Articles and Whitepapers
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There’s a lot of buzz in the digital signage industry, as well as the markets the industry serves, about fine pixel pitch LED displays, and their ability to create bright, seamless visuals that transform spaces.
It’s easy to find technical documentation about LED displays and diodes, but a lot harder to find solid information, written in non-technical terms, that explains the technology, the marketplace, ecosystem and applications. That’s why this Special Report – The Total Guide To Fine Pitch LED – from 16:9, was put together over the last few months. It reflects many, many conversations, as well as a specific trip to Taiwan and China to visit manufacturers and fully understand the ecosystem.
Washington, DC-based media production and live events company, Quince Imaging is concluding its 20th year in business with an upgraded corporate headquarters to accommodate its rapidly growing staff and service offerings. The company’s flagship work is 3D projection imaging and if you’ve attended a professional sporting event recently, chances are you’ve seen some of Quince’s work.
Bill DuLaney, business development manager, has watched the digital signage industry grow throughout the past 25 years. He said the industry, particularly projection, is in the middle of a massive sea change that is putting the technology on-trend with what consumers want – experiential, entertaining, immersive experiences.
“Projection has been around since the late 1890’s. Over the past 25 years, it’s gone from CRT technology – big, heavy, analogue-based technology – to total digital-chip based digital light processors with high brightness lamp technology. Now we have further improvements as we are transitioning from lamp to laser or solid state technology,” DuLaney said. “Every time someone says projection is dead, it’s not. It continues to keeps growing. In fact, designers and clients continue to push the technical and creative limitations and want to do high-end, spectacular installations using the highest resolution you can achieve.”
In fact, according to a market report from Technavio, the projector market (globally) is expected to be in excess of $132 billion in 2019, growing at a CAGR of more than 18 percent.
Projection offers “the highest resolution you can achieve,” DuLaney says, because there is no limit on pixels – you can continue to add projectors, and servers to fit whatever size or shape you’re aiming for.
“It’s the only video technology that’s not constrained by screen size. That’s valuable,” DuLaney said. “Because of that, it’s the most cost efficient technology when you break it down by cost-per-pixel.”
Quince Imaging is seeing some trends emerge within its business, such as retailers using projection imaging to create storefront windows or illuminating a certain area of their store, or projecting rotating outfits on a mannequin.
In sporting arenas, teams are going for the “wow factor” at every turn and the ROI comes with the fan engagement these projections are yielding on social media.
“People like it because of the engagement. The number of eyeballs on these displays, not only in the venue or facility but also on TV, and streaming sites, all of which translates to hits on social media. Engagement is proven ROI,” DuLaney said.
He adds that the market has changed in that brands are looking for new ways to present and differentiate themselves.
“Experiential is a hot trend and rightly so, whether you’re a brand or an agency. This is a proven way to hit certain demographics through unique, fun and engaging types of technologies. It could be purely immersive and interactive, bringing in the power of personal and shared experiences, augmented reality, or a combination of each.” he said.
Projection is an ideal way to achieve an immersive digital experience because there are no seams or bezels. The improvement of the technology is enabling projection to become a better experience as well. Both the image quality by virtue of new video standards (HDR, 4k, 8k) and the server technology have made strides in the past few years alone.
“The past three years especially has been a sea change and it has to do with advances in video card technology, software, and solid state lighting. We don’t have to replace lamps every 500 to 1,000 hours anymore. And the color saturation and gamut of LED and laser as a (solid state) light source is much wider than lamp technology can give you,” DuLaney said. “All of this is going on at the same time. Thus every six months there are improved products.”
Real-time rendering is another significant advancement, DuLaney said. Clients can preview what the project is going to look like before it goes live.
“If you’re in a stadium and you have a touchdown catch, you can replay that back in slow motion on all of the digital signs immediately and have it streamed simultaneously. We are rendering high resolution video files in real time. We don’t have to wait anymore,” DuLaney said.
He also notes other trends quickly coming down the pike in projection and digital signage, notably augmented reality and hologram technology. Lowe’s and Home Depot, for example, are working on AR where customers can use photos of their dining rooms and pull the kind of style they’re looking for to pre-model in a 3D environment.
“When you do this in a 3D environment, versus a standard display or phone, it changes everything,” DuLaney said. “The AR and VR technology is making these experiences more personal than ever before.”
Though Quince is positioned well amidst all of these changes, challenges remain in keeping up with the swift pace of technology advancements.
“All of these video and creative standards are changing. We have to have the best team in place with the best solution to keep up with the latest products and trends,” DuLaney said. “Then there’s the budget challenge. We have to educate clients on why our solution costs more than what they can purchase at Walmart or Amazon. There is no list price on creativity. There is a sweet spot between activating something really creative and not breaking the bank.”
Quince Imaging case study
Though Quince Imaging got its start 20 years ago specializing in high-end events, it has found its sweet spot in sporting arenas. To illuminate an arena, it takes anywhere from eight to 12 top-of-the-line projectors and lenses. There is also the mounting, the electrical, signal flow process, servers, programming, and then adding in custom 3D animations. The price tag isn’t cheap, but the ROI speaks for itself.
“Sports is our biggest market dollar for permanent installations. We’re still in the beginning of this because we’re figuring out the sponsor equation,” he said. “This is valuable for sponsors. They can own a moment and grab eyeballs for a minute, 90 seconds, two minutes, and not have to share it. That’s the holy grail of advertising.”
Teams are using signage to sell not only ads but also tickets. DuLaney said the market will continue to grow because sports is an ever-evolving marketing machine, always in search of new and competitive ways to reach customers.
“Once the Cowboys or Manchester United do it, everyone else will want to do it, albeit better” he said.
Because of this growth, Quince keeps redefining its successful case studies. The United Center in Chicago, for example, posed a structural and mounting challenge for projection because of its existing roof structure and the huge video boards that affect the angle of the projections. Quince’s engineering team came up with a solution to do one system for two sports – the NBA’s Bulls and the NHL’s Blackhawks – including the content.
“Clients now see the value of a company that understands this technology not just from the science/engineering part, but also the creative side. The United Center project is one we can really hang our hat on,” DuLaney said.
Another of Quince’s milestone achievements was the viral success of the Cleveland Cavaliers pregame court projection at the ceremony honoring the jersey retirement of Zydrunas Ilgauskas in 2014. Since then, Quince went on to permanently install the Cavs 3D projection system, as well as develop creative content for major events and projects, including the “Cavs Arcade.” Quince Imaging was selected to design and adapt a full-court projection reminiscent of the classic arcade game Pong.
Cable news channels picked up footage from Ilgauskas jersey retirement and it received 2 million + hits over a couple of weeks. Since, Quince and the Cavs have worked together extensively to coordinate pre-game shows, halftime shows, time-out entertainment and more.
“Once we saw that go viral and the team saw that, it became valuable to tie it in for fan engagement and interactivity,” DuLaney said. “The theme is creating memorable experiences for people and using imaging technology to do it. It’s very exciting for brands and anyone in the entertainment biz who wants to separate themselves from the noise.”
People often ask me what to expect from ISE, and I think this year will mostly be a year of incremental upgrades, rather than a breakthrough year. Everything I’ve seen points to there actually being fewer vendors in attendance due to massive consolidation across the industry. People are focusing on quality and come to shows like ISE with the mindset of “I’ve had this experience already, what can I learn at ISE to help me do a new roll-out with different technologies that provides a better experience?” We love that because at the core of our product is great technology and high reliability, so customers – old and new – are coming to us for that better experience. Knowledgeable customers are good for BrightSign, and we definitely welcome them with open arms.
In terms of trends, I think we’ll see a focus on new interfaces, such as voice and AR plus a demand for media players that can deliver 4K live-streaming media.
I think we’re still a ways off, but digital signage interacting with voice-enabled products is certainly exciting, in particular for retail. We’ll undoubtedly see demos of voice interaction at ISE, but the actual roll-outs in 2018 are less realistic.
The “cloud” was first referenced at a conference in 2006, when Google’s Eric Schmidt referenced his company’s services as belonging “in a cloud somewhere.”
Twelve years later, cloud computing has become nearly as ubiquitous as Google itself. Still, many businesses that use digital signage continue to use premise-based software systems – systems set up and maintained on site by a company’s licensed enterprise software – versus cloud services, or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), which is software that is owned and managed by one or more providers.
There are differing opinions about how quickly the ratio will shift in favor of SaaS.
Ryan Cahoy, managing director at Rise Vision, believes the debate is over on premise-based versus SaaS.
“SaaS clearly won. Ten years ago, the debate was about how you could put your company at risk in the cloud. Ten years ago, it was a scary conversation. Now I think the debate is dead. Now, there is no space in companies anymore for servers and the assumption is becoming that everything is in the cloud,” Cahoy said.
However, Jeff Collard, president of Omnivex Corp., doesn’t think it’s so black and white.
“I don’t think it’s a debate. I think they are two different options in the way you deploy technology and both of them work depending on your business,” he said.
For example, Collard’s Omnivex works with airports, military organizations, major banks and manufacturing facilities.
IHS and the Digital Signage Federation have partnered together to offer DSF Members exclusive access to IHS’s Digital Signage Industry Tracker Executive Summary report each quarter.
For nearly 50 years, IHS has assisted customers harness the power of information to improve their business results. IHS seeks to provide its customers with the technical information, tools, and operational and advisory services necessary to help them make critical business decisions, maximize their core business processes, and improve productivity.
The Executive Summary report available to DSF members highlights research and findings pertaining to:
- Hardware (media players, set-top boxes, & PCs)
- Services (installations, project management, & technical support)
- Media sales
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Download the Q3-2017 Executive Summary by clicking the member access button below.Member Access
You know the drill – you go to book one of those surprisingly low airfares, but once you’ve paid to reserve a seat, check a bag and order food you realize the true cost of your flight is much more than the teaser fare that caught your attention. The same could be said for PC-based digital signage. Customers are often attracted by low hardware acquisition costs, only to learn the hard way that their low-cost PC-based digital signage solution is anything but affordable.
The OLED market is expected to grow by 15.2 percent per year for the next six years, reaching close to $49 billion by 2023, from $16.5 billion in 2016.
According to a report by Research and Markets, this growth is driven by the adoption of LED displays in smartphones, government support for OLED lighting research and positive customer experience.
The development of OLED underscores the staggering pace at which screen technology moves. This adds complexity for those who want to implement digital signage but are not sure how they should direct their investments between plasma, LCD, LED and OLED.
First, back to the basics: Plasma screens are an older, and to a certain extent less preferable, solution to the newer technologies of LCD, LED, QLED and OLED models, according to Dave Haar, director of business development at Brawn Consulting.
A few months ago, Dallas, Texas saw the opening of high-end clothing store, Reformation. Along with its eco-friendly materials and celebrity-worthy styles, the retailer is introducing local fashionistas to a new way of shopping using touchscreens.
Around the store, there are touchscreen displays and iPads. Customers can use the devices to scan through available inventory or should they see something on the floor they want to try on, they simply digitally select the style and size preferred. The garment is immediately placed in a dressing room by a sales associate and voila — ecommerce meets instant gratification.
There’s a lot of buzz in the industry about how voice integration in digital signage may be the next big step forward in how signage is used to interface with customers. And while I don’t doubt that voice integration will become much more prominent in the years ahead, as an industry we have some interesting challenges to address.
First and foremost, we need to be realistic about how we intend to use voice recognition to engage viewers. At a technical level, voice recognition requires adequate processing power to recognize and respond to voice commands. To economize the amount of computing power required to interpret and appropriately respond to spoken interaction, it’s important to simplify the interaction. For example, instead of making a particular signage installation capable of responding to complex queries, try to hone in on a very specific vocabulary to trigger some of the most common interactions. Complex interaction will someday have its place in digital signage, but not before the foundational work is laid. A well-executed installation with rudimentary yet highly functional interaction is far better for the customer than a complicated interaction with a high rate of failure.
As the evolution of digital signage technology continues to accelerate, one group has a particularly strong pulse on the trends coming down the pike to the benefit of end users. Integrators will remain ahead of the curve in 2018, and it is all part of the job.
There are an estimated 400 to 500 integrators in North America who facilitate the A/V technologies needs for their clients, be it retail companies, stadiums, campuses, etc. They provide the equipment – from media players to cabling – and some even offer warranty services, tech support, training and more.
“Basically, we come in, build for the design and the plans and put in the technology. Our company specifically facilitates large networks and helps to maintain them,” said Will Amos, director of the Digital Media Group at Diversified.
Amos used to work on the manufacturer side of the industry, but jumped over to the integrator side and calls it “low complacency.”
“We have to know everything about what the manufacturers offer because we are the ones who bring the solution together,” he said. “That’s why we sign up. I have to know what’s new so I can be knowledgeable for my clients in helping them put their ideas together.”