Watching and waiting: European Sign Expo

European Sign Expo will co-locate with FESPA 2013 at London's Excel – but who is actually exhibiting?

European Sign Expo will co-locate with FESPA 2013 at London’s Excel – but who is actually exhibiting?

European Sign Expo will co-locate with FESPA 2013 at London’s Excel – but who is actually exhibiting?

European Sign Expo (ESE), organised by FESPA and the European Sign Federation (ESF), will open its doors in two months. But who will be on the show floor?

For those outside the print market, FESPA is a global federation of wide-format print associations with events running world-wide. In November last year it teamed up with ESF to launch ESE. FESPA acquired Screenmedia Expo (SME) at the end of January, adding digital signage to its new mixture of print and signage systems. Resultantly, it will now form part of the main FESPA/ESE colocation at Excel on June 25th to 27th, expecting to welcome 23,000 visitors; the majority will be print-related but 28 percent of those pre-registered have expressed interest in the new zone.

Neil Felton, managing director of exhibitions and events at FESPA, says the show will demonstrate the full spectrum of print and non-print display technologies, giving exhibitors the chance to reach a new key audience not addressed by other events. He also emphasises FESPA’s role as a not-for-profit and, therefore, an educational entity. This sounds like a promising proposition – so what support has there been from the digital signage side?

BroadSign has been confirmed as platinum sponsor for the event, and Felton says more than 20 digital signage companies have already signed up, with some 15 more in the pipeline. However, this is not yet apparent when looking at the floor plan: only BrightSign and Barco add to the list of heavyweights. A further dozen offers everything from embedded computers to digital scoreboards – products which may appeal at the lower end, but none is a major name.

For Brant Eckett, director of marketing EMEA at Christie, there is one concern that overrides all others. “In these cost-sensitive times, tradeshows need to deliver not only brand promotion and opportunities to educate the market – they need to deliver new business,” he emphasises.

Steve Robinson, product manager for Onelan, notes that the digital signage market is changing rapidly. “Once the hardware and services are fully commoditised, I strongly feel that digital signage will simply become part of the wider digital marketing landscape,” he warns. “If the ESE and FESPA can fulfil their goal of bringing ‘marketers, advertisers, brand owners, buyers and specifiers of advertising’ together, then this will be great for Onelan and the industry as a whole.”

Denys Lavigne of Arsenal Media is also cautious, but for a different reason. Arsenal Media was an exhibitor at SME but works broadly across the visual communications spectrum, and is a company indicative of the target audience FESPA and ESE both would like to attract. “I haven’t seen any event where print and digital have truly been successful together as an integrated solution context,” he says. “I think it hurts the digital side to be too closely associated with print because of the culture shock and different market interests.”

For two years in a row DOOH taxi-top creator Eyetease exhibited at SME, but its chief executive, Richard Corbett, doesn’t believe that a marriage with print is the way forward. “DOOH is a powerful medium and holds a key position in the consumer’s daily journey,” he states. “We should encourage the association of DOOH exhibitions with online and mobile – rather than with print.”

Jason Cremins, chief executive of signagelive, was one vendor ‘disappointed’ with last year’s SME; he says his company will wait to see how the new show performs. Others, however, are more positive about the combination – including NEC’s Northern Europe vice-president Simon Jackson, despite his company not intending to be present. “The purchase of SME makes some sense for FESPA, as the print world is rapidly being absorbed by digital media,” he says. “It will be interesting to see how many of the brands on board [with SME] migrate to the FESPA show.”

These observations from key stakeholders are ones that FESPA may very well answer. However, it has two other challenges. The NEC Showcase, now in its fifth year, lists 44 sector-relevant ‘solutions partners’ as exhibitors. Marketing Week Live, which runs at the same time as ESE, has added a new out-of-home section and appears to be more in keeping with the type of interplay the digital signage sector is looking for.

Digital signage vendors are looking for a real business proposition, and ESE must meet this in order to succeed. So far, the event hasn’t projected a clear enough profile or thorough understanding of the market to convince the major
screen, media player and software manufacturers onto the show floor.

First published 25 April 2013 – Output

Making marketing more engaging: In-Store Show

If I had to define in a sentence what the In-Store Show pavilion at the Marketing Week Live event was about, I would say it mostly presented solutions to make marketing more engaging.

CDS 46" trasnparent display box and 4.3" TFT shelf edge displays

In terms of technology, it was very similar to what we already saw this year at Screenmedia Expo. Large thin-vessel HD displays, some LED, picture frame-type screens, a few holograms, 3D and transparent displays.

For instance, Crystal Display Systems (CDS) had already introduced its 22″ (0.6m) transparent showcase box at Screenmedia Expo. The ClearVue 220 allows the combination of a real product displayed in a presentation box and graphics or video content played in front on it, on a transparent display. However, what was new at this show was CDS’s 46″ (1.2m) box, also plug-and-play, but more impressive. Other companies showing transparent displays were Media Zest and Stratacache, with a large drinks dispenser fridge with a transparent screen.

Pixel Project QR code for 4.3″ shelf edge screen

Something that caught my eye in terms of screen technology was the use of 4.3″ (11cm) TFT LCD displays used for shelf-edge applications or as mini video displays for counter advertising – or even inside a card. The screen is more or less the size of a smartphone screen, but is lighter. The resolution in that size is very good and the screens can display individual or joined content. The only fault, especially if the screens are used next to each other, is that they have quite a thick frame so the image is not continuous.

The mini displays inside cards were designed by Display Innovations and have a video that is activated when the card is opened, and that can play for the battery’s life of three hours. Pixel Inspiration has combined its version of digital shelf-edge display with a QR code reader, so the screens play content continuously until a QR code is scanned, which triggers information on the product to pop up on the screen.

CDS was also demonstrating its shelf-edge display. “The displays work like a desktop extension,” explains managing director Chris Bartram. “You can decide what you put on each screen or run an image across several. It’s a PC interface so you can use any media player from signagelive, Scala or any other. The maximum number of TFT 4.3′ (1.3m) screens you can put in one line is eleven, but we can daisy-chain them to link together up to 72 displays.”

Christie MicrTiles at Saville AV stand

One particular product that was being showcased by many companies was Christie’s MicroTiles. The versatile cubic rear projection display was present in at least six different stands, and not just on the In-Store Show pavilion, but the Live Marketing area, which was for companies offering exhibition stands, as well. Equinox Design had the largest Christie MicroTiles display, a five by eight array. The show’s entrance hall had a MicroTiles display, as did system integrator Saville Audiovisual, distributor Aztec and content designer Beaver Group, to name but a few.

TED - H Squared

An innovative store concept which attracted crowds was the one presented by H Squared. Its name was TED, the happy machine. TED stands for Technology Engagement Device, and combined screens and mobile technology. Visitors were handed a card to fill in, or by scanning a QR code they were taken to a website. Here they were given a virtual scratch card to reveal whether they had won, and what time they needed to go to the stand to get their ‘free stuff’. TED was a videowall comprised of several screens with videos of eyes and mouths. At the time arranged for people to come and collect their prizes, TED came alive as an interactive screen, seeing the bystanders (via a webcam) and talking to them. Winners needed to open a small box to find their goodies.

IBM future store

But how can these solutions work together? The entrance of the In-Store Show had concept stands, showing what the future of retail can be. I must say I didn’t think much of these. IBM had created a ‘shoe shop fusion’, with screens on the shop window showing tweets and live models parading in the window as if it were a catwalk. The twist, and where IBM technology came in, was that the public tweeted what shoes they wanted to see modelled. IBM proposes using a multi-channel experience to engage customers at various levels and feedback to the retailer through its analytics.

The show covered all areas of marketing and communications, and was worth a visit.

First published in Output Magazine

Screeen Media Expo on wheels

This year three companies drove into Earls Court at Screen Media Expo: Eyetease Media, Verifone and Phillips.

Philips Public Signage, AOpen and NDS, truck

Philips Public Signage, had partnered with AOpen and NDS, and parked a big lorry in the middle of the hall. The displays were featured inside and outside the vehicle and showed from glasses-less 3D displays to touchscreen solutions, retail applications and way-finding.

An interesting demo on the truck, was from software company NetDisplay, with its new digital signage software product PADS4. PADS4 enables the design, schedule and distribution of any type of content to any screens. The Microsoft .NET system, is connected to a database that allows users to include real-time data to their content.

Eyetease and VeriFone didn’t use their ‘wheels’ to show integrated solutions for other markets, such as hospitality or retail. Their proposition is indeed vehicles with screens. In the case of Eyetease, with its iTaxitop, the screen is on the roof of the vehicle. VeriFone instead opts for an in-car screen and this year it also showed a Sky News wrap promoting its latest deal with the broadcaster.

iTaxitop’s double sided mobile digital advertising screen, was this year 20% larger than last year (where it featured on top of a Mini instead of a black cab) and had 1200 candelas instead to the 1000 from V1.0. The screens are LED backlit LCDs and consume just 1.2 to 1.5 watts to the gallon, not being a real burden for the vehicle’s battery.

Richard Corbett, CEO EyeTease and Geny Caloisi

The on-roof screen takes only a couple of hours to mount and once in-situ, it is secure and can cannot be taken away. Eyetease Media’s scheduling software and GPS connectivity means that an advertising campaign can be quickly deployed onto thousands of iTaxitops in seconds using 3G and 4G mobile technology. The system supports all content formats, including static imagery and video.

VeriFone, a company well known for its secure electronic payment technologies, is growing its networks of taxis that use its credit card system and screens. The company’s 15-inch LCD in-taxi screen is part of VeriFone Digital Network (VNET) Media. The solution, called TaxiTV, combines advertising, local information and now also 15 minutes loops of Sky News. VNET has geotargeting technology, by which advertisers can send cluster messaging around a specific neighbourhood, event, conference or key store locations.

“We have over 4000 cabs now with our credit card systems and over 2500 cars with media screens,” commented Chris Polos vice president, US Media Sales, who was at the show.

Chris Polos, VP Verifone and Geny Caloisi

Near Field Communication was a special topic at this year’s Screnmedia Expo and VeriFone is not lagging behind in this. The company was recently awarded “Best Contactless/NFC Infrastructure” for its London taxi operations at the 2012 Contactless Intelligence Contactless & Mobile Awards. Over the past 12 months, Taxis fitted with VeriFone solution offered its passengers the option to pay for their journey with a “tap and go” contactless card if they have one and the fare is less than £15.

Article first published in Output Magazine.

JedFam Group come to BroadSign’s rescue

For the past three months, the weather forecast looked quite stormy for BroadSign International (BSI), after it filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. But now, the company, which provides software-as-a-service for digital signage networks, claims that ‘it is poised to extend its market dominance as a balanced and striving global enterprise,’ according to its press release.

The Bankruptcy Court recently approved a sale of BSI’s assets to JedFam, and BSI will emerge from bankruptcy as BroadSign International, LLC. and Brian Dusho will remain as Chief Executive Officer of the digital signage software provider.

“Today marks the start of a new chapter for BroadSign,” said Brian Dusho. “Thanks to widespread support from our lenders, customers, partners and friends, our operations have remained robust through this process.” Dusho reported that BroadSign has experienced unprecedented growth in recent months. “I am especially grateful to our employees around the world whose continued hard work and focus have been instrumental in enabling us to reach this achievement and who will be important contributors to our future success,” he said.

First published on Output Magazine