Digital signage is pretty heavily a software-driven business, but I can’t really think of many – if any – signage CMS companies that are based in or near Silicon Valley.
In an interesting twist, Minneapolis-based JohnRyan, which I tend to think most people in this industry regard more as an agency-style solutions provider, has opened up a software development/R&D office in the Silicon Valley-area and started hiring senior software engineers.
For example, the guy running development is Joe Donovan, formerly head of engineering for Yahoo News and Weather.
“I’m really happy with the team we’ve built in our new development center. It’s a great group of Silicon Valley veterans, many of whom I’ve worked with in the past. They really understand what’s possible when battle-tested digital signage products are combined with open web standards, increasingly powerful tablet and mobile devices and cloud infrastructure,” says Donovan.
The Silicon Valley Development Center is actually over the big hills from Los Gatos and along the twisty road down to Scotts Valley, which is near Santa Cruz, a gorgeous seaside city. That’s a calculated move, I’m told, because there are all kinds of seasoned software people who don’t want to live in the valley and don’t want to make that drive to work in said valley every day.
So the talent pool you’d think would be crazy-expensive and impossible to tap is actually pretty good on the other side of the coastal mountains – a pool of people making lifestyle over money choices.
The office only opened up a few month ago, but there are six developers and two QA people in place. The company’s Chief Strategy Officer, Bart Meltzer, also works out of that office.
The Development Center will drive the company’s roadmap, and pivot JohnRyan a little bit away from perceptions that it’s an agency and services company that also has a CMS, to a software-driven company, still focused primarily on the banking sector. The services will wrap around the product.
From what I know of the company and platform, its roots were in the UK and the service delivery model worked well for IT guys who wanted things to work a certain way. The platform, for example, can securely move media around and through firewalls using zip files.
Donovan says that platform is now being evolved into much more of a SaaS, cloud-based model, with a big nod toward using Web services and HTML5 to open up the ability to play on more devices and across platforms.
Meltzer says it breaks down as a front-end management system, player system and distribution platform. I know from demos that JohnRyan also makes a lot of hay about its meta data-driven Smart Slots scheduling engine, the visualizations that grow out of that scheduling, and its remote device management capabilities.
When you get the new development back-story, it makes sense. I’ve been in the main JohnRyan offices and it looks and feels like an agency, and not a tech company. Which in most respects is great.
But more and more software competitors are chasing the financial services sector because of the large-scale rollouts that come with closed deals, and that means companies marketing to that sector have to have all their capabilities – from services to code and infrastructure – looking stellar.
You need to know the banking business and how to service it, but you also need a very current, evolving software platform.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.