve run into in this space, unless you count DVD-based networks.

Using a simple, remote control device with a tiny receiver connected via USB, says a press release, NEOCAST® clients are now able to instantly suspend a running playlist, jump to a menu screen, scroll up and down to select a desired menu item and have that selected item start playing instantaneously. While the selected media is playing, the remote operates like a DVR controller, allowing the user to pause, forward and rewind to sections or return to the main menu to choose additional content or return to regular programming. The content for the on-demand feature can be pre-populated across a network, group of players or individual players using the centralized, NEOCAST® Media Server software.

“This interactive application has obvious benefits for training, corporate communications, on-floor sales presentations and internal messaging,” said Michael Baron, president of Real Digital Media. “CEOs can have key messages presented to assembled staff at designated times, special promotions and merchandising strategies can be introduced on the retail floor to educate and train sales representatives, and service providers can receive continuing education training at their offices. …

The first client to use this feature will be c3ms, network operator for the NobelVisionTM Network sponsored by Nobel Biocare. Dentists participating in the network will leverage the on-demand feature for continuing education training, which will eliminate expensive offsite training sessions and travel. Furthermore, representatives for Nobel Biocare will have the option to leverage the feature to introduce new programs and products, as well as train dentists during seminars right in the dental offices.

Ray Heiser, Managing Partner of c3ms, adds, “The first implementation of this on-demand feature for our network will be to offer clinician training, communication and continuing education to dentists participating in the NobelVisionTM Network. The delivery of these programs will mitigate travel time and cost to the dental practitioner, provide manufacturers with a virtual representative in the practice, and streamline the delivery of these programs for the dental practices and manufacturers alike. The on-demand feature gives us one more tool to deliver high impact, quality content that delivers real value to our viewers.”

I could imagine how this could get messy on an ad-driven network, but the guys using this are sponsoring their own network in dental clinics peddling cosmetic dentistry products and services.

AdFlow’s interactive gear helps peddle Koodo handsets

June 24, 2008

Despite near daily barrages from my backyard potato cannon, the guys just up the road from me at AdFlow have managed to keep the doors open and conduct business.

Note to self: Must adapt cannon to sweet potatoes.

Anyway, the AdFlow guys have ignored the constant splats and swung a deal with Koodo, the pay-per-use offspring of Canuck wireless carrier Telus. Koodo popped up a few months ago with a set of screwball ads emulating early 80s spandex exercise shows.

Koodo is not really a bricks and mortar play, but they do have a retail presence and are using AdFlow’s software to run a nice little interactive app. Pick up a handset, and the screen pops information about that handset. Dead simple. And probably quite effective.

I like this stuff a heck of a lot more than screens dangling from ceilings, hoping to get noticed.

According to Digital Signage Today, Koodo Mobile envisioned a captivating and enticing sales-driven customer shopping experience within their retail locations that would connect to this younger demographic. Koodo Mobile’s interactive kiosks feature easy-to-use touchscreens which engage consumers at the point of purchase, informing and educating shoppers on products, services and promotions.

Disclaimer: AdFlow, were it not obvious enough, is a competitor. But the nice thing about the Canuck industry is they’re also friends. At least until I get the pumpkin trebuchet figured out.

AT&T gets into the game

June 24, 2008

Fresh off the press release wires is news that telecom giant AT&T has lined up some partners and gone into  the content distribution network business, including digital signage.

SAN ANTONIO, June 24 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — AT&T Inc. , today announced a suite of content delivery and digital media solutions to help companies package, deliver and distribute video and rich multimedia Web content across their networks to the three screens that are core to AT&T’s multimedia strategy — the computer, the television and mobile computing devices such as the iPhone and the BlackBerry(R).

AT&T’s Digital Media Solutions(SM) portfolio includes content distribution and management, broadcast video and digital signage services and solutions that are targeted to companies ranging from businesses with multiple small office locations to the most sophisticated multinational companies in industries that include media, financial, education, medical, manufacturing and retail.

AT&T has struck strategic agreements with ExtendMedia, Qumu and Stratacache, which are software companies that specialize in formatting and packaging content that is suitable for both business-to-business and business-to-consumer applications, such as streaming video, live and on-demand webcasting, e-learning and virtual trade shows, as well as the delivery of advertising over emerging media networks.

AT&T plans to complete deployment of nearly $70 million in network infrastructure and development investment by year-end to support its digital media capabilities across the United States and Europe (European Union countries) and Japan, Hong Kong, China and Taiwan within Asia. Over the next several months, the company will integrate the software expertise of ExtendMedia, Qumu, and Stratacache with its own capabilities to provide companies with one-stop shopping and simplified network-based solutions to encode, deliver, manage and support video and multimedia files. Businesses will also be able to combine these services with AT&T’s industry-leading security capabilities, hosting, applications and professional services to address their most pressing needs with complete and reliable solutions.

With today’s announcement, AT&T is responding to customers’ need to cope with exploding demand for rich and graphics-intensive multimedia content that has been fueled by the wide adoption of high speed Internet services, sophisticated computing technologies and the need to deliver to multiple play-out devices including digital signs, PCs and smart wireless devices. The content delivery network (CDN) services market totals $800 million, according to analyst firm IDC, and is expected to significantly grow in the future(1).

AT&T is creating a new unit to accelerate the company’s activities in the content space, and it named Cathy Martine, executive vice president-Content Distribution, to lead AT&T’s enterprise digital media efforts.

“Today’s announcement is the latest proof that AT&T is delivering on its promise to connect businesses to their world, and do it better than anyone else,” said Ron Spears, group president, Global Business Services.

“Enterprise customers are using video and multimedia content to communicate with their employees, shareholders, partners and suppliers, but they are grappling with the complexity involved in staging, managing and distributing their content to their end-users. AT&T’s network is at the heart of a simpler way to achieve this, using the scope and scale of our networking capabilities, services and professional expertise to deliver applications to both companies and the end-users they serve. We are uniquely positioned to help enterprises more simply and efficiently manage their digital media assets for improved performance.”

AT&T’s routing and access infrastructure within its global Internet Protocol (IP) network today reaches 14 million broadband users, 70 million wireless customers, and 97 percent of the world economy. As a result, AT&T can deliver content more quickly and reliably to companies, while directly monitoring details such as performance, congestion and other activities over the entire path from the source of the content to the destination end-users.

Additionally, AT&T’s network has security built in to every layer from network transport through end-user application and is supported by 1,400-plus security experts and support professionals. Because AT&T’s content delivery services are built into its network fabric, it is protected by security at every layer, enabling AT&T to predicatively and proactively detect and repel malicious activity.

Available today, AT&T Digital Media Solutions features the following capabilities:

— AT&T Intelligent Content Distribution Service A network-based Content Delivery Network (CDN) service that replicates information across the Internet, such as Web page content, large files for download, live video and video-on-demand. At the heart of the service is the ability of the AT&T global network to deliver content closer to the end-user by determining the optimal distribution path based on factors such as server load capacity and user proximity. Because the content is sent from the nearest and best caching node, CDN customers are able to distribute files to end-users more efficiently. What’s more, the service can significantly improve Web site capacity, reliability and performance because AT&T delivers content that uses its network of geographically distributed and diversely placed servers. — Content Ecosystem AT&T is creating an ecosystem of software providers that it is working to simplify indexing, tagging and encoding services that are required to format content for delivery. Today, AT&T is announcing the first of these agreements with ExtendMedia, a Boston-based provider of digital content services software, Qumu, an Emeryville, Calif-based software company that enables organizations to easily capture, manage, publish and distribute live and on-demand video content while leveraging existing IT infrastructure, and Stratacache, a Dayton, Ohio-based software and services company that provides both multi-platform software and appliance based technology designed to empower the delivery of media applications within the distributed Wide Area Network or Internet/intranet powered enterprise. — AT&T Digital Signage(SM) An end-to-end managed service that enables businesses to distribute their own customized video and other multimedia content to both employees and customers. AT&T Digital Signage helps customers sell more, communicate with customers and associates more efficiently and drives new advertising and product sales revenue via emerging media networks. The AT&T service is scalable and typically delivered on High Definition LCD monitors displayed in high-traffic areas, such as retail outlets, employee lunch rooms, airport terminals, hotel lobbies and office reception areas. Application examples range from breaking national news to up-to-the-minute local weather conditions to employee benefit updates to the latest Dow Jones industrial average. — Broadcast Video A host of full-motion video transport services that deliver high-quality video images and stereo-quality audio over a fiber-optic network.

Interesting. The history of Stratacache has been much more about gear, like network acceleration and caching servers, than it has about software. But they have been in this space a while, and the name comes up as a competitor here and there on software jobs.

As the saying goes, you are known by the company you keep.

On one hand, a big, honkin’ telecom with a lot of enterprise clients and a thirst for moving lots of big fat media files across its terrestrial and wireless networks.

On the other hand, a big, fat honkin’ telecom that changes course about as quickly as an oil tanker, has 1,000s of people with long, mystifying titles on business cards, and a culture built on long, meandering meetings and endless documentation.

Adrian at Daily DOOH was musing about how no one in this business has really worked with the big telecoms. Actually, a lot of people have tried … and most of them gave up.

Everybody raise their hands who has had a great experience working with a massive telecom … Ok, anybody???

Is the Office a fertile DS advertising ground?

June 24, 2008

I am done, done, done starting ad-based digital signage networks (I’ve renounced my poverty vows), but I still noodle around ideas for different ways to go at this business.

Like maybe running a network of screens in workplaces – providing office managers with a staff-facing messaging platform but bolstering it with targeted advertising.

Sounds slightly nutty, but we all run steadily into people looking to drive the costs down for these installs to little or nothing  because they’ve been given a teeny budget and no real support from their employers. And then there’s the research to suggest workplaces are fertile advertising grounds.

The results of a new study, conducted by consumer intelligence firm BIGresearch, into the media and shopping behavior of consumers at work, finds that Americans are spending 60% of their waking hours at work, more than ever before. Marketing chiefs are rethinking their ad budgets and advertisers are preparing to meet a new, highly coveted, yet entirely untapped demographic on their own beige-carpeted turf.

Those results are summarized in a blog post by the Center for Media Research.

At-work consumers research products online before purchasing, with 47.2% of them reporting having researched electronics online in the last 90 days during the workday before making a purchase in a store. And, almost ¾ of at-work consumers indicate they regularly or occasionally dine out or purchase groceries and beverages during the workday, says the report.

The survey looks at the unique shopping behavior of consumers during the workday, including the role of online search as a catalyst to retail purchase, grocery shopping, casual and fast food dining preferences, and new media consumption.

Phil Rist, EVP-Strategy at BIGresearch, says “… As marketers are looking to maximize ROI, the importance of targeting gainfully employed, value-seeking consumers is essential.”

With rising pump prices and busy schedules, consumers are highly likely to consolidate shopping trips, making purchases on their drive to or from work, or during their lunch break. Online research during the workday and consolidated trips, says the report, can be leveraged by marketers, to influence purchase decisions in the workplace and buying during commute time.

A screen network would have to target key employee crossroads like lunchrooms, and the advertising would have to be very carefully managed, not to mention a clear message to staff that the ads were paying for the system.

There’s history to suggest the office market is attractive, particularly with the footprint and success of Captivate in office tower elevators. No one I’m aware of is targeting the billions of square feet in low rise or single level offices that don’t even have elevators.

There’s the challenge of determining how much cash (millions) it would take to reach a critical mass of installations in enough markets, and that crazy little thing called advertising sales strategy. But I have to think companies like Staples and FedEx and the entire convenience food industry would love to target the suburban office crowd.

Interesting, but I’m not doing it.

InfoComm drew big crowds

June 23, 2008

InfoComm International says its big AV trade show last week in Las vegas was a resounding success, at least in terms of numbers of bodies.

Reflecting strong demand for AV communications technologies in business, education and government as well as the retail, healthcare, entertainment, worship markets, attendance at the exhibition so far has topped 34,600. AV professionals from 93 countries attended to see the latest technologies in display, projection, audio, collaborative conferencing, control and networking applications. This reflects a 9.5 percent increase over last year’s record attendance, according to a press release.

A record 988 exhibitors participated at InfoComm this year, representing more than a 15 percent increase over the previous record of 855 in 2007. Exhibitors occupied more than 500,000 net square feet of exhibit and special events space, compared to 465,000 net square feet in 2007. There are 231 new exhibitors at this year’s show.

My own observations are less than scientific, but I can say it was reasonably busy on the show floor, though nothing like the torrent of activity we saw at the DSE show a few months earlier. The walk-up crowd was mostly the AV reseller crowd that was expected.

There were many more DS companies than last year, with most of the major players there in some capacity. I bumped into two or three companies I had never even heard of, though they have been active in the space for a whole and more focused on corporate work. The big panel guys, particularly Samsung and LG, were much more focused on the DS space than I have seen in the past, and the other guys like Sharp and Sony were peddling combo software-player-panel solutions, though fairly quietly.

So, a very different show from DSE — which I have half-joked feels more like a Rotary Club international convention  than a  trade show, with so many people there already knowing each other and  sizing each other up.

For those wondering if they still have functioning livers or money in their bank accounts, you may be pleased to hear the show next year switches from Las Vegas to Orlando. Fewer vices, but the theme parks and high-end golf courses will happily take all of your money.

Why outdoor’s going digital

June 23, 2008

Trade publication MediaWeek rang up some of the big fellas in the outdoor business to chronicle where they’re at right now in digital deployments, and determined just a teeny fraction of the potential stock has gone from plywood and paper to LED walls.

By year’s end, the big three outdoor companies in the U.S. will have nearly 1,600 digital boards sprinkled around the country. That’s a mere fraction of the 275,000 billboards Lamar Advertising Co., Clear Channel Outdoor and CBS Outdoor currently have in the market today.

The article suggest that pace is slow and could slow further if the economy continues to putz along. It kinda ignores that these big boards cost at least $500,000 (and typically a lot more when the superstructure and labor are factored in) to put up. So if I am doing my math right, that industry has already written POs fort about $800 million in LED boards.

The big three billboard companies say they will be putting up more because the numbers work.

“Out of all the out-of-home products we sell, clearly the fastest growing [revenue stream] is digital billboards,” says Paul Meyer, president and COO of Clear Channel Outdoor.

Tommy Teepell, chief marketing officer at Lamar, notes that the digital billboards currently represent only about half a percentage point of all the company’s billboards—800 out of 150,000 boards. But they’re making about $84 million in revenue a year, or about 7 percent of all of the company’s $1.2 billion billboard revenue. “In the famous words of Sean Reilly, our president, ‘I can do that math all day long,’” says Teepell.

Typically, digital billboards deliver about six to eight commercial messages in a loop that lasts about a minute, raising the inventory of a given board by hundreds of percentage points. And according to Jodi Senese, executive vp of marketing for CBS Outdoor, if the board is in a prime location, the ad rates can be as much as three times that of a static billboard.

The article also gives some interesting insight on the raised value of digital versus static ads.

Bob Martin, the founding partner of Bob Martin Media Consulting, who specializes in out-of-home media, puts the average cost-per-thousand rate for the 18-plus demographic at $2 for a static billboard, and $4 for digital. But while that is a doubling, “it’s nothing compared to the CPMs for cable TV, magazine or radio,” he says.