You know direct view LED is catching on in a big way with the pro AV crowd when companies known for projectors have big LED displays as focal points of booths.
That was the case at InfoComm with Optoma and with Digital Projection, which has, umm, projection in its name. The latter has had LED in its product line for a while, but I don’t recall this prominence. An LED was front and center at Optoma, which I think just about anyone would regard as a projector company.
Most of the tech companies that have a big history in projection – like Christie, Barco and NEC – now have direct view LED displays.
They are competing in a very crowded field. I walked a lot of InfoComm on opening trade hall day (didn’t make it to the lighting, rigging and worship areas I don’t need to see) and there was LED EVERYWHERE, front to back.
- There are yet more companies from China I have never heard of – some nodding and handing out business cards and unable to answer questions in English (so why did you come???);
- Unlike past years, there is very little LED garbage, or at least obvious garbage. It used to be that I’d walk to the edges of the InfoComm hall and see some staggeringly bad displays, but that’s not the case now. The tech has matured and there are so many companies producing stuff that at least looks good that the tier 2 and 3 stuff has been pulled up in quality (it seems) That said, some companies make baffling decisions about what they show on displays;
- Control rooms are a thing now for LED – because the pitch is at a point that fairly granular material, like transmission lines schematics, can look pretty good on a 2mm screen;
- Well-established display companies – like Sharp, Elo and Sony – are getting deeper and deeper into collaboration tech that is centered around displays. I saw a proof of concept from one company that had the price points and feature range that will be another problem for some big dollar workplace tech companies like Cisco and Microsoft;
- LG was almost all OLED in its booth – which makes sense as the other big guys have not gone down that path, and OLED looks ah-maze-ing. I was not sold, however, on the transparent OLED video wall demos. You really, really see the gaps between the units. LG also showed a micro LED display, albeit visible from 15 feet or more away, behind a rope line. It looked good waaay back there. The set-up was very reminiscent of how rival Samsung launched its The Wall micro LED display early last year. I have an LG booth tour tomorrow, so will get much more detail. The LG booth looked great, by the way. They make a heavy investment in content, and this was like a slightly smaller Greatest Hits version of the company’s ISE booth;
- I have a tour of Samsung tomorrow (still waiting for my Thursday night mixer invite, BTW, nudge nudge). What I saw Wednesday in a quick recon tour was a lot of Flips (their digital flip chart product) and, interestingly, an entry into video analytics – coming on the heels of NEC’s ALP launch. More on Samsung tomorrow.
- Speaking of NEC, huge, impressive and busy booth. If you were at ISE or DSE or booth, I think you saw what’s in there, though no doubt with some newer stuff;
- I did a breakfast briefing with Sony, which was more about its activity in medical, workplace and education. I was there to hear more about CLED, and learned the tangible change to its true micro LED video wall was a matte finish to the modules, which were shiny in the past, causing reflection. The company has sold more than 50 CLED walls globally, which for something that’s been around for several years is likely regarded as disappointing. The big barrier to adoption would be price, which is $$$$$$$. It’s not how it looks, which is stunning (though Sony drapes the hell out of its booth to restrict ambient light and glare;
- I did not see a single hologram-like thing on the floor, but maybe it’s there. There were few gimmicky things, though lots of Chinese LED companies had LED floors, some which looked pretty good. Not sure who would use these other than somewhat cheesey entertainment venues;
- There was a company way at the back of the hall showing a version of the Coca-Cola kinetic LED board, with modules pushing in and out in sequences tied to content. It was necessary small, to fit a trade show booth. I kinda liked it as eye candy, but would worry to no end about reliability. Even on the show floor, the blocks were not uniformly aligned when they were in their home positions;
- Transparent LED is all over the hall. It has come a long way, and tends to look really good now – from the front. While some of the manufacturers, like Yaham, appear to have improved the mesh-like look of the non-lit side of these units. But they all still look bad from the inside of a window. A Chinese company I saw in Amsterdam – Tiege – has LED on transparent film that is applied to window glass. It looks OK, but just OK. The transparency is less than 60% because of the plastic strips that hide/contain the wiring. LG’s transparent film is quite transparent, but the trade-off is pixel density. It can only show very simple visuals;
- I don’t see many digital signage software companies here. Visix, Tightrope, MVIX, UCView, TriplePlay, Onelan and Spinetix are here, but they ALWAYS do this show. Stratacache is there, but waaaaay in a back corner, and with a presence nothing like even DSE. One thing I haven’t seen are little sections in the big displayco booths that provider little stand-up demos to the various “smart” signage CMS partners. That no longer seems to be a thing, but I do know Capital Networks, 22 Miles, and Skykit (Agosto) all had people available in specific booths. Probably a bunch of others, as well;
- Speaking of smart displays, the display manufacturers who use Android seem to have shifted/upgraded their offers to at least Android 7. Last time I looked, many were still on 4. Without getting nerdy, being on 7 or 8 is much better/faster/etc;
- I saw a 0.7mm LED at Leyard’s stand. Looks stunning. But I hear endlessly that most of the LED being bought and deployed for indoor use is 1.5 to 2.5mm. The finer pitch stuff is soooo expensive.
Overall, the show looks busy. The digital signage presence is all over and the idea of a digital signage pavilion or zone mostly a promoted idea, as opposed to a reality. Because InfoComm serves a variety of markets – from workplaces to churches to sports and entertainment – the big booth display guys are not going to all agree to congregate in one specific area.
Day 2 beckons. Lotsa meetings. Lotsa walking. Lotsa hydrating with water. The humidity here is merciless. I can’t fathom walking Disneyworld all day in muggy June, but people do.
Planning to watch Toronto beat Golden State tonight in NBA Finals. Where’s the Orlando viewing party for Canadians?
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.