A change of scenery: Digital Signage Road Show
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By Morwenna Kearns
20 June 2012
The Digital Signage Road Show brings together a variety of digital signage solutions set up to demonstrate how the technology can be used for different markets
Visitors to Screenmedia Expo this year would have seen a few examples of how digital signage can take to the road – and would have been unlikely to miss a lorry kitted out with an extensive range of signage solutions demonstrating how they can be used effectively in a range of key vertical markets. This was the first stop on the Digital Signage Road Show, a mobile showcase of screens from Philips, media players from AOpen, IT solutions from Avnet, mounts and racks from Chief, Matrox graphics cards, Intel and Net Display Systems software, Microsoft's Windows Embedded technology and videoconferencing systems from LifeSize, linked up to illustrate exactly how the composite parts combine to form complete systems. Since taking a break after Screenmedia Expo it has so far visited Leeds, Haslingden, Warrington and Sheffield, and will start the next leg in Bracknell on July 9th.
The Digital Signage Road Show is aimed primarily at two types of audience: existing and potential resellers, whose salespeople can learn more about the products they may be representing; and end users. For the first group, it is an opportunity to chat with the equipment's manufacturers about exactly how it works, its possibilities and up-to-the-minute application examples, and of course to see it in action. Glasses-free 3D (or autosteroscopic) screens, for instance, have been mentioned a lot in technology circles for a while, but it's difficult to understand what they actually look like – and even more tough to explain it to a potential customer – without seeing them in the flesh. The AOpen media players, too, may not look much in photos but their slimness is immediately obvious when shown secreted behind the screens they are powering on the lorry.
Furthermore, it's a chance for distributors to see how the kit that they are familiar with works for new markets. The videoconferencing solutions on show, for example, may be a valuable expansion avenue for companies already selling LCD screens.
The solutions are set up to appeal to both distributors and end users, however, with the key markets of hospitality, healthcare, retail, education, transport and corporate all represented on board the lorry, and content can all be altered to meet the needs of the visitors. An Omnitapps-powered six-point multitouch screen from Philips was demonstrated at Screenmedia Expo as a wayfinding tool, while at the Leeds stop its personalisable templates were shown with a shopping application aimed at a fashion-conscious audience; it could well be displaying a template for higher education later in the tour.
Experts, such as AOpen UK country manager Mark Woods, are delighted to answer any questions posed by visitors who are less au fait with the digital signage workflow, be they how to create 3D content (AOpen will put users in touch with Dimenco) and how much it will cost (about £1,000 per minute for 2D to 3D conversion), to the biggest competitors of the tough dual-touch optical touchscreens demonstrated for educational use (Sahara) and the life expectancy of the screens (50,000 hours, or 30 years, maintenance-free). Woods is also a great believer in digital signage's superiority over print for advertising purposes, giving real-world examples such as the weather forecast-connected PADS software that can automatically alter a screen's content to show adverts for ice cream. "It's using technology intelligently to influence the customer experience," he tells me, adding: "You can't spin on a sixpence with print."
Fast turnaround is something the Digital Signage Road Show may be famed for: the team has now bought a second mobile exhibition vehicle – a 18 x 7' (5.5 x 2m) trailer that can be used independently from the lorry, and kitted out as a rentable solution to allow vendors to take their own show on the road. Additionally, while several of the stops on the summer 2012 tour take in distributors' headquarters, there's nothing to stop the lorry parking up in a shopping hub at a later date to show retail-specific solutions to end users, or indeed swapping out the kit on board for the newest products in the manufacturers' portfolios.
After leaving Bracknell on July 9th, the Digital Signage Road Show will take in Reading, Southampton, Bristol, Seven Oaks, Hemel Hempstead, Maidenhead, Guildford, Birmingham and Milton Keynes, before the tour culminates in Nottingham on September 20th.
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