Training the focus of CEDIA Tech Forum 2015

CEDIA Tech Forum 2015, held at The British Library Conference Centre in London, provided a great opportunity to network and see the latest products from exhibitors’ stands. But the best part of the event was the technology training sessions.

WyreStorm showcased many of the products that it launched successfully at the CEDIA Dallas event in October, including its SW-0402-MV-HDMI. The 4-input (12 Source) dual-output picture-in-picture (PiP) multi-view 4K scaler can display up to four HD/SD video sources at once on a 4K screen. The switcher is ideal for business applications requiring multiple sources in one or two screens, such as video conferencing, security control rooms or hospital monitoring. However, the application that most people though of, when thinking of 4 HD video sources on one screen, was sports – you could watch four games at once!

We had a look at Lutron’s new switches, that feature the face plate and buttons made of the same material; a stylish and customisable solution. When thinking of Lutron, one might think of reliable and somehow conservative design. But its light dimmer was indeed a revolution for the home market in the 1960s. Joel Spira, Lutron’s founder and inventor of the solid-state electronic dimmer, passed away this year leaving as his legacy the importance of focusing on the customer’s experience. Kevin Tate, Lutron’s UK Residential Sales Manager, pointed out that Spira’s dimmer has a prominent position at the American History Museum alongside Thomas Eidson and Alexander Bell and shared with us this anecdote: “When Lutron first launched its dimmer switches, the Capri, it packaged it in boxes that looked like perfume packaging and the marketing tag line read ‘Dimmer to romance’.”



The Future of Smart Homes
The Austrian manufacturer of green coloured mini server boxes, Loxone, urged the audience to shift their discussion with customers from talking about technology to instead highlighting solutions and benefits of smart technologies for the home.

Talking about the road to ‘Smart Home Success,’ Philipp Schuster, Loxone MD, said: “Awareness, education and simplicity are the key to Smart Homes Success.”

He went on to explain that although some experts predict a plateau in growth once early adopters have kitted out their homes, this does not have to be the case. “The USA and China are seeing the fastest growth of smart homes, followed by Germany and France. The UK has been quick to take up smartphones, but the smart homes sector is lagging behind. So there is still a big market out there.”

The current most popular solutions for smart homes are three: ‘point solutions,’ such as Hive, which allows you to control your heating, using a mobile phone app. Then there are ‘smart home hubs,’ which integrate several systems that other wise don’t talk to each other. Finally ‘Ecosystems,’ such as the one offered by Loxone. “There were 30 new hubs announced last year and point solutions will only solve one part of smart homes’ puzzle,’ said Schuster and added, “Hive was installed in a quarter of a million homes in the UK. Considering that there are 26 million, this is only scratching the surface.”

“Ecosystems that can learn the working of a home, and manage smart energy for heating, lighting and security in a simple and straightforward way, and that are independent of the house owner acting upon an alert or remembering to change some settings remotely, are the future. It would be like hiring a manger to cleverly regulate the functioning of your home and you won’t even need to think about it,” concluded Schuster.

The cost of outfitting a home with a Loxone mini server ecosystem solution would equal to around one or two percent of the value of the property.

HD audio update
You might think that to perceive HD video you need your eyes and for HD audio you need a good pair of ears. Well, Meridian Audio’s director of sales, Barry Sheldrick, said that studies have shown that people wearing glasses have a reduced perception of HD audio.

Matt Holland, the company’s Business Relationship Manager went on to explain that audio resolution is measured taking into account: loudness, noise, range of the frequencies, pitch accuracy and timing accuracy. Ideally one would look for naturalness of the sound, as if coming straight from the microphone, the sound of the real world. But these are characteristics of analogue sound.

The digitisation of sound has lead to ‘lossy compressions’ where partial data that is considered ‘not essential,’ is sacrificed and omitted to reduce the data size and therefore make it easier to stream.

Bob Stuart, Meridian’s co-founder, invented Meridian Lossless Packing (MLP) algorithm, recognising the potential of CDs and DVDs to provide high resolution multichannel audio. MLP is the standard lossless compression method for DVD-Audio content today, however, not all speakers can play HD audio. To give HD audio the seal of approval, Meridian is introducing its Meridian HD branding logo.

The company also showcased its Meridian Sooloos multi-room streaming platform. With its easy user interface, Sooloos allows users to mange and find the files they have, including photos, movies and of course music.



Home cinemas aloud
AWE’s installer’s guide to multi-room and home cinema solutions was instructive and highly entertaining – especially when chocolate started flying around the room to reward diligent students that answered James Drummie’s questions.

Drummie heads many of the training courses that Awe provides for installers at its award winning ‘SmartHomeAcademy.’ His skills as a teacher and a ‘Home Cinema Wizard’ – as he describes himself on LinekdIn, were apparent when by the end of the session we were all screaming out loud the answers to the quiz questions in search of an approving nod – and a chocolate.

Stuart Tickle talked about the company’s trajectory on its 80th anniversary and the new head quarters where they have built a show apartment to show installers and clients how the technology works together. Awe has key partnerships with companies such as Epson, Samsung, Panasonic and Loewe. The room can be scaled up or down to show the different options, depending on the budget.

AWE’s presentation didn’t limit itself to photos on the screen. We all had a chance to take a closer look at the speakers as they were passed around the rows. Some, such as the battery powered HEOS 1 speaker, was neat and compact, ideal to have anywhere around the home, since it’s water resistant and has Bluetooth connectivity. Others, like the KEF Ci160QR ceiling speakers or the KEF Ci4100QL in wall speakers, were very heavy and robust.

This Christmas I can impress my friends telling them what is the exact angle they need to get their ear level, ceiling or floor level subwoofer speakers. I can even tell them that if they want to hear ‘the voice of God’ (or 3D audio), they’ll need an Auro 3D system installed.

– See more at:

Security in store

We’ve just passed the Christmas shopping rush and, although this is a very profitable time for retailers, it also highlights security and safety issues that can’t be ignored. The economy recovery has encouraged people to go shopping. But more people out and about also represent more risk.

When it comes to larger retail areas, such as shopping malls, getting accurate safety and security measures makes good business sense to avoid law suits and keep crowds under control.

Follow this link to see the PDF: Security in store_Jan14

Powering up

LatAm Insurance Review -  Powering up

LatAm Insurance Review – Powering up

The Argentine insurance market presents opportunities for those able to navigate its regulatory environment, and planned energy and agriculture initiatives may boost insurance demand.

Energy generation has the potential to drive growth in the Argentine insurance market, according to an analysis of the market.

Follow this link to see the PDF: Powering up 

Gamification: it’s not just child’s play

American toy manufacturer Mattel playfully promotes Scrabble on JCDecaux's Transvision screens.

American toy manufacturer Mattel playfully promotes Scrabble on JCDecaux’s Transvision screens.

We learn to play before we walk or even before we talk. Games give us a thrill, not just due to the interaction involved, but also the reward at the end of them. Playing games, however, is not just for children: in advertising it is something that is proven to drive interaction.

Gamification is becoming increasingly used by brands as a tool to raise awareness and engage with customers at a deeper, more memorable level. One of the great enablers for gamification is digital technology, through computers, interactive screens and mobile.

“Game playing is a vital way that advanced animals learn and develop, and is therefore an inherent human behaviour,” believes Richard Simkins, Talon Outdoor’s innovations director. “Advertisers have found that ‘gamified’ content helps people to quickly learn about new products and to change their feelings towards established brands.”

Sam Bird, director of production and creative solutions at JCDecaux Innovate, agrees, saying that, with the growth of DOOH networks, games are just a natural progression for advertising: “Younger audiences are not afraid of screens; it is second nature to them. Yet older people, even if they just watch the games being played by others, can also become hooked.”

Obviously, brands are not just trying to give customers a good time: they want to learn about them and reach out to them with new offers. They want big data and gamification is one way of enabling this. As Bird points out: “We found that, when people are offered a reward at the end of an exchange, they are more than willing to part with personal information.”

MediaCo Outdoor’s new CityLive network in Manchester is a prime example of touchscreen technology mingling with everyday life, while offering a chance to play at the same time.

“The catalyst for this increase in brands using games to communicate is social media and sharing, particularly through mobile,” opines Richard Blackburn, commercial director at MediaCo. “Consumers do not want brands shouting in their faces; they want to engage with brands on their own terms. It is imperative for brands to weave their existence into the lives of consumers in ways that are positive, which add value to consumers’ lives and reward their involvement. Compelling and addictive games are a great way to broaden brand reach and make it memorable, therefore increasing brand loyalty.”

For a gamified campaign to succeed, location is key. Dan Dawson, director of creative and technology at Grand Visual, suggests: “Creating fun and participatory campaigns is a great way to incentivise people to connect with DOOH screens. It is particularly effective in locations where average dwell time is high, such as shopping centres, train stations and airports.”

Media owners keep investing in cutting edge technology, but who is driving gamification adoption in OOH? Brands have been using online games to capture people’s attention for quite a while, so taking it onto the streets and public spaces is just an extension of this. On the creative agency side, using games can tangibly surpass what has been done before and can provide companies with real information on how well the campaign is doing, justifying the initial investment.

“In our experience, creative and media agencies are the most enthusiastic about gamification strategies because they are typically exciting to develop and have been proven to deliver results,” believes Simkins. “In the context of OOH some of the most successful interactive campaigns have introduced an element of game playing – whether this is using interactive touch- or gesture-enabled digital screen in bus-shelters, games that turn your phone into a game controller for a huge public digital screen, or even a pure-play gamification platform like YourVine which creates out-of-home challenges for participants.”

In order to make the best out the game experience, a little help is sometimes advisable, suggests Nick Mawditt, director of insight and marketing at Talon: “We have found that when using emerging technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR) or gestural interactivity the presence of on-site brand ambassadors, who can explain the experience to customers, significantly helps to drive interactions and understanding. Gesture and AR technologies increase the functionality of an interactive experience and, amongst a core gaming audience, gesture technology meets the expectations of high performance.”

Gamification works for brands because it is a means by which they can connect with customers for longer and more meaningfully. Engagement hot spots are emerging in most metropolises and the technology is also widely available. What is now needed is more outstanding creative content that explores the possibilities of gamification across all platforms.

What’s to come in 2014

Companies are now targeting customers more effectively, as demonstrated by the Mini DOOH campaign

Companies are now targeting customers more effectively, as demonstrated by the Mini DOOH campaign

Digital out-of-home continued to grow in 2013 – and it doesn’t look like slowing down in 2014. With lower prices and greater ease of use, the market is expanding into areas that perhaps wouldn’t have considered digital signage as an option before.

Compared with traditional advertising mediums, such as TV, radio or the internet, DOOH has been able to offer brands more control over their content and a better idea of the exposure they have. The interactive capacity of DOOH, as well as its ability to gather information through facial recognition and mobile technologies, puts it firmly on media planners’ maps. Talon’s chief executive Eric Newham calls it ‘face time’, in that it allows advertisers to choose who they talk to directly.

Richard Blackburn, commercial director at MediaCo, agrees with this suggestion: “The hottest trends in digital signage are currently facial detection and touch. Facial detection is not, in itself, changing the role of digital signage, but it does add another dimension for advertisers seeking to better understand how people react to creative engagement. This ensures that brand content not only evolves over the duration of the campaign, but also delivers relevant content to people.

“By combining touch capacity with this, we can deliver activation as well as branding,” he adds. “It is a potent mix.”

Liam Boyle, managing director of Monster Media, believes that this development shows the potency of DOOH: “I’m enjoying the continued use of data and analytics that help to prove the effectiveness of the medium. Measureable results support creative and demonstrate the power of integrated and interactive campaigns.”

The digitisation of OOH cannot be stopped and management tools for this fast and flexible medium are essential. Mike Dillon, director of Key Systems, opines: “Having seen the growth of digital assets amongst our traditional OOH clients, we know that the industry needs flexible and robust asset management tools.

“Our digital director is helping media owners and agencies to put the right content onto the right screens at the right time. It also provides proof of posting, which can be accessed through any Windows-enabled mobile device. Big data means big business for DOOH, but you need software that can process the whole life cycle of the campaign.”

Tim Harvey, director of digital strategy at JCDecaux, adds: “Facilitating the buying process by removing layers of administration and complexity between the brand and media owner is key. We need to prove the ROI of the medium through display metrics, through hardware and software performance, mixed in with audience data from EPOS and mobile search channels.”

When it comes to screens and players, simple is best. Companies that have put their bets on easy, transparent and straightforward operations are reaping the benefits. Signagelive is a good example of this, having seen a 40 percent growth in the past twelve months. Jason Cremins, Signagelive’s chief executive, comments: “The biggest trend has been the shift from exclusively AV-Systems Integrators installing digital signage networks to a mix of both AV and IT-Enterprise resellers that are now moving into the sector.”

Cremins attributes this trend to the simplification of end-user devices deployed for digital signage purposes, including Samsung Smart Signage and Android devices. Installation and maintenance of these digital display systems are so easy that AV resellers might need to rethink their strategies.

“We’ve seen a major retailer purchase its Samsung Signagelive Smart Signage displays from a major IT reseller, and then decide to install and maintain its digital signage by itself,” continues Cremins. “Previously, this type of deal would have been sold and installed by a specialist AV reseller.”

In terms of content, the move to HTML5 for media playback has encouraged other sectors, such as web designers, to create dynamic passive and interactive content and applications for digital signage, while the uptake of Android has helped hasten the spread of DOOH.

Content also poses a challenge in ultra HD, or 4K. The industry seems positive about its emergence but, due to the lack of components, content and the current cost, we will wait a while before we see it fully implemented across the DOOH spectrum.

For Matrox’s sales account manager Rob Moodey, though, the unmentioned barrier is actually in bringing the content to the screen. “The normal DOOH distribution architecture uses cat5 extenders, while ultra HD requires fibre optics, such as Avio’s KVM extender,” he explains. “For DOOH, more than just 4K, I foresee up-scaled, dynamic, full-HD content.”

For 2014, we can expect to see more fully integrated digital signage, in terms of hardware and software. Incorporating NFC, touch-less interactions and brand message personalisation will be a must. DOOH will also cease to be a separate category for advertisers, as it begins to lead the way on media planning.

First published 17 January 2014 – Output

Meet the Band

What makes Argentine tango music unique? What does the clave do in
salsa? And what are the qualities of a good band-leader? For an article for Dance Today magazine Geny Caloisi meets musicians of five different bands who play for you on the dance floor and gets some answers.

Follow this link to see the PDF: Meet the band


Security when needed the most

Risk UK - Geny Caloisi looks at security solutions in the healthcare sector

Risk UK – Geny Caloisi looks at security solutions in the healthcare sector

The safety and security requirements in healthcare are unique. Hospitals are dynamic, stressful environments, where there is a high volume of people circulating, staff trying to do their jobs and expensive equipment that needs to be in the right place at the right time.

In common with any other public space, you will find CCTV cameras, fire alarms and voice alarms as well as access control systems. What differs is that the design and location of security and safety measures have to be carefully tailored to the needs of the hospital.

Follow this link to see the PDF: Security when needed the most_Dec13

Screens in the Wild

The research provided insight into how location and audience can affect interaction with DOOH

The research provided insight into how location and audience can affect interaction with DOOH

For the past two years the University College London (UCL) and the University of Nottingham (UoN) have been working together on a project called Screens in the Wild. Researchers from the UCL’s Space Group and the UoN’s Mixed Reality Lab investigated how media screens located in urban space can be designed to benefit public life.

The research team includes architects, human computer interaction designers, computer scientists, anthropologists, developers, artists and curators. Notably, it doesn’t include anyone currently working in DOOH. The reason for this is simple; they wanted to have total independence in order to be able to invite companies to try their test platforms in the second phase of the project, which began recently.

Ava Fatah gen Schieck, lecturer at UCL and head of the project, explains: “We built a series of architectural interfaces in Leytonstone, east London and Nottingham which use broadcast media and interactive technologies to foster community participation and ownership of the urban space.”

A total of four screens have been installed: two are in Nottingham, at the New Art Exchange and the independent Broadway Cinema, while the other two are in East London, one at Leytonstone library and another at volunteer-run community centre The Mill. The displays run as a network and, from the moment the first screen went up, the project has been running 24 hours a day. Each of the four nodes contains a touchscreen, a CCTV camera and a webcam, a microphone and a speaker.

Dr Holger Schnadelbach, the principal investigator and senior research fellow at UoN, was in charge of creating the technical platform for the project. The displays, which are NEC MultiSync screens, run on a Windows 7 platform using a Union Server and a touch foil overlay from Visual Planet.

“We tried various technologies, such as an Xbox for gesture interaction, but they didn’t work,” says Schieck. “We wanted to bring interactivity into the public realm and a simple touchscreen was the best.”

The research results show that slight distinctions in a screen’s surrounding area can provide remarkably varied results. Nottingham’s Broadway cinema is situated a few metres back from the street; here, people tend to stay and interact with the screens for extended periods, or just sit around and passively watch others play. In east London, where the screen is on the high street itself, the dwell time is briefer.

The project’s aim is to invite people to get more involved with their local community. With this in mind, researchers invited local digital artists and residents to workshops and events in which participants generated their own relevant content.

“A key element for engaging the public, besides creating simple interaction mechanisms, is to focus on locally generated content and to collaborate with communities to generate and develop the content,” believes Schieck.

One of the most popular interactions is a photo booth application, where pictures can be shared between the four locations, while another – a game – saw a high level of participation from children.

“Depending on the time of day you can get a very different picture of the interaction taking place,” explains Schieck. “For instance, inhibitions seem to disappear in the evening.

“There is an interesting case with the community centre screen where, for the past two years, a man has visited the screen every other day and had his photo taken. The picture only shows a snapshot of the interaction, but through our CCTV camera observation we can see that what he does is a whole performance: he dances in front of the screen!”

The research and development phase has ended; however, the screen network with its scheduled experiences continues to run and is available for any interested party to run tests on. Local venue owners and the residents involved in the project have expressed their continued interest in supporting the project.

“We have developed knowledge of what works and what doesn’t work, knowledge of the urban setting and the types of community around the screen locations, ” concludes Schieck. “We would like to test the possibility of offering the screen locations as a research test bed for developing novel ideas and supporting new ways of engagement with the public, which might be of interest to media owners and advertising agencies.”

The DOOH industry has a gap to bridge between academic research and the practical application of screens in the urban landscape. The Screens in the Wild network could be an ideal platform for identifying useful information about specific locations and engagement levels. This controlled environment can provide an outline of the social and technical challenges and opportunities for further developing out-of-home advertising and permit the transfer of this knowledge to other networks.

First published 12 December 2013 – Output

Hyper definition: 4K screens in DOOH

Display products such as PsCo’s hyperwall have put digital signage companies at the fore of 4K development

4K is undoubtedly expanding. Video production houses welcome the format and, even if they often have to use down-converters from 4K to HD, the image quality is still better than what can be captured via HD. Most video camera manufacturers have already launched 4K cameras and creative advertising agencies are adopting it in an attempt to future-proof their work.

Sony’s latest professional monitors, the PVM-A250, 25″ (60cm) and PVM-A170, 17″ (43cm), have been designed to be 4K ready. Using organic LED (OLED), these lightweight, slim screens have high colour accuracy, contrast and picture quality.

“Higher resolution content creation – 4K and beyond – requires monitors with larger screen sizes for accurate colour evaluation on site,” says Daniel Dubreuil, senior product marketing manager for professional monitors at Sony Europe. “Yet bigger monitors are harder to carry and take up more space. These new models have the screen size needed for critical evaluation, with a thinner and lighter design that’s perfect for live broadcast and outdoor shooting. They even have a handle for easy carrying.”

Danish broadcast production start-up Nimb TV has recently unveiled Denmark’s smallest Ultra HD Outside Broadcast van. The unit is built around a number of Blackmagic Design’s raft of Ultra HD products, which includes the ATEM Production Studio 4K and Blackmagic Audio Monitor. Housed in a three-wheeler moped van, it can be positioned at the heart of any live production, not simply feature films. But it is not necessarily the broadcast market that is paving the way forward in 4K.

“The AV and digital signage markets are leading on Ultra HD, 4K adoption,” believes Patrick Hussey, senior communications manager for EMEA at Blackmagic. “Meanwhile, the broadcast industry is, for once, playing catch up.”

Stuart Holmes, chief executive at AV distributor PsCo, corroborates this: “In the professional AV world, 4K or Ultra HD is nothing new; it made huge waves at CES and is now one of the latest buzzwords in the consumer market. Consumer expectations of image quality are through the roof as they compare the fine detail they get on their tablets, smartphones and home TV sets to displays they come across daily in the out-of-home world.

“As experts in videowalls, targeting vertical markets such as broadcast, public sector, retail, rental and corporate, we understand 4K and, from a multi-display angle, we have been delivering videowalls with higher than 4K resolutions for a long time. Our focus has always been more on delivering according to the required display size, shape and pixel by pixel performance required for a specific environment.”

In the AV manufacturing sector, the projector industry leads the way on 4K, particularly for 3D applications. Some manufacturers are already claiming they use 8K, although most of the time that means two 4K projectors, which gives better definition, but not at 8K standard. 

In the residential market there are 55″ (140cm) 4K screens available for under £4,000, but in the professional market this quality of screen is not so widespread. Many LED manufacturers say that their HD screens are 4K ready, they just need the content to match. That said, there are plenty of HD DOOH screens already on the streets and, if the image is already fit for purpose, then why change them?

French creative company MovingDesign, which designed the amazing 4Temps mall in Paris, says that its clients are not worried about definition as long as it looks good, while Monster Media has made similar noises concerning 4K. However, BrightSign’s XD line software and firmware upgrade to support and upscale into 4K would indicate that the format is coming to DOOH. The company’s BrightAuthor 3.7 software and its companion 4.7 firmware XD can upscale 1080p video content to 4K and offers enhanced IP streaming and some very useful HTML5 support features. 4K-display manufacturer Seiki Digital recently demonstrated the impact of BrightSign’s XD video engine, paired with the new software features, at the IFA trade show in Berlin.

4K is a technology that is relevant to large videowall displays, rather than close-up screens. For screens that are used for interaction or large displays, such as roadside billboards, 4K is irrelevant. In cases where flat-panel displays are used to create large videowalls, the better the definition, the more eye-catching and effective the signage will be, so expect to see more 4K making its way into the DOOH market.

First published 2 December 2013 – Output

Telemedicine, the way forward on patient care

The idea of telehealth has been
around for many years. Telemedicine
generally refers to the use
of communications and information
technologies for the delivery of
clinical care. In this discipline medical
information is transferred via telephone,
the internet or other networks for the purpose of
consulting and sometimes even remote medical procedures
or examinations.
Videocommunication now has the prime role of
improving the quality of life for patients and reducing
costs for healthcare structures. Broadband capacity,
better videoconferencing equipment and the use
of high definition are making telemedicine a real
option for the health industry. There is also an important
role to be filled by a-v integrators on designing
systems that address local needs.
Telemedicine can be used as a means of consultation
between doctors, doctors and patients or as an
educational tool. It also makes it possible to provide
specialised expertise in remote places where otherwise
it would be difficult or impossible to get. Telecare
for the elderly and chronically ill is also a key application
facilitated by visual communication. It offers a
call centre style of consultation, available 24/7.
Home care, teleconsulting or distance learning
applications may be put into practice at different
levels. A popular use is of video communication
resources is to share images between experts, such as
live surgical operations, dermatology pictures or live
images, X-ray and Digital Imaging and Communication
in Medicine (DICOM) acquired data or other
medical high resolution images. The sharing of
images equates to an interview between doctors,
experts and patients, and is much more efficient than
a basic telephone call or email. It is also faster and
sometimes more cost-effective than meeting in person.


Read the full article: Where are the doctors when you need one?