DSE 2016 Day Two Impressions

March 18, 2016 by Dave Haynes


The 2016 version of Digital Signage Expo is in the can, with the show already announcing next year will be the last week of March, with the trade hall open on the 29th and 30th.

The numbers haven’t been pushed out by the show, but I can’t see it being logged as bigger than last year. By 2 PM on Thursday, the hall was not at all busy. Somebody suggested the show’s timing was a bit unfortunate, coming on the opening day of the NCAA basketball tournament and St. Patrick’s Day. You could imagine how a number of people who came in for the show strategically did what they wanted to do and were outta there by midday, watching games or looking for green beer.

Speaking of St. Paddy – Sharp had Irish dancers and a pair of bagpipers in their booth for about an hour in the afternoon. The pipes attracted a lot of attention, so it was a clever tactic. But I would not have wanted to be trying to have productive conversations at a nearbybooth, because even a pair of pipes generate a lot of noise. I would have, as a vendor, been seriously pissed off.

A lot of people ask me what I think, and year after year I tend to say: “Better. Faster. Slimmer, Brighter. Easier.”

With the exception of the OLEDs and indoor LED (I need to find out why some of the display guys call them direct view displays), I can’t really point to anything that really stopped me in my tracks or had me thinking about disruption. Instead, there was a lot of incremental, natural improvements and evolutions of products. I suppose you could call that Endless Innovation – but I saw as much that was stupid as was truly innovative.

Some of the truly clever stuff is in things like the engineering of display mounts that make servicing easier, or even possible. But articulated mount systems don’t tend to get end-users or trade press very excited.

You hear a lot of people talking now about data, but it’s rare to see vendors actually showing examples of how that gets applied. You could argue that the subscription content guys are visualizing data, I suppose. The TransitScreen guys are visualizing data, but I wouldn’t exactly call a metro transit variation of flight arrival and departure displays mind-blowing.

One data thing I did like was Ayuda’s new ad targeting application, which uses third-party, real-time smartphone data – including granular demographics and location information – to hyper target ad campaigns to digital billboards. So you could target a campaign by an audience segment, time window, and geo-fenced location, and then get data on that gets all the way to conversion ratios. I assume there are online and mobile ad companies doing this sort of thing, but this is the first I’ve seen focused on digital OOH.

That said, I don’t really get why Ayuda is at this show, as I get almost no sense there are many media planners and brands that buy media wandering the aisles.

Several vendors I spoke with were ambivalent about being there. They were definitely getting leads and “having good conversations” — but they were also saying they did a lot more traffic and trade at other shows. I also saw lotsa companies – software and hardware – that in past years have been substantial exhibitors, who in 2016 just had people walking the floors and hanging out. Like Scala. RMG. Christie. NanoLumens.

I did not get – as usual – any time to see keynotes or drop in on other education stuff. I will say the on-floor educational things by vendors always looked packed. I’ve seen that tried at InfoComm and the ISA show, and the things always looked sad and largely empty. For whatever reason – possibly because they are dropped in the middle of things and not parked at the back – these work.

Between spending time with clients and some scheduled meetings and demos, I had about two hours to see stuff on Thursday.

I was impressed with what I saw from Hughes, which ticks along quietly in Utah but has a number of top tier clients using its CMS and distribution systems. They are wrestling a bit with the lingering inaccurate marketplace impression that they are satellite-centric guys (it’s just an option).  I like how they are somewhat focused on the business market and have front of house and back of house product segments. They also have some clever smartphone to screen controls.

omni-dseOmnivex has been around forever, and, I think, nicely positioned for the whole IoT thing, because they’ve always built their CMS around data and data-triggers. I liked a nice visualization built in-house that tied DSE badge scans at their booth to raising funds for Habitat for Humanity. The company made a small donation for each badge scan, and a display over two days incrementally showed a home rising on an empty lot. You kinda sorta needed an explanation of what was going on (because of the dynamics of a trade show), but you could see how that sort of thing could work really well in corporate environments to reflect fundraising targets or project goals.

I bumped into a little company called Display5. First reaction, Oh God, another CMS for signage. But I chatted with the guys – grey hairs who’ve been around the block a few times – and was liking what I heard. The system is pure-play HTML5 based, instead of a native, coded application that’s been evolved or one that has a light, limited web version.

There were more creative companies than I have seen in the past – some familiar, others new to me. They all had small booths, which makes some sense, as you just need a screen to show your portfolio. One of the new ones was JetMob, from Brazil. I wasn’t having a lot of luck with the thick accent, but the pitch is about quality, original creative at low cost.

I’d love to hear what other people thought of DSE this time around. Use the comments or send me a quiet note.

To people I promised to come see or chase down, but didn’t, my apologies. Whirlwind two days. For me, the show could be five days and I’d still be short on time to see what I want/need to see and have more than rushed demos and chats.

Now, off to Zion National Park, where there are no slot machines. Back to more regular posts Tuesday.


  1. Alex says:

    Hi Dave, just arrived from my red-eye flight.
    We pretty much agree with the perception. It was my first time at DSE and I noticed the difference in excitement and foot traffic from the first day to the second. Might be as you said because of the bad timing but even for me personally, I had time to meet people, go through all the booths and even stop for a latte at Sharp’s and I was pretty much done the first day.
    I used the second day to wrap up a couple of conversations from the previous day take some pictures and record some videos but not more than that.. I believe that there it was not a show for a full steam to days schedule..

    The highlights for me were the crazy thin double screens and the translucent. Seeing them in action on beverage fridges really cool.

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