DSSE: Major Display Vendors Relate Shifts On Software, Manufacturing

July 13, 2023 by Dave Haynes

Last week’s excellent Digital Signage Summit Europe in Munich presented a problem of having to decide between which of two concurrent sessions to sit in on, and I missed what looks – in hindsight – like a good one on the display market.

Fortunately, Sixteen:Nine’s content partners at invidis – which also presents the DSSE conference – had writer Antonia Hamberger sit in on the a session involving three representatives from three display giants: Samsung, PPDS and Sharp/NEC.

The panel participants:

• Vincent Piarou, Head of Solutions Market Development Team – Samsung Electronics
• Franck Racapé, Head of Global Commercial & Vice President EMEA – PPDS
• Tobias Augustin, Head of Product Management – Sharp/NEC

Florian Rotberg of invidis ran the session.

All three manufacturers have pushed trends such as SoC, their own software and a global service offering. Florian Rotberg also brought these topics to the table – even if the individual approaches differ, no one can escape the major developments. The question remains who will have the greatest influence on the changes.

LED is undoubtedly gaining market share while demand for LCD is declining. That’s no big secret. But does it always have to be MicroLED? Does LCD retain its right to exist? Florian Rotberg asked the participants what the screen for digital signage will look like in the future.

What will digital signage look like in the future?

“It depends on the market you want to target. In the residential sector, the future probably lies with MicroLED. But in the ProAV market, you might stick with SMD for many applications.”

Franck Racapé, PPDS

“The size of the screen will be the deciding factor. It decides which technology makes sense.”

Vincent Piarou, Samsung

“The market is price-driven. LCD is a mature and reliable technology and will continue to be the best choice for some applications in the future. For many scenarios, however, LED will offer the best price/performance ratio.”

Tobias Augustin, Sharp/NEC

Are hardware manufacturers squeezing out their software partners?

Next, Florian Rotberg brought up the elephant in the room: SoC. Samsung launched the first display with built-in media player replacement as a test about 10 years ago. In the meantime, the systems have improved significantly and are firmly established. Sharp/NEC had long followed a different approach: historically, the Japanese placed great value on the modular structure of their products. According to Tobias Augustin, this has to do with the partner ecosystem that his company maintains. In June, however, Sharp/NEC followed the trend and presented its first SoC displays at Infocomm. The reason: “Our approach has always been: one size does not fit all. But for entry-level applications, the SoC is a very cost-efficient alternative,” says Tobias Augustin.

Me – Totally missed this in Orlando. I don’t think there is Tier 1 manufacturer now that doesn’t have at least one smart display series. Sharp had Android SoC for a few years, but NEC stuck to slot-loaded OPS and a hatch on the back of some products that took a micro PC module like a Raspberry Pi.

It’s not a big leap from the SoC to the software. Each of the three manufacturers now offers its own application: Sharp/NEC developed Naviset as a remote management tool, PPDS launched the cloud-based platform Wave with similar functions in 2022, and Samsung is completely shaking up the market rules with its new all-rounder software VXT. So it’s not just the screen anymore, it’s the screen plus software or middleware. 

However, the approach is not always to replace the software vendor, as in the case of PPDS:

“We don’t want to compete with dedicated software providers. Wave is a middleware that makes the work of software developers easier. You develop a solution for Wave and we ensure that the middleware remains compatible with all of our hardware in the future.

The second point is scalability. We don’t see ourselves as a one-stop shop. Most digital signage software vendors are relatively small with 30 to 40 employees. We distribute hundreds of thousands of screens worldwide. With Wave, we help them achieve scalability.”

Franck Racapé on the software approach of PPDS

But for Vincent Piarou there was another elephant in the room. “We’re still in the digital signage middle ages as long as a person has to access the platform to change the content.”

SoC and IT security are of course an issue. But a real change will only come when an all-connected solution is created with the help of AI and IoT.

Get out of China and global service

Samsung, PPDS, Sharp/NEC – all of them now have service and repair centers in different sales markets. Defective screens no longer have to be sent halfway around the world if remote repair is not sufficient. Florian Rotberg wanted to know how customers use the offer. Vincent Piarou’s answer: “The global service and repair offer is in high demand. Customers not only use it, they need it.”

Production is also becoming more decentralized. All three manufacturers have now relocated parts of their production from China to other Asian countries or to Europe. “Made in Europe” is very popular with MicroLED, it stands for quality and shorter transport routes. Florian Rotberg asks how important the production site actually is for customers. “If you want to do business with the US government, you can’t sell ‘Made in China,'” says Franck Racapé, whose company is investing heavily to expand the government business.

For Tobias Augustin, “Made in China” does not generally have negative connotations. “You can still produce in China if you have your quality management under control. If you want high-quality products, you have to have product specifications under control.”

Vincent Piarou says Samsung customers also appreciate European-made products because of sustainability factors. The increased transport costs were also a push factor to bring production closer to the sales market.

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