AV and Digital Signage-Not Either Or

Over the years I have written extensively about both the AV and digital signage industries. In the past the “camps” have been distinguished by their unique business models.  In a conversation with our own AV and digital signage expert Jonathan Brawn CTS, DSCE, he recently noted the following distinction, “AV is technology driving the experience whereas digital signage is the experience driving the technology.”  If you think about it, he is correct. This is a distinction worthy of note begging the question as to what that distinction is.

Over the decades AV has focused consistently on the technologies and the hardware tools of the trade. The audience has been the systems integrators and consultants (aka the attendees at the annual InfoComm event) and their related design/build projects. Over the last 20 years the focus in digital signage has been on the business of digital signage and the objectives of the digital signage network and content as it related to the viewers. Of course, digital signage uses AV displays and media players so there is some overlap but the technologies used were a means to an end and not the main concern.

AV is technology driving the experience whereas digital

signage is the experience driving the technology

Jonathan Brawn

This distinction has been exhibited (pun intended) in the trade shows for each industry. The AV industry had InfoComm and the digital signage industry had the Digital Signage Expo (DSE).  At first glance the shows appeared to have similarities but that was really misleading. InfoComm was for AV for AV insiders including manufacturers, distributors, resellers/integrators, and consultants. The exhibits that funded the event were the main focus with education and CTS certification thrown in for good measure. The DSE on the other hand targeted investors, ad/media agencies, content creators, software companies, network operators, digital signage integrators, and service companies and from the beginning enticed and embraced end users. The technology exhibits funded the event but that was only part of the equation. Most importantly for the attendees the DSE provided a place (or as I call it a home) for the digital signage community to meet and greet, collaborate, become educated and certified specific to digital signage, and be exposed to new applications. Suffice it to say the makeup of the audience for each show was different.

All things change and evolve and so it is with AV and digital signage. Perhaps the most significant example of change in the AV industry has been the convergence of AV and IT and the name change of the industry association to AVIXA or the Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association.  This has brought a new dimension (the experience) to what had once been limited to the scale and scope of technologies and their integration into an AV system.  We can say that the name change is much more than semantics. It is a new layer of their trajectory.

On the digital signage front it has expanded beyond the original focus on retail and QSR becoming a mainstream medium for communication and the dissemination of information in corporate, education, and beyond. At many levels the evolution in both “camps” have brought them closer together. There is the increasing emphasis on the experience in AV and an increasing use of technologies in digital signage. Does this coming together at some levels mean that there is really only the need for a single event? The only realistic answer is that time will tell. Let me explain from both perspectives.

As the voice of the digital signage industry the DSF has the obligation to meet the needs of their constituency. Because of the expanded utilization of digital signage in traditionally AV centric venues (i.e., corporate, education, healthcare etc.)  the constituency of digital signage is growing to include more of the AV community. Recognizing this evolution/trendline it only makes sense for the DSF to partner with AVIXA as they attempt to broaden their appeal to the digital signage community.

This trend accepted, there is still a void to be filled for the digital signage industry.  InfoComm is the traditional home for AV but it does not yet address many participants at the core of digital signage and perhaps not comfortable in the traditional AV environment.  This is where the reconstituted DSE known as the Digital Signage Experience may fit in. I say may because at this point, we do not know. What we do know is that their intent in not to outdo InfoComm but (hopefully) provide a home for those who are not part of the AV world. This is the reason for the DSF to partner with the new DSE to address the full constituency of the industry.

What we do not yet know is how well AVIXA will do in the expanded role of attracting the digital signage community. What we can say is that their efforts to date look very promising. We also don’t know how well the new DSE will perform. Will it live up to the promise of the original DSE? Only time will tell. Keep in mind it does not boil down to either or. What we do know is that the common denominator is the DSF and they will stay focused on serving the digital signage community as it evolves and expands no matter the venue.