Digital Signage Summit Europe Impressions: Day 2
July 6, 2023 by Dave Haynes
Digital Signage Summit Europe wrapped up today in Munich and I can very honestly say I thought it was great.
Very well run. Great educational sessions. Just enough vendors (26) given the allowed time. A good, very handy venue. And a LOT of networking opportunities.
I met SO many people from European companies that I kinda sorta knew about, and so many more that I didn’t know a thing about – and I have been doing this since the Jurassic era.
The big pro AV shows are fantastic, but they’re big by nature and you can be in the same building as people you know, or want to know, and never see them. Hive 500 people who are all specifically in your line of work, and you’re going to see them. Repeatedly. They’re mostly staying in the same hotel, and drinking in the lobby bar (hic).
I thought I was up for the award of the person who came from the greatest distance, but Alan Kaufman of the display firm Dynascan came over from LA. He has that magical, elusive-to-me ability to sleep on planes, so he was fine with the epic flights here and back. Very nice man.
There were dozens of CEOs at this event. In a wrap-up, when I was asked to provide some thoughts on the two days, I said what particularly struck me was how the people on the main stage and in a smaller “town hall” room weren’t selling. They were sharing. It was about community, not competition.
At ISE or InfoComm, C-level people tend to be pulled in so many directions they can’t do much more than wave at me or do a quick handshake. Here, I had long chats with people who run pretty substantial businesses. Some of them, weirdly, even wanted to talk to me!
Panels that at other shows tend to be loaded with sales execs who can’t help themselves but pitch were instead loaded up with people who were happy to talk about what they’re seeing in the marketplace, and willingly sharing their successes and boo-boos.
That was particularly refreshing. I never really have time for the conference components at most shows, but when I study the agendas and who is getting microphone time, I tend to conclude I’m not going to miss all that much by staying on the expo floor.
These things should be about educating and sharing, not selling and boasting.
I missed some sessions I wanted to catch on Day Two because I was deep into corridor chats, so my apologies to a bunch of companies who may wonder why they don’t get a mention.
I did catch a few sessions and can note a couple of things:
Two senior people from the media company Ocean Outdoor spoke about the ties between specialized campaigns like AR, stupid people tricks (interactive gesture screens) and those big screen forced perspective illusions. What was interesting to me was how they flat out said the actual on-the-street viewing audience for these things was secondary. It was more about the campaigns being captured and shared – or what they called amplified – on social media.
Mark McDermott of ScreenCloud did a terrific presentation about the whys and hows of workplace communications. His company is not that old, at all, but the platform is on at least a third generation – because he looks at the evolution of software and stays current, dumping code that might be just two or three years old.
He talked about the challenges of developing and supporting functionality like widgets and why his team is giving up on that, taking a different approach that involves what he calls layer abstraction. I won’t explain that because I’m nowhere near smart enough to do so, but he playfully referred to the approach as Bob The Builder. Instead of very specific things, like a social media widget, the platform is designed to intelligently mash up data feeds as needed.
The slightly mind-blowing thing he did was a quick demo of using AI/ChatGPT to build content for screens in real time with a chat bot.
I grabbed a quick, crappy video that comes in a bit late …
What his company is doing is reflective of broader efforts – I am thinking of guys like SignageLive SignageOS and Now Signage – to make the most of the modern developer tools out there.
The invidis guys who do DSSE did a keynote in the morning, bluntly telling companies in this ecosystem that if they stick to the code base and platform they’ve been building up for many years, they’re in deep trouble – because smaller and newer companies have far more nimble, malleable and secure platforms that will resonate with the IT people who have started to take over as the primary decision-makers and buyers of digital signage technology.
The other takeaways, to me, were things I was seeing and feeling, and validated here.
First, North American companies tend to regard what they do as world-leading. Nope. There’s a lot of very sophisticated technology and thinking in Europe. There is much to learn from companies on this side of the pond.
Second, both the buyers and sellers are a lot smarter now. There’s still an attraction to bright, shiny objects, but I sense there’s much more thought being put into the reasons, design and execution of signage networks.
David Keribin of the French firm Cenareo did a nice round-up on Linkedin … and I borrowed his photo for up top.
It’s not cheap or easy to get to Europe in peak season, but then again I could buy a half-liter of weiss beer at the airport grocery for 1.19 EU. So there’s that.
If American and Canadian industry people asked me whether it was worth budgeting for 2024, I’d say it would be money well spent.
Back at world HQ next week, if the airlines cooperate.