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A 4-Step Signage Strategy

The global digital signage market size was estimated at around 23 billion in 2021 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 7.7% from 2022 to 2030, with the largest market being North America. We’ve all seen digital signage in our daily lives and have come to expect it when we walk into a hotel, retail location, or even a corporate office. So, why are so many Pro AV integrators hesitant to make it a part of their business plan? Choices… too many of them. There are literally hundreds of CMS (Content Management System) providers currently on the market, and many integrators aren’t sure which one offers their client what they need. Many CMS providers have attempted to make digital signage appear simple, and some have been relatively successful.  The truth of it is, if it’s too simple, it probably lacks some necessary functionality. If not for your current client, most likely for the next one. Since digital signage is so varied, the software needed could never be simple while still addressing the needs of every client.

The Reason Why

So, why should a Pro AV integrator ever get involved in such a mired mess?  I’ll give you a couple of reasons. First, if you’re not doing it, your competitor probably is. Second, the market is HUGE, and continues to grow at near double digits each year. Digital signage offers the unique ability to engage with your client on an annual basis, at a minimum, and develop a recurring revenue stream that builds profitability over time. Digital signage was originally known as digital out of home advertising but is now used as a method of digital communication.  It communicates ideas, data, dates, times, events, news, weather, inspiration, etc. My fingers would fall off before I can list the various uses, and there are people finding new ways every day. It’s here to stay, so you might as well jump on board. The first step is creating a strategy that doesn’t put a strain on your company, while still being able to offer everything needed for your sophisticated clients.

Step 1 – Find a Partner

Even though there are so many uses, and hundreds of software choices to help facilitate those uses, it all boils down to methods of communication. Just as there are many methods to create a beautiful painting, it still comes down to a brush, some pigment, and something to paint on. For signage, it’s content, a way to manage the content, and a display on which to play the content. As an integrator, you serve as a resource to the end user, but you don’t need to paint the picture for them – just set up the brush and canvas, and let the painters do their work. Most projects are pretty straight forward, but for those that require a bit more, there are digital signage experts that spend their day knee-deep in the inner workings and are willing to provide assistance. The key to a successful strategy is finding a partner that has enough options to choose from, while still remaining knowledgeable in each option enough to guide you to provide the best solution for your client. These partners can be value added distributors, digital signage content creation firms, or even local digital signage integrators. This step is the key to developing a strategy, without having to hire a slew of experts internally. There are partners, like Exertis Almo, that offer a number of options, both in hardware and software, and can provide the resources needed to help with almost any digital signage project you run into. They also have some key partners that they work with to provide things not covered by the hardware or software.

Step 2 – The Committee

After securing a partner that provides resources and expertise needed, the next step is getting the key players from your client together. This is something that Pro AV integrators are extremely qualified for.  Knowing your clients and developing relationships within that client is something nobody else can do for you. The most important thing an integrator can do to ensure a successful project is get the correct people involved.  Many projects are relegated to the IT department of an end user, but shouldn’t stop there. In order to be successful, we need to involve any person that will be involved with the digital signage. This should be a formal or informal committee that the end user has put together. This committee should consist of key people that will utilize the system in some way. I suggest including marketing, IT, facilities, HR, and the CEO or other officer responsible for saying “yes” to the project.  You should also include the person responsible for the day to day management of the content, even if it’s a part time administrative assistant. Having a digital signage partner doesn’t mean you’re done with the project. It just allows you to do what you do best and leave some of the technical aspects of signage to someone else. This eliminates a lot of the time suck that can be associated with signage.

Step 3 – Needs Analysis

This portion can be done via a video conference with your signage partner, or there are a few key questions you can ask your client to start the process. No matter if you are passing the information over to a partner that will run with the rest of the project, or passing it on to an internal resource to finish out the project, there are 5 key questions you can ask to help provide direction. The great thing about these questions is they don’t require any in-depth knowledge of signage.
  1. What is the overall objective of the digital signage?
  2. Who will be responsible managing the content, and do they have technical skills? List everyone that will “touch” the system and indicate what responsibility they will have.
  3. Will the digital signage be interactive or pull from a data source? Weather, news, PowerBI, database? If so, please provide details.
  4. Do you have a preference for on-premise or a cloud solution?
  5. Who is creating the content, and how will it be kept timely and relative?
After the needs analysis has been completed, your signage partner should be able to suggest a combination of hardware, software, and additional services that fit the needs of your client. These services can even include installation services, which can further aid in making sure you are able to service your client best, without any additional strain on your company.

Step 4 – Deployment

As a system integrator, this should be right in your wheelhouse. Because signage hardware includes an IT element, making sure you have the correct people involved is key. I suggest involving your signage partner in the planning and possibly in the actual deployment. The key to a successful deployment can sometimes hinge on having a resource for contingencies. __________ To discuss the strategies above, or to hear more about how Exertis Almo can help you develop a customized strategy for your client, please contact me via email. Good luck!

Laser Projectors – A Game Changer

z9870u_fcs-our_690x460While lampless projectors are not brand new, the technology has evolved and continues to improve as time goes on.   Imagine an installation grade projector that can run 24/7 with virtually no maintenance and no lamp changes and carry a three year warranty.   Imagine not waiting for your projector to warm up or cool down, where the projector will reach maximum brightness and turn off almost immediately. Combine this with advanced features like projection mapping, edge blending, and an HDBaseT input packaged in a bright enough projector for large venues and you have quite a value proposition for your clients.

Laser projectors offer several benefits over traditional lamp based technologies. Let me clarify that laser simply refers to the light source, so the projection technologies like 3LCD are still a major part of these new projectors.   Traditional lamp based projectors require the lamp to be replaced roughly every 1500 to 6000 hours depending upon the projector and the mode you run it in, while the average lifespan of a laser based projector is 20,000 hours.

Additionally, with most traditional lamp based projectors it takes a few minutes for the projector to warm up after powering on, and can take up to thirty minutes to provide a stable brightness level and often need to remain plugged in after powering off in order to properly cool the lamp.   With laser based projectors they are ready to go almost immediately after being powered on and do not require a connected power source upon powering off with no worry of damaging the projector’s light source.

As far as the light source, projector lamps lose most of their brightness in the first half of their lifecycle whereas with a laser based light source the brightness loss is linear over the 20,000 hour lifecycle.   What does this mean?   This means that if you compare a laser based projector with a lamp based projector, both with the same light output rating (lumens) that within a very short period of time the laser projector will have the brighter image.   Furthermore, even lamp based projectors with higher light output ratings than a laser based projector will quickly provide a lower light output than the laser projector due to the steep curve in degradation of the lamps brightness.

Epson’s popular Pro G and Pro Z installation grade projectors will soon be joined by the new Pro L series of laser based projectors with multiple choices ranging in brightness from 6,000 lumens to 12,000 lumens and multiple lens options with all of the features that users of the Pro G and Pro Z models have grown to love.   Expect to start seeing these shipping in June of 2016. I know I can’t wait to get my hands on one.

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For more information on Epson Projectors contact Brian Rhatigan at [email protected] or 888.420.2566 x6546

March Madness Arrives Early: Via Indonesia and Amsterdam

I am a proud alumnus of the University of Kentucky and as such, a huge college basketball fan. I followed in the footsteps of the uber fan, Ashley Judd and started as a French major. I quickly decided to double major in marketing because the prospects of finding a job with just a French degree didn’t seem to grow on trees. I certainly wasn’t following Ashley any further than the UK Campus and into Hollywood.

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As proof of my loyalty, here I am last year at the National Championship in Indianapolis. For those of you who don’t follow or just don’t remember, Kentucky was undefeated going into the finals and on the threshold of history. Alas, they lost in the first round and now on to a new year of basketball.

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Fast forward to February 2016 and I’m in Amsterdam at the ISE show, the largest Audio Visual show in the world. After taking in the show, my colleague and I decided to sample of the local fare. I asked my friend Sara Abrons from rAVe publications and she commenced with a small history lesson to explain her recommendation.

Indonesia was a Dutch colony back in the day and to brag about their conquest, they wanted to showcase the breadth of spices imported from the colony. This came in the form of an Indonesia “tasting table” which is not Indonesian at all but the result of the peacock feathered bragging meal made palatable for the Dutch and now I’m sure for the tourists like myself.

Presented with about 20 plates and a warming tray, we dove in to a wonderful display. It was a small place with a varied décor – suffice it to say kind of like an Indonesian/Dutch TGI Friday’s with all sorts of pictures, signs and license plates on the walls. I’m looking at these licensed plates and notice some of them are from America when suddenly, I see a familiar face next to the Oliver North for President:

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I say to my colleagues, “That’s a UK license plate!” He contends it has to be from the United Kingdom. I remind him that all four years at UK, I worked as a cashier at Kennedy Book Store and rang up THOUSANDS of those plates! Upon further examination, it was confirmed.

Walking back to the hotel (or should I say rolling after 20 courses of Indonesian tasting plate), we are rounding the corner which is adjacent to the MOMO restaurant. By day it’s a sun drenched breakfast nook. By night, it becomes a swanky restaurant/club. Curious, I look through the window at the D.J. Low and behold:

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The guy is wearing a Kentucky Wildcats shirt! I tell my colleague that we have to go in and get photographic evidence because no one would believe me. I walk in and the hostess asked me if I had a reservation and I told her, “I’m with the D.J”

They guy was surprised when I ran up to him, complimenting his shirt. He said he got it at a second hand clothing shop in Amsterdam and didn’t even know what it was. He liked the color. I tried to explain it was the greatest college basketball team in the U.S. but I could tell it was no use. It was, in fact, a good color on him. Go Wildcats!

Welcome to San Antonio: In Super High “Razor”-lution

It’s especially nice when the manufacturers plan their distributor summits in a nice warm location during the dead of February. Such was the case this month with Samsung in beautiful San Antonio, Texas. Distributors, resellers and DMR’s gathered to hear the vision to 2016 and beyond, while seeing some of the latest product developments.

One of the greatest things about these functions is the networking aspect. You’re surrounded by customers, the manufacturer’s folks and even your friendly competitors (and if you are lucky a celebrity or two). The opening reception kicked off this portion of the conference. Here I am rubbing elbows with George Gervin from the San Antonio Spurs (left) and Director, US B2B Distribution for Samsung, Tom Perrier (right):
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A lot of the conversations revolved around the ever-present dilemma of shrinking and sometimes even razor thin margins on displays in both the Pro and especially consumer markets. I think Samsung has got some new things up their sleeve that may be impactful for their partners as to help with the margin issue. More on that later. Now speaking of razor….

I’ve been on the road a lot lately, and even though I consider myself a season traveler, inevitable I forget something. This time it was a razor so I went down to the JW Marriott gift shop. Filled with cowboy hats, sombreros, ponchos, hot sauces and other Texas sized treats, it was your typical gift shop. I grabbed my usual brand from the stand, went up to the register and the cashier said, “That will be $20.12”. WHAT???!! $20.12 for one disposable razor?

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I said no thanks and started to wonder…in this age of fighting declining margins in our industry, how is it that a commodity product like the razor can command 3000% mark up? Location, location, location. Resourcefulness took me to the spa and they ponied up a razor at no charge.

On to the Samsung Product Showcase – in usually Samsung fashion they never disappoint when it comes to new product development. It was good to see some of the concept things coming to fruition such as:

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The transparent display which holds a multitude of applications such as retail and anywhere the end user just basically wants to be uber swank.

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The mirror display which they showed in a retail setting with RF technology in clothing and shoes that dynamically changed when the user took them to the mirror. Here is our Business Development Manager extraordinaire, Apryl Lamberti taking it for a spin.

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Outdoor displays – not just ruggedized, coated and cased back- lit LED panels but..

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Surfs’up! Samsung’s YESCO acquisition last year brings the new outdoor LED.

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Finally the indoor LED was quite a hit. Here is Apryl examining the type of panel used to make the video wall in the background.

I think the future looks bright with the new LED products (no pun intended). What Samsung was showing are solutions that require an ecosystem of services, which is where the margin lies and value to our partners. The opportunity for services such as content creation, can create that long-term relationship with a customer, long past the sale of the display.

Making the Move to 4K Ultra High Definition

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The use of 4K Ultra High Definition has skyrocketed since its commercial introduction in 2010. Professional installs of all kinds – digital signage, hospitality, corporate, education, command and control – can be dramatically enhanced due to the stunning beauty and astounding resolutions made possible with this display technology.

The worldwide 4K display market is expected to reach $52 billion by 2020 according to industry researchers. And while commercial displays are still the top use for 4K, the technology has even started to appear in the entire range of display devices we commonly use, including PC monitors, notebooks, tablets and even smartphone screens.

Here are some common questions we get asked about moving to 4K:

What makes 4K UHD such a critical display tool for commercial integrators?

A 4K UHD display has four times the number of pixels (3840 x 2160) compared to full HD (1080p) resolution. The major advantage of using 4K displays is that you can ultimately deliver a very immersive and rich experience that is in close proximity to the display without sacrificing image quality. UHD provides the ability to display finer details, amazing depth of colors and more information on a screen. As the technology matures and costs are driven down, we will see 4K screens become the norm and 1080 slowly drift away due to lack of production.

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Why purchase a 4K display through Almo Pro A/V?

brightsign4kAlmo offers a range of 4K displays, including exclusive accessibility to the Sharp AQUOS® 70-inch display, which features the Revelation Upscaler to display all content at near-4K quality for an amazing picture all the time, no matter which source is being used. Almo also offers a host of powerful media players with high storage capability from manufacturers like BrightSign to drive the data and produce the best results based on the content that is being shown.

So, what about content?

Obtaining 4K content has been the biggest 4K barrier to date, however, as the technology increases in popularity, more content is becoming available and the cost to create that content is decreasing. With Almo’s Content Creation Services, integrators have the opportunity to offer 4K standard and customized still images or full motion video content as part of an initial installation and ongoing maintenance package. This creates recurring revenue, builds margins and lengthens customer relationships.

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What if I need support to help select and integrate the 4K displays?

Almo has a highly specialized fleet of Business Development Managers that offer technical knowledge, system design assistance and in-depth brand knowledge about 4K displays to help you integrate the technology into your commercial installs. No other distributor in the AV industry provides this level of expertise to its partner community.

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