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2009 Trends: Growth in Proven Applications

Jan 13, 2009 12:00 PM, By John W. DeWitt

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What about HD? Is it becoming the standard in digital signage?

I wouldn’t say that high-definition is the standard. It’s more of a trend. I don’t expect everything to be HD. It’s simply not necessary in every case in a public display environment. ... However, with 1080p being on the minds of everyone on consumer side, it’s bleeding over to the commercial side. High-definition in commercial signage will be top-of-mind for a lot of integrators in 2009.

As digital signage becomes more sophisticated, is it also becoming easier to manage?

Yes and no. Digital signage is an interesting blend of AV and IT, which takes a unique skill set. The audio/visual guys have to learn about networking, and networkers have to learn about AV, and in between are the content providers.

At that knowledge-base level—for integrators and software content providers who have that knowledge of integrating AV and IT—there is an increasingly broad base of folks who are cross-trained in AV and IT. And there are steps to take in making managing digital signage easier, but I see it more as an education process to help folks be cross-trained in both areas, and this in turn will really help the market move forward.

Digital signage growth seems to be continuing in retail and hospitality. What are other growth areas for 2009?

Outside of those spaces, outside of hospitality, we see a whole lot going on in areas like public transportation. More people are taking public transportation, and advertisers want to put ads where the eyeballs are. If eyeballs are standing on a train platform, advertisers want to have their ads in front of them. So we’re seeing a lot of public transit projects, which are very much a blending of the advertising component as well as the public information messaging and even things such as Amber Alerts.

Another trend for 2009 is in quick-service restaurants, or QSRs, using electronic menu boards. In a recessed economy, people are looking for cheaper meals, so more people are going to a McDonald's or KFC. This is also happening in movie theaters. In a recessed economy, people are going to movies more instead of vacationing, so we’re seeing lot of electronic menu boards being installed in movie theaters as well.

What about signage on the cutting edge? For example, context- and location-sensitive digital signage applications such as transit signage tied into GPS data that displays content based on your location?

In public transport, once you hop on that train, we’re starting to see some dynamic changes in what I like to call proximity advertising, based upon where viewer is located. But we see that as a longer-term trend. We don’t see those big infrastructure changes happening a lot in 2009.

We are seeing things piloted such as big large LEDs on the sides of buses, but more of a pilot scenario rather than a full rollout. Ads on the sides of buses and inside trains, these are prevalent in Asia and many places in Europe today. We will see some pilots, (but) in a recessed economy, people mostly are looking at areas where there will be the biggest bang for the buck. They will focus on known quantities.

Finally, what about LCDs vs. plasmas?

There’s an ongoing LCD and plasma debate with Panasonic being the 800-pound gorilla in the plasma space. But we’re seeing LCDs becoming a larger and larger focus of many other companies, and saw them take over even in the larger spaces for the first time in 2008. Plasma will remain a player, but with LCD taking a larger piece of a growing pie.

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