I am in Taipei all this week for a trade show called Touch Taiwan, which opens Wednesday. I got in Sunday so I could look around, get some meetings in ahead of the show, and try to overcome a 13-hour time difference.
First two things worked. But it is 2 AM and I am bug-eyed, probably because my body thinks it is 3 in the afternoon. So I am getting some writing in …
This is my 4th time in Taipei, and I love the place. It is huge and a little nutty, but in a good way. There is commerce everywhere. Look down an alley and there is a little business, like a food stall. It is probably the only place I’ve been where using a restroom in a subway station is not an act of desperation – they’re spotless and there are plants in there. Plants!
The subway – called the MRT – is also amazing. Inexpensive. Spotless (again). Busy, but orderly. People form lines and actually let the passengers inside get out first.
The MRT also has digital signage displays that are tied to real-time data, telling you a train is coming not just in minutes, but seconds.
I’ve done a few big walks to look around both as a tourist and a digital signage nerd. Here are a few impressions on the latter:
Retail digital signage is pretty much as you’d see elsewhere. In major stores, the cosmetics areas tend to have one big screen or small video wall arrays. Otherwise, there’s not a lot.
You see video walls in most of the athletic brands stores – like the Nikes and Adidas branches. One that caught my eye was in the crazily busy Ximending shopping district – a low rez LED mesh wall that doubled as an architectural wall for the stairwells. The content matched the resolution, but what was interesting to me was the LED mesh, from the rear, was black and had none of the butt-ugly that typifies these “transparent” LED arrays.
Ximending is, I gather, a bit like Times Square and a bit like Shinjuku in Tokyo. There is a lot of LED, but not at the scale or fine resolution, certainly, of NYC. I was struck by how much of it was older, lower rez, and hurting.
I was also struck by the high rent, central business district near the Taipei 101 skyscraper. There are some malls in Taipei that would make an Abu Dhabi sheikh feel at home. Imagine the arcade of the Wynn casino in Vegas, but on a much bigger scale.
A local pointed me to an outdoor craft beer place in that district, and I dropped by for happy hour. About $16 USD for a pint … that you sipped at an outside table. No chairs. The women working the place said the rent was indeed high, hence the price. I had one.
A really interesting department store called Shin Kong Mitsukoshi – which seems to be more of a host to retail brands than a brand itself – has a cluster of multi-level retail spaces in this district, and a nice bunch of outdoor-facing video walls in different set-ups.
The plaza also had a third party “smart city” media company with LinkNYC-style kiosks. They were awful.
One of the most curious things I saw was on the facade of a bookstore in this area – a set of LED cabinets spaced well apart from each other and running ambient content. They were too far apart to pull together as one visual, didn’t play steadily, and looking up fairly close, they seemed to be on the kinds of arms that are used for lighting cannons that can swivel. Maybe they do something at night?
I saw a vast outdoor direct view LED display set up at street level for, I think, an art gallery, or something (my Mandarin doesn’t go beyond saying Thank You). I thought it was a nice looking printed hoarding, but then I noticed movement. Meant to take a pic, but I was deep in “where he heck am I???” mode.
One other thing … I have seen Sony Crystal LEDs at many trade shows, but never in the wild. Saw one here, predictably at an Apple store, just blocks from another Apple store at Taipei 101. It looks gorgeous, though so does the D3 one at the skyscraper. The attraction to Apple, I am guessing, is the glossy, durable surface. The screen is in easy reach of the public, and conventional direct view LEDs are easily bumped and damaged.
Now 3 AM and not even vaguely sleepy. Oh well. Taking a pill tomorrow night.
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.