ISE 2020 Day 1 Impressions: Many Little Steps, Not So Many Giant Leaps

February 11, 2020 by Dave Haynes

Day 1 at ISE was a good day for doing an overall pass around the show, mostly walking and not doing a whole lot of stopping. I wanted to get an overall look at things, and note what I needed to go back to for a closer look.

My snap impression was that there was not a whole lot of things that begged a closer look. There’s no end of great stuff at this pro AV show, but it is one of those years when the technology advances are more like little steps than big leaps.

There will be hard-core AV nerds who jump in and say the new something or other compression standard brings amazing speed and stability to something or other, but I … zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ….

Sorry about that. 

I stopped at several digital signage CMS companies who were unfamiliar to me and asked the big question – “What makes your platform distinct from the mob?”

Can’t say I got particularly compelling or persuasive pitches. Cheaper and easier are … zzzzzzzzzzzz ….

Dammit! I’m going to have keyboard marks on my forehead if this keeps up.

In a hyper-competitive market, being easy in a software market that’s generally a pricing race to zero, that’s not a great proposition.

All that said, I did see and hear some interesting things. My friends at Prague’s SignageOS have done what sounds like a nice tie-up with NEC Display for the company’s middleware offer – which enables a CMS to integrate with a variety of hardware/OS platforms with minimal development time and cost.  That gets announced tomorrow.

They showed me a little gadget they’ll be making available free that makes screen controls easy. The idea there is that commercial displays have serial commands that allow things like remotely turning screens off and on, but each manufacturer may do it differently, which is a giant pain in the butt. This little gadget stays current with all that and does the heavy lifting.

I walked through an “innovation zone” and noticed several companies, that do things like workplace collaboration and enable wireless pushes of content to big screens, who are directly marketing their own bolt-on digital signage CMS options (like Ditto), or partnering with established CMS platforms (Mersive, for example).

The pitch here is that when a meeting room screen is not being used for a meeting, it can run workplace messaging, dining room menus, curated social media or photos of Corgis. 

I find this interesting, but wonder how robust these bolt-on systems might be compared to “real” fully-featured CMS platforms.

Speaking of workplace, I liked what I saw of a Dutch company called GoBright, that has an entry in the crowded meeting room management sector. I liked the office hoteling hot desk gadgets and signal lights, the analytics, and a nice room directory thingie that used an 88″ LG stretch LCD.

Many Chinese companies have had to stay away because of the much-discussed coronavirus situation. It is evident in empty spaces on the floors of the many halls at the RAI, or by micro food courts cagily put in place by the ISE people to make the space at least look kinda sorta normal. The sad thing to see were booths that were built by local trades people, but sitting unstaffed and empty.

I expected the Chinese companies who were able to get here to be wearing N95 masks, but not really. I had several chats in Shenzhen firm booths, and none were had through masks. I wasn’t even slightly concerned, but wisely and respectfully squeeze out some Purell when I was out of sight. Better to be prudent.

Side note: I expected hand sanitizer machine thingies all over. I saw none (though I may have missed them, and in that case, am exercising my Old and Stupid rights).

Many of the Chinese companies are marketing LED technology. It is getting better each time I see this stuff, but I’d say the improvements (as noted at the top) are incremental, and not mind-blowing. Instead of 1.2mm, it’s now 0.9mm. That sort of thing.

Cedar LED, Create LED, AOTO and Ledman all had good-looking hardened, impact-resistant LED product – using 4 in 1 miniLED chips, or Chip on Board, or something similar. The nerds care about what is used. What matters to most integrators is that costs are lower and with each progressive trade show, what started as a prototype becomes more and more mainstream.

I spoke with an LED expert – a guy I really trust – who thinks chip on board LED (COB), and mini and micro LED, will be standard within a year or two. The wild card here is that many of the companies marketing this leading/bleeding edge stuff have limited to no tech support or presence outside of Asia.

I had a good look at the ever-beautiful Sony Crystal LED. I don’t think it has evolved (not that it needed to, other than on price). Samsung’s The Wall was ginormous, or at least seems to get bigger each time I see it.

There are lots of great projector examples here, but I was stumped by Epson’s signature piece – which in a sea of crisp projected and physical displays, looked all washed out. Why?

Overall, the show SEEMED quieter – which makes sense. The virus thing is keeping some people away. Weather has kept many others away, with flights from as nearby as the UK delayed by big winds. I’ve also heard suggestions that a percentage of people are skipping, with the idea that they’ll most definitely be going when the show moves to the land of Lionel Messi.

That said, it was by no means a ghost town. Queues were shorter for most things, but there were still a lot of people. I’d think Wednesday could be busier, as delayed flights finally get there and those people who try to avoid Day 1 crushes show up for Day 2.

Tomorrow, I dive deeper. It is also the Digital Signage Awards tomorrow night. Like just about everything, there have been some people who can’t make it because of the varied circumstances, so let me know if you want to go. I think there is an opportunity to do the Oscars night fill-the-seats thing at low/no cost.

Now for Chinese food, because I am in Amsterdam. … Just go with it.

  1. Revital says:

    Thanks for the great coverage Dave, we look forward for tonight!

  2. Too bad we cancelled our participation, otherwise we had some exciting news on the CMS front. Neovo Signage won the ISE 2019 award for best new signage OS by being different than the rest. Did you have a chance to see it at the AG Neovo booth last year?

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