Digital Signage: The Forgotten Display Market

By Fred Kuhlman • maart 8th, 2010

We don’t think much about the public display market, which includes digital signage. But according to Chris Connery, Vice President, PC and Large Format Commercial Displays for Display Search, 4.1 million large-size flat panel displays (26 inches and above) have been deployed since 2007, with 52 percent LCDs and 48 percent plasma.  It’s a complicated market, one that involves a lot of integration and often special software.

Speaking at the DisplaySearch U.S. Flat Panel Display conference yesterday, he noted the public display market has grown from 400,000 units in 2005 to 1.7 million in 2009, and is expected to grow to 7.4 million by 2015. This makes it one of the fastest growing parts of the display business, if still much smaller than the TV market. As in other markets, the pricing has dropped, to an average of just under $1000

Jose Avalos, Digital Signage Director for Intel said that he expects even faster growth in digital signage: about 8 million media players by 2015, each running about two screens. He talked about how Intel was addressing different parts of the market through its different processors, and making a big look at embedded processors for better managing the signage.

Pierre Richer, Chief Operating Officer of NEC, talked about the challenges that advertisers face with what he called “digital place-based media.” He said advertisers want the kind of information they are getting from Google Analytics, and how hard that was. He suggested point-of-sale integration and having the sign drive specific actions, such as getting more information, getting coupons, or even placing orders. Alternatively, you could have cameras measuring the number of people who actually view the sign. But to do any of this requires a more sophisticated infrastructure, enabling a fully integrated media campaign.  Richer called for the industry to make this happen, saying it will help the digital signage medium better compete with other media.

Alan High, President of Clear Channel Malls said the “digital out of home” advertising market has grown from zero to $250 million over the past four years. He said this was 7 to 8 percent of the total industry sales, even though digital billboards are only 1 percent of the inventory.

He talked about the issues in digital signage ranging from placement to financial models. He said the content of the sign needs to be different depending on the “dwell time” – how long people have to look at the sign, ranging from highway billboards which are all advertising to places like gas stations which show some headlines and some ads; to places where people spend a lot of time, such as malls, where content becomes more important. He said there was a big disconnect between the capabilities that could technically be delivered (such as different ads at different times) and what the advertising industry is ready to accept.

Jennifer Davis, Vice President of Marketing of Planar, a maker of specialty displays, showed some examples of very interesting digital signs, including tiled LCD video wall systems. She said narrow-bezel displays were important, but not enough – it also needs software, mounts, manageability, etc.

One point she said was to remember that digital signage is a business, not a technology. I’ve heard that phrase at many tech conferences, and it’s always a signal that the technology is starting to become ready for bigger markets.


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