Someone finally runs with digital picture frames as a DS network

April 11, 2008 by Dave Haynes

As digital picture frames have started turning up for sale just about everywhere, and grown more sophisticated, it was only a matter of time until someone decided to use the wireless-enabled ones to run a network.

Tethered versions have popped up in the past, including one in Montreal that embedded photo frames in hand dryers (honest).

In this case, a photo frame company called PhotoVu has started putting together a network offer in Boulder, Colorado.

“Many of our business customers who have purchased a PhotoVu over the last five years have already been using our wireless digital picture frames and proven embedded networking technologies for very cost effective digital signs,” said Mark Van Buskirk, a partner at PhotoVu, said in a press release. “And now we’ve decided to formally enter this market by opening a new Digital Signage division and rolling out our first network in downtown Boulder, CO. This will allow us an unprecedented local test-bed in a tightly confined geography to further refine our technology and service offerings before rolling out into other major metros later this year.”

The company’s website has a page on digital signage that vaguely suggests what this is all about. From what I can tell, PhotoVu will put screens in to retail storefronts in Boulder for little or no cost, as long as an Internet connection is provided. PhotoVu then sells time on these screens to local businesses. Presumably, the retailers also get screen time.

Interesting stuff. The barrier to entry is low and the ability to scale up to pretty wide distribution is high without running up huge costs. The photo frames probably cost a few hundred bucks each, at most, when coming in by containers from China or Taiwan.

The capabilities are pretty limited, though. The units don’t play video and certainly not Flash, so what you’ve got is a Web-based slideshow of JPG files.

Then again, most local businesses won’t have the budget or creative resources to do more than a static ad anyway. How many Yellow Pages ads have you seen that you found compelling?

A more sophisticated, hyperlocal variation on this concept of digital posters is being built out by Eric Kanagy and his team at RedPost, the different being it is a real computer driving the screens and built on Linux.

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