Here are the most heavily-read posts on 16:9 in 2018, as well as (later) my observations on the major trends in 2018 for digital signage, and what may be coming in 2019.
As you will notice right away, readers like free or cheap, and they definitely like lists and headlines that promise 3 or 5 or 20 items or ideas.
- 29 Options For Free Digital Signage Software
- 19 Slices Of Raspberry Pi For Digital Signage
- 18 Digital Signage Answers To Meeting Room Booking Nightmares
- 18 Surprising Statistics About Digital Signage
- 3+ Options For Using WordPress As A Digital Signage Platform
- 13 Options For Fine Pixel-Pitch Indoor LED Displays
- 23 Digital Signage Software Options For Chromebox & Google
- Five HTML5 Options For Building Digital Signage Creative
- 8 Ways To Create Digital Signage Content That Rocks
- How To Calculate HD Resolutions For Indoor LED Displays
From my perspective, the big stories for 2018 were these:
Stratacache’s ongoing consolidation of the digital signage industry, as well as its global expansion, with acquisitions in Europe and China. CEO and sole owner Chris Riegel is not done with M&A activity and is building a vertically integrated company that can own the customer from idea and strategy through deployment and management. Also, keep an eye on the Spanish integrator Trison and the steady growth in the U.S. of Diversified.
The growth of Integrated Systems Europe and the necessity to shift the huge pro AV trade show to Barcelona, from Amsterdam, in 2021. 2019 will be my 4th ISE. The event has a huge digital signage component that attracts companies from all over. I don’t like the cramped hall set-up for the DS area, and how display vendors are scattered all over the multi-hall venue, but the number of exhibitors and visiting companies can’t be ignored. You will see products launched here. More and more companies are sending people from North America to at least have a look, and possibly exhibit. This probably doesn’t make it any easier for Digital Signage Expo to market and attract people – though I know from my DSF role that the Exponation people are working their butts off and making significant investments in marketing, among many things. From my perspective, it’s not really a Choose One thing. If you can, attend both. Different shows. Different things. Different experiences and perspectives.
LED started 2018 as rapidly emerging technology that, over time, would start to take over from LCD-based video walls. Based on observation and conversations, that’s now happening in a big way. Wholesale adoption is well underway in China, and it is increasingly common to see large-format LED-based video walls in public spaces and major retail environments in the rest of the world.. The big display companies have, for the most part, hedged their bets by either directly manufacturing LED or white-labeling LED product from Asian manufacturers. Adoption is up because costs are lowering and the pixel pitches are now narrow enough to make indoor applications look good even at relatively close viewing range.
Everybody has a CMS. I have had so many demos and conversations with companies who have described their offer or service, and somewhere in there conceded that what they have can do the basics (and often much more) of scheduling, distributing and managing content for signage networks. Content creation folks have them. Display companies like Samsung definitely have them. And I even know a big integrator that did a needs assessment, weighed the options and costs, and built its own. This will continue. The challenge faced by some CMS platforms is having very sophisticated software that reflects years of R&D, but having prospects with use-cases that require a fraction of the functionality. Put it this way – some networks don’t need Photoshop when all they’re ever going to do is crop photos. If all you want to show is social media posts or a KPI dashboard, a full CMS is overkill (though that full CMS will have features like device management that can be critically important).
Analytics are now mainstream products – after more than a decade of the pioneering video analytics companies (and related tech), making the case. This is happening for a few reasons, like the lowered costs of hardware and processing, and advances in software and the broader understanding of machine learning and AI. It’s also happening because data is more easily available, shared and ingested. I also suspect more and more companies are coming out with or partnering on analytics platforms for use-cases like retail, because retailers need whatever insights they can get to optimize customer visits to their bricks and mortar sites.
Some companies do themselves, and the industry, no favor by describing what they do as facial recognition. That just triggers unnecessary privacy concerns. What this tech does in most use-cases is recognize patterns, not people, and it saves data, not faces. If your company issued PR or marketing material saying facial recognition, and you or your clients are now hearing privacy concerns, you did it to yourself.
The other macro trend I’m picking up on is an increasing respect for content. There is still no end of garbage content out there, but I’ve also personally seen, looked at photos or watched videos of countless projects around the world that appear to have STARTED with a discussion of the visual experience, and were budgeted that way. It still happens, but fewer and fewer projects are going up as technology-first, with what to put on the screen an after-thought. As I have endlessly said, a slick, amazing and crazily expensive display is just very pricey wallpaper if the content doesn’t attract and deliver value, in some way, to viewers.
What’s coming in 2019?
- More business consolidation (which is obvious).
- Much broader adoption of LED.
- Better LED display tech (more rugged).
- More and better use of data as a content source and driver.
- Smarter smart cities displays – that are more than ad posters with some add-ons.
- Light field displays (hologram-ish tech).
- Solutions companies trying to integrate voice-based interaction, much as they’ve been trying (with limited success) to usefully bridge smartphones to digital signs.
If you are ringing in the New Year with friends and family, have fun, and have a designated driver or a ride lined up. See you on the other side in 2019. I’ll be at NRF, ISE, DSE, Infocomm and probably SID Display Week between now and June, and possibly a show or two in China (if they stop jailing Canadians) and UAE.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for more than 13 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.