Mixer Sponsor Profiles: Capital Networks
February 15, 2013 by Dave Haynes
I got into the digital signage space coming on 14 years ago, and the first software company I dealt with was Capital Networks. We bought dozens of their servers and software and put them in racks in office tower closets and machine rooms to drive a signal over coax to screens in elevators.
Capital wasn’t really in that business, but they had about the best platform around (built for cable TV) to do what we needed. Many years later, Toronto-based Capital continues its broadcast and cable TV business fot local news and “barker” channels, but is also fully engaged in the digital signage sector. They have some very big and happy clients like Ontario Lottery and ING Direct, and have made a lot of noise in the marketplace by taking very low-cost Android-based media player boxes from China and getting their sophisticated, broadcast-based product working on them. It’s easy to get a set of videos to play on these sub-$100 gadgets, but much harder to get them working reliably and driving multiple zones of content that look good.
Bil Trainor (Bil is correct, and he’ll tell you his parents were too poor to afford a second “l”) founded the company and runs things, and kindly fielded my goofy questions aimed at sponsors of the upcoming Preset Group DSE 2013 Mixer.
Q – Your company has been involved in this space long before anybody had attached a name to it. Are you surprised by the number of competing vendors and where the sector is at, years later.
A – I ’m not very surprised as some end users have very low requirements of vendors and so the barrier to entry is still rather low. Fortunately, standards and practices are improving and that will provide many firms who are in the Digital Signage space now with the option of seeking other opportunities, if they can’t keep up.
Q – In some respects, the whole news ticker, multi-zoned layout thing owes to what Capital Networks developed light years ago for cable TV. Are you desperately ashamed of this, or do you think tickers and multi-zones have a place in digital signage?
A – This can be the basis of a whole session. Ah yes, our multizone channels, dating back almost 22 years, broke a lot of ground. Stutter-free multiple transitions and crawls, overlapping zones, 3D effects and transitions and sophisticated scheduling capabilities are heavy lifting that we’ve been doing for a long time. Our experience in the demanding Broadcasting and Cable industries continue to provide us with expertise that many late entrants to the DS industry today still don’t provide, but there is still room for everyone.
The majority of Digital Signage deployments are not very challenging technically. But even the simplest of deployments need to be carefully planned and executed with all stakeholders. This can and should include, Sales, Marketing, HR, and IT. You’d be surprised to learn how many projects are started without everyone being made aware of the goals and objectives from the outset. We should always ask, what is the most effective presentation for the audience being addressed? Single zone versus multizone, or both, are just part of the project plan. What are our overall goals in deploying Digital Signage? Are we selling, informing, creating mood, staff communications or a clever blend?
If you’re selling fashion within a high end retail environment for example, the audience and the cash register are likely best served by a screen size and a layout that gives maximum consideration to the brand and product. In this case, “Multi-zone” may not be the way to go.
(I should mention that as opposed to the previous example, the place you shop is perhaps less interested in using Digital Signage as a selling tool and more as a method to reduce perceived wait times to customers while being tailored by giving them a variety of engaging content to look at, including perhaps products and prices.)
Where I buy my clothing, they display a multizone cable news channel called CityNews. It has an excellent mixture of live news, the financial markets, sports, traffic and weather. Busy guys like it, of course, as it is up to the minute and looks great in that particular retail environment. (yes, it is our platform deployed by a Broadcaster) The right product and the right place is the key.
Q – Can you give me a rundown on what Capital Networks is all about, size and key products and services?
A – We’re privately owned so we don’t share financials but we are multimillion dollars in sales and profitable. We are 24 total staff plus contractors. We have software deployed in more than 40 countries. In many of these countries we have authorized resellers and looking for more.
Our key products are Audience, a software management and play out platform used in a wide range of industries including: Retail, Education, Corporate, Hospitality, Cable TV, Broadcasting, Military and Law Enforcement. We also provide Turnkey Hosting, Data Content, Video, Animation and Graphics Productions Services – Content Creation and Management, Consulting, Training and 24/7 Support. We back everything with a 3-Year warranty upfront!
Q – You soft-launched your low-cost Audience for Android product at DSE 2012. How has that product been greeted in the marketplace? Will there be future versions?
A – We are off to an excellent start with our Audience for Android product since launching 8 months ago, and yes, there will be a steady stream of upgraded versions as hardware specification improve. Our Android players are highly reliable and the pricing is excellent. The largest complete deployment to date is 84 locations with one client. There are a couple of dozen other pilot projects of various sizes now being installed, including 5 units in the Pentagon! (How’s that for name dropping?) There are four important OEM deals coming together in the next few weeks, so great days are ahead. Our resellers are very excited about adding Audience for Android to their product offering.
We also have a full range of Intel-based PC media players, of course, so depending on required playback performance we can mix and match the right player technology for the right screen. This keeps overall architecture optimized for price and performance.
Q – What’s the most important thing an end-user who doesn’t know this space well should look for as he or she wanders around DSE?
A – If I were walking the Expo floor I would ask the same question of each supplier. How will deploying Digital Signage make my business better? If you don’t get a great answer, leave the booth.
What to look for in a software supplier? An excellent ROI relationship, in every respect! In other words, why are you spending the money, and how will success be measured later? There really are a lot of questions that should be asked, not just one, but think clearly about whether a prospective supplier understands what they need to do to be a great partner for many years.
See you at Digital Signage Expo. Booth 619.
Smart, smart guy, who’s had largely the same key people with him forever — which says a lot. Total gentleman. And Canadian, so of course he was up for chipping in on cocktails for the mixer. Make a point of introducing yourself if you are at the mixer.