DSrupted: Web Consuming Digital Signage, And That’s Not A Bad Thing

June 20, 2014 by Dave Haynes

logo-300Here’s the first of a running series of chats with the sponsors of the DSrupted conference coming up in three months in Toronto.

Byron Darlison is the founder of Rise Holdings, which owns event sp0nsor Rise Vision and the sister company, systems integrator Rise Display. In the context of disruptive technology in this sector, Rise has been all over it for years.

Darlison is a soft-spoken, behind-the-scenes kind of guy, but from my perspective, one of the most insightful people in the business.

Q. We met for lunch four or five years ago and I remember you saying you were planning to do a reset on the company. A few months later Rise Vision was a free service and I’d imagine a lot of people like me were left scratching their heads. Fast forward to now, and what you did all seems logical. So is it fair to suggest you saw the disruption coming a lot earlier than most people in digital signage?

A. I think it would probably be more realistic to say that the disruption was happening everywhere else and it was inevitable that it would happen to digital signage. It wasn’t hard to predict, and rather than have it done to us, I thought we should be the doers.

Q. When you went free your business leaned very heavily on Google cloud services, before cloud was a “thing” – a stock part of the marketing pitch now for most software companies in this sector. Since then, your platform is even more tightly tied to Google services. Can you describe some of that?

A. We are not server experts, or network ops experts. We don’t have global access point Me 2knowledge, and the list goes on. We are digital signage experts. We were software developer experts, and we have now become web service developer experts. I would rather spend all of my time and money focusing on our strengths – digital signage and web services – and leave the network and the cloud to the those who do it far better than we do – like Google.

Historically, if we signed up 60 accounts in a month, it was a good month. And those 60 accounts were typically in North America, so it was pretty easy to make sure that our co-located servers in New York would be fine, with little to no latency. Today, our business strategy signs up 60+ accounts per day, some days multiples of that, and we are in 119 countries across the planet. That’s everywhere from Iceland to Chile, across to New Zealand, and up to Siberia. Not to mention everything in between. That all happens while I sleep and I just pay one predictable cost for each increment in our service. That males it pretty easy to stay focused on what we do best! So thank you, Google.

Q. You guys speak regularly with Google people, and one of them, Vidya Nagarajan, is a DSrupted speaker this fall. I’m sure she’ll provide the Google Chrome business perspective, but from your own point of view, how involved and interested is Google in digital signage?

A. I can’t speak for Google or their strategy but I can guess. Digital signage is about communicating a message. The web is the de facto standard for communicating the message. The web moved from desktops, to our phones and tablets, and now watches, glasses, the car, etc. It is inevitable that it will end up on place-based displays and other kinds of digital signage. Google wants to be everywhere web, and Chrome OS is the web. What better way to deliver a web message than on an OS specifically designed to do just that.

Q. Rise Vision seems to be the default platform that tinkerers go to when a new media play-out device comes out. I’ve seen on your forum people trying Raspberry Pis, Amazon Fire TVs, Chromecasts, and on and on. Why is that, and does it make sense for network operators to be spending a lot of time trying to get something that’s a few dollars cheaper to work? Is using a device meant for something else wise?

A. First off. Why use us to experiment? Because that’s what we created the platform for. We have a lot of room for improvement, but we are probably the most open digital signage service, and easiest, to conduct experiments with.

The beauty of our community is that it is collaborative. The cost of the experimentation and the contributions to it can be shared, distributed and more importantly leveraged by all. In other words, if the cost of trying new things, or participating in new things, is low, and the barriers to doing so non-existent, why not see what is possible? Better to shape the future then have the future shape you. Or worse, run you over.

Should we use a device that is meant for something else for digital signage? Digital signage is a tiny little niche in the global computing market. There are no devices meant for digital signage. We just traditionally put stuff together that worked better for content on displays than other stuff.

Thinking that we are a specialized niche is one way to drive our costs through the roof. Realizing that we deliver messages. Those messages are HTML. HTML is the standard for communicating. And there are a million devices on the planet, all meant to do a multiple of things, but for sure, absolute sure, they make sure that they render HTML real well.

In other words, I think we should pick devices that can render HTML, if it so happens that the device is an Android Stick, Amazon Fire, Raspberry Pi, Samsung Smart TV, and so on, as long as it renders HTML, I think we can say that it was intended for our use. Especially since the price is cheap for all of this.

If it doesn’t work out, if the experiment fails, what’s the cost? A couple of hundred dollars to try it out, at most. These devices are pretty close to being considered disposable at this point and they are only going to get cheaper over time.

Web Technologies

Q. Cloud and low cost processors are just some of the ways the industry is being disrupted. What do you and your team see out there already, or on the near horizon?

A. The web will consume digital signage. Digital signage is no longer a niche.

The web has virtual analytics, it needs place-based analytics. Place-based displays and the web can help each other out by cooperating and providing place-based, physical analytics for the message and the interaction that follows.

Q. Why should people attend DSrupted in September?

Same point as above. The web is consuming digital signage. That’s not a bad thing. Actually a really good thing. It gives us the advantage of leveraging tools, hardware, services, etc. that are financed across millions and millions of consumers. We can do more, for far less, than we ever could before. DSrupted is a good place to get your head wrapped around that.

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