The more I walked and talked here at InfoComm, the more I was drawing conclusions around what digital signage displays look like in the next five years.
First, many or most of the the single displays are going to ship with embedded intelligence on them. Whatever you think of System on Chip displays, pretty much all the major manufacturers are into it, save NEC and Sharp. But Sharp is in the throes of coming under the giant wing of contract electronics manufacturer Foxconn, so we’ll see what happens there. And NEC has kinda been doing the all-in-one display thing with Open Pluggable Spec displays that have slot-loaded media players.
The attraction is pretty simple – modestly reduced costs and simplified installs. I raised the reliability issue with one manufacturer, who said failure rates in the field have been minimal. That’s been one of the concerns – that if the embedded media player “bricks” then the whole display has to come down for repair or replacement.
I spoke at length with Philips and was impressed by the technical thinking and specs behind its Android-based D-line displays. It was just announced in February and shipping is just starting. I also had a good, long chat with the top guys from OnSignTV, a Hong Kong/Brazil software company that was showing its capabilities on the Philips panels. I knew zip about the company or platform, but wrapped up the meeting impressed with the depth, particularly in the boring but essential stuff like the device management.
The second, probably bigger observation, is that seamless displays are almost certainly going to win the day in the bake-off between indoor LED displays and LCD video walls. While there are plenty of large LED walls at InfoComm that have very evident seams, the really good manufacturers have the engineering, mounting structures and installation talent to make displays look like one single element.
I asked several industry people if end users really cared about seams when there are now “extreme” narrow bezels that really do minimize the gridlines in a video wall. Do the content right, and they’re pretty inoffensive.
The answer came back over and over and that Yeah, looking side by side, buyers investing big money in spectacular displays prefer no seams.
However, you’re not going to see an abrupt shift away from video walls to the finest pixel pitch displays. The cost of indoor LEDs that can visually compete with tiled LCDs is about 5X, on average. I asked one Chinese manufacturer what the cost per square meter of their showcase product – $35,000 per.
It will likely take a few years before the shift fully happens, as manufacturing volumes rise and costs drop for LEDs.
The other thing I’m hearing and seeing is that the whole fine pixel pitch thing is hitting a limit in terms of how much tighter the LEDs can get. There were numerous companies showing 1,2 mm displays, and also quite a few with 0.9 mm, but then the only thing tighter than that is 0.85 mm.
Instead, the show had some vendors like Sony and Deepsky (and probably others I didn’t notice) showing micro LEDs that can mean smaller light modules and more surrounding black, for better contrast.
There’s a really helpful post here explaining the Sony product revealed this week.
I bump into lots of people I know at these kinds of shows and we tend to compare notes about we’ve seen, and point each other around to see things. Just about every vendor here at InfoComm will have been showing something that’s faster, easier, smaller, thinner, brighter or cheaper – so there’s lots of innovation, but more in terms of improvements over existing design or capability.
The show floor was crowded, but only, really, at the front. The back rows were very quiet, so I don’t know if overall traffic was down. If you make decisions about display technology and all the infrastructure that pulls digital signage projects together, this is a valuable, essential show. If you want to identify and meet technical partners, this is a very efficient way to meet a lot of them quickly and in one town.
If you are looking for signage software, there’s not a lot of it at this show.
And if you were looking for companies that do content and creative – the stuff that drives ALL those displays – you’d find nothing. It’s just weird.
One day, some company is going to crack the code on how they can provide creative services for all those integrators and solutions providers who don’t have strong, or any, in-house creative chops.
I’m done with InfoComm 2016 – heading to airport soon. Good show. And in between meetings and demos and roaming the aisles, I got seven podcast interviews in. They’ll come week by week this summer, with the one that comes up next week a great, animated chat with MGM’s Randy Dearborn, who is also the chairman of the Digital Signage Federation.
If you are also escaping the blast furnace, safe travels home!