Trade Show Reflects Maturing Industry


This may have been the year that the digital signage industry showed true signs of maturing, in the form of its largest trade show.

The annual Digital Signage Expo in Las Vegas was held in late February, and attracted what's expected to be new records for attendees and exhibitors. Growth is good, but what we observed were noticeable levels of maturity in the technology and the way companies are going to market.

Video display walls that for many years have promised to be impactful - but have always been impaired by highly noticeable seams between the monitors - now look seamless. The visual compromises are gone.

The quality and thinking around creative has also markedly progressed: Software and solutions providers, who in the past have marketed what was possible, were instead also working off of what was practical and market-ready. Instead of pretty or cool, the applications are driving sales and improving communications.

Our Intel booth near the front of the Las Vegas Convention Center exhibit hall was teeming both days, showing solutions that blended Intel chipsets, AIM Suite and a host of complementary technologies and industry partners.

Among the intelligent solutions were:

  • A vending machine that uses touch and card readers to dispense things like USB cables at Intel campuses;
  • An engaging touchscreen display used to personalize product selection at an outdoor sports retailer; and
  • An interactive digital bus shelter that lets people explore the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

The use of sensors in and around displays - pioneered with Intel AIM Suite - is growing increasingly common in digital signage applications. Along with applying pattern detection software to count and segment audiences, embedded sensors are being used to do things like monitor and log the playback of specific pieces of media, and switch projected content based on gestures.

In many exhibitor booths, the tone of marketing has transformed from trumpeting the capabilities of hardware and software to instead providing some context. Vendors showcased interactive examples such as working digital menu boards for the fast food business, directional signs for hotels, and product selectors for all types of retailers. The industry has learned that showing end-users how they would apply something to their businesses is usually more effective than just showing what the technology generally does.

The show also marked the real beginnings of a forked road for software companies that market distribution and playback solutions. While the industry has until now been based almost exclusively on PC solutions, technology built for smartphones and tablets is starting to find its way into this market.

Android OS-based solutions, that until this year had been almost the exclusive domain of very small software providers, started showing up among much more well-established companies. The attraction is simple: price.

But there is a marked trade-off in terms of processing power and capabilities. Some companies will just go down that path because they see the opportunity in volume. Some will offer both smart device and PC solutions. Many will stick with Intel Architecture because their customer base and vertical demands computing power, flexibility, remote management, and reliability.

The attendee profile was also a big sign of a maturing market. Where this show has often been regarded as one typified by vendors talking to vendors and established customers, the 2013 DSE show saw a lot of people from large retailers and corporations walking the floor, looking for ideas, products and services.

Intel has been part of the show for many years, and has already made a commitment for 2014, when it shifts to mid-February and the Sands Expo. If you are interested in interactive retail, AIM Suite, and other digital signage applications, DSE in Las Vegas is a trip worth making and we'd be happy to schedule time with you there.

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