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Reinventing Integration: DSE 2011

Mar 18, 2011 2:21 PM, by Cynthia Wisehart


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The most interesting thing to me about Digital Signage Expo last month was the extraordinary way veteran manufacturers reached for reinvention. This was demonstrated nowhere more spectacularly than at Harris, where it translated to hard currency—a $75 million deal over 10 years, that will bring 7-Eleven TV to over 6000 stores and 200 million people monthly. Harris describes this as the nation’s 4th largest broadcast network, if you want a visual.

A lot can happen in 10 years, but that doesn’t alter the weight of the deal. It may get bigger. And as the NOC manager, Harris has a potential annuity and is in a position to share in success. Their deal may also require that they share in risk. To me, Harris’ achievement in this partnership with Digital Display Networks is remarkable because it is—technically speaking—incremental. Harris applied their decades of expertise in network television broadcasting to turn 7-Eleven into a modern broadcaster.

Of course, technology had to be adapted and surely much code was written—it was not a straight port over from TV network to in-store network, and I’m not minimizing that. But it wasn’t discovering fire either. It seems, instead, a smart, opportunistic update to how Harris defines who they are and what their technology can do. Often technology companies can’t separate themselves from their long-standing applications enough to imagine new deals and build new relationships. It’s easy to misunderstand core value and get stuck.

While Harris was the star of DSE with their little blockbuster, it was equally compelling for me to see other manufacturers thinking outside the box—literally. Take for example NEC’s VUKUNET, which is a web platform that the company is deploying to connect media buyers with digital signage inventory and support the workflow for planning and booking those buys, serving the ads, reporting metrics, and billing.

This is an important part of creating a market for digital signage on various levels of scale; to capture buyers looking for niche demographics or splashy worldwide reach—something that has not been easy or possible to do.

NEC has secured a critical mass of inventory (not just NEC screens). Presumably we will soon see the results of their work to recruit member buyers. If they can pull this off, it’s just cool. And it’s an example of what’s necessary—manufacturers must help grow the market for Pro AV and avoid being marginalized as a commodity.

There were other examples—I like what LG is doing with their Certified Content Provider initiative; they see the market forces differently than NEC does. I was impressed that if you talk to Graeme Spicer at NEC or Jeff Dowell at LG, they are reaching for ways to make technology relevant, to put it in context, or even build the context themselves. “Why do you need AV?” is now the question to ask customers, not “What AV do you need?”



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