Tv-bay Digital Signage Special Report IBC2009


Sign of the times at IBC
Digital signage – the use of video screens or projectors to create dynamic information and advertising displays – has moved on rapidly from technological showcase and niche market to become a mainstream media. Recent research by Multimedia Intelligence predicts a doubling of the market by 2012, with 2.3 million displays in use worldwide.
It is a global phenomenon, and local research suggests that even the confident prediction by Multimedia Intelligence could be an underestimate. The latest figures from Yano Research Institute suggest that in 2008 the market in Japan alone was worth 55 billion yen (US$575 million).
A big part of the Japanese market is represented by the Train Channel, a large digital signage programme run by JR, the national rail company. Transport is one of the big markets for digital signage, exceeded only by retail.
Market leader PRN currently runs networks of over 210,000 screens for major American retailers Walmart, Costco and Best Buy, as well as providing a demonstration service of carefully tailored HD content, which is used by around 5400 stores in the US, each typically showing 80 to 120 screens in its home electronics department. That adds another half million screens or more to the list.
This is all big business. Tough-minded retailers like Walmart do not invest in new technology unless there is a clear return on that investment. The conclusion must be that now is the time to take a serious look at the implications of digital signage.
Perhaps the most important point to take on board is that if you think of digital signage as nothing more than an active poster you are doomed to failure. Audiences today are highly sophisticated, and while they will give a great deal of attention to carefully crafted content, they will reject anything that is not relevant or interesting.
That means the digital signage network has to be capable of carrying high-quality content – and as it is likely to be displayed on large panels and projectors, that really means high-definition video. And the content has to be targeted carefully and precisely: a retail store might have 100 screens but each has to be capable of being individually addressed. If the screen above the meat aisle shows a chicken recipe it will boost sales. If the same recipe is shown above the breakfast cereals shoppers will very quickly turn off.
If customers are queuing for the checkout it is too late to sell them anything else. But digital signage can be used for queue management and, if there is no alternative to waiting, as a distraction. Make the wait time seem less with news headlines or the weather. Maybe promote the store’s online shopping service.
So the key elements in digital signage are the creation of high-quality video and graphics; the management, dynamic scheduling and playout of those assets; distribution over IP networks; and appropriate displays to catch the target audience’s eyes.
All of those are core technologies regularly on display at IBC, the world’s leading event for broadcasting and electronic media. The rapidly growing digital signage network on the London Underground, for example, is actually managed and delivered by a broadcast playout centre. So it is natural that IBC has rapidly become a forum for the new applications of digital signage.
It supports the industry in three ways. First, with a dedicated zone in the exhibition that brings together all the participants, making it easy for vendors to take their first steps into IBC and for visitors to find all the relevant information in one place.
Second, there is a series of short presentations from vendors and others with practical experience in digital signage, to share knowledge and debate the issues. Chairing these sessions is Miya Knights, editor of Retail Technology magazine and a leading authority on the development of digital signage.
“The exhibition and business briefings have been designed to highlight key technologies and best practices for content, network and hardware providers, and customer-facing organisations alike to capitalise on the benefits of central control, more consistent, cost-effective and dynamic communication, and potential revenue enhancement that digital signage can offer,” she said.
The third element in IBC’s digital signage strategy is to practise what it preaches. The IBC Info Channel is the event’s own digital signage network, showing information about the exhibition and conference including late changes to the programme, together with video content drawn from a number of suppliers including the IBC TV News.
This content is packaged for the interests of the different audiences at IBC and routed around the 12 exhibition halls, conference centre, bars and restaurants. It is shown on a range of displays from standard plasmas to some of the most advanced projectors.

Tags: ibc | iss032 | digital signage | projector | monitor | advertising display | N/A
Contributing Author N/A

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