The mainstream sign industry’s biggest trade show, Sign Expo, will be trying once again later this month to expand its reach into the digital signage business, with another “dynamic digital park” and a handful of conference speakers.
The International Sign Association people have been trying this for a few years now, and it just doesn’t seem to be catching on. I was at it three years ago, and there was a little square set off to one side that had Samsung, a few software companies, and a few integrators and print companies trying to bridge the worlds.
The area was not exactly the center of attention.
This year, April 20-23 in Orlando – Samsung is still there (the System on Chip displays make sense for marketing to print people). Then there’s a little software company from the St. Louis, MO area – ZM Media – and a whole bunch of LED sign companies, most of them from Shenzhen. To ZM’s credit, if sign people wander into this area looking for software solutions, they’ve got the place to themselves.
Both Watchfire and Daktronics are at the show, elsewhere on the floor, and I’d assume the companies will have people from their recently acquired CMS firms, Aerva and Adflow. FastSigns is also there, as you might expect, and that’s the company that – probably more than any print guys I’ve seen – have put knowledgeable people in place and are really going at the opportunity.
The education sessions at the park are all or mostly vendors, who will understandably use their time slots to show their pots and pans. There IS a company I’d like to hear – were I going – called Etulipa. The Dutch company is developing something called electro-wetting technology – which has patents on using colored oils to make reflective, changeable outdoor billboards. Think e-paper, but different, using tiles that could make full, colour billboards.
The pure education track, away from the floor, is a day with the ever-present and energetic father and so Brawn team, Ken Goldberg from Real Digital Media, Jim Nista from Insteo, Spencer Graham from West Virginia University (a Digital Signage Federation exec, like Goldberg) and Mark Geiger of the Georgia World Congress Center.
The sign industry would have to be aware of the erosion of business as it shifts to digital. I’ve consulted to a couple of big printers, so they see it and hear it from clients. Digital is not going to kill the print business, by any means. But it will certainly have a tangible impact. So why this show can’t pull together something that looks and feels more meaningful to their “tribe” kind of escapes me.
Then again, trade shows are not cheap exercises, and this one comes on the heels of DSE and GlobalShop, and less than two months before InfoComm.
All I know is this one says it is sold out for exhibit space and it gets 18,000 people walking the floor – many of them who at some point soon will at least need to consider whether digital needs to be a new part of what their companies do.