Mike Tippets, Hughes Media Solutions

February 15, 2017
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Hughes is one of those big billion-dollar tech companies that have found their way into digital signage in recent years. Most of them come in making noise and exited quietly. But Hughes has stuck around.

This week I’m chatting with Mike Tippets, who is Hughes Global Media Solutions Group, working out of Utah but pretty tightly tied to the Hughes mothership based outside Washington, DC. Hughes fates back to the days of Howard Hughes, but is now owned by EchoStar, a global satellite services company.

We have a good chat about a bunch of things - from the roots of the company as Helius, what Mike and his team have learned about big growth areas like corporate communications, and how Hughes goes to market as much more than satellite guys who also have some software.

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ISE 2017 Bonus Episode

February 13, 2017
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This is a bonus edition. I did a pile of sit-down interviews last week in Amsterdam with different execs for full-length podcasts, and you will hear those over the next several weeks. I also did some stand-ups that are already live, with four already up. These are the other four.

I normally get these things properly sound-engineered but in the interests of speed to market, I did these ones myself - so apologies if the sound and levels are a little dodgy. And there's no music.

The interviews are with RED-V from Italy, Interactivescape from Germany, AirportLabs from Romania and NodeArk from Sweden.

There will still be a regular episode up on Wednesday, with Mike Tippets of Hughes.

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Special Episode: Chats From ISE 2017’s Exhibit Halls

February 7, 2017
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This is a special edition of 16:9 Podcasts - interviews recorded in and around the RAI Amsterdam at Integrated Systems Europe this week in Amsterdam.

I am doing a bunch of sit-down podcast recordings this week in and around the giant pro AV show, to be streamed in the coming weeks, but I also wanted to grab some quick interviews about things I see in my travels around the many exhibit halls here.

On this episode, you will hear from a series of companies, large and small, including Sony, Sharp, NodeArk and Condeco. These interviews were recorded today and I am posting this as I wait for the press room happy hour to start.

Oh, it has! Yay. 

I'm heading back home this weekend, and next week's podcast will be the normal format.

Also, look for a new 16:9 Projects Podcast, with Michael Tutton, coming this Friday.

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Sean Keathley, Adrenaline

February 1, 2017
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This week, we’re talking experience design with Sean Keathley, the president of Adrenaline, an Atlanta-based company that’s in the business of coming up with the strategy, the content and technologies to make spaces like banks, stores and hospitals really work.

Sean talks about the process involved in putting together a successful project, and he made me happy when he said projects they do start out by asking and getting answered from clients one big question: "Why?"

We get into some of the work the company has done with clients like eTrade and New Balance, and also explore how and where digital display technology works, or doesn’t.

We did this by Skype and we were both fighting raging head colds, which will explain some scratchy voices. Enjoy.

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Paul Vincent, Flexitive

January 25, 2017
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There’s been a lot of talk about how HTML5 is the future of digital signage content, and Paul Vincent knows more about that than just about anyone out there. He’s the founder and CEO of Flexitive, an online tool for building advertising and content using everything HTML5 brings to the table.

I first bumped into Paul three years ago at a tech trade show in Toronto. Since then, the product has evolved and matured, but it sums up like this: For something like $70 a month, content designers can use Flexitive to generate dozens of fully responsive ads and presentations - with motion, transitions and even video. You can produce a spot once, and the system will auto-generate different versions in different shapes and resolutions.

The system is mainly used for online advertising, but there’s no reason why it can’t be used for digital signage - and some companies in this business already do.

Flexitive is based in Toronto, but you’ll hear more than a trace of Kiwi in Paul. He’s originally from New Zealand.

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Special Episode - NRF 2017

January 17, 2017
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This is a special edition of the 16:9 Podcast - special because the format’s a little different and because I’m turning this around too quickly to get it polished up by the guy who sound engineers these things.

So no music. Maybe a bit more background noise. The levels are anything but level. But it'll do, in terms of timeliness versus studio quality.

I was just in New York the last couple of days, attending the National Retail Federation’s big trade show. I wanted to pass on some impressions from the show, but also run a couple of shorter interviews I managed to grab on the floor.

I’ll start with an interview I did with Ken Goldberg, the CEO of Real Digital Media. The well known industry executive was wearing a Stratacache shirt and had a Scala exhibitor badge hanging around his neck, so it was a little bit weird to see.

We talked about the news, just last week, that his company was acquired by Stratacache, on the heels of another software rival, Scala, also being acquired.

After that, you’ll hear an interview with Sam Vise of Unefi, a Toronto company that was at NRF showing an interesting product and service that’s built off off 20 years of providing print visuals for the retail industry, and now also does digital signage, off the same platform.

Finally, I’ll pass on some thoughts about NRF.

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Mike Blackman, Integrated Systems Europe

January 11, 2017
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Integrated Systems Europe is coming up at the start of next month in Amsterdam, and Mike Blackman is the guy who has built ISE up to be the largest pro AV show on the planet. It’s also the biggest digital signage show in terms of footprint and exhibitors, though signage is just one element of the event.

Any show that’s just weeks out is in crazy-busy mode, but Mike took some time recently to talk about the show’s roots, how it’s grown and how it works.

We talk about what to expect this year, how to plan out a visit, and how to navigate and survive a show that will likely pull more than 65,000 people and span across 14 buildings.

The good news, if you are now thinking about going, is that there are still hotel rooms available and there’s a lot of different ways to get to Amsterdam.

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Rich Ventura, NEC Display Solutions

January 4, 2017
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Rich Ventura now has the launch codes and the secret handshake instructions to act as the 2017 chairman of the Digital Signage Federation. He’s been active in the organization for several years, and has big plans for the year ahead.

He’ll go into that in the latter half of this podcast episode, but we spend the first part of it talking about his role as Vice President of Business Development and Solutions at NEC Display Solutions.

We talk about how NEC operates and what makes it different, newish technologies like Raspberry Pi, the overall state of the flat panel industry, the emergence of direct view LED and a pile of other topics.

We also talk about what the signage industry, and particularly the display side of it, looks like in 2017 and beyond.

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Jacob Horwitz, Installation & Service Technologies (IST)

December 21, 2016
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Deployment is a huge part of any substantial digital signage project, but it’s not a side of the business that gets a lot of attention.

Jacob Horwitz started, runs and owns one of the biggest pure-play digital signage deployment companies out there - INSTALLATION & SERVICE TECHNOLOGIES, or IST. The company is based out of Kansas City, and has quietly done many of the larger digital menu board deployments in the US to date.

In fact, it was a massive job for Burger King that switched the focus for IST from doing point of sales work, to digital signage. Horwitz hasn’t looked back since.

We spoke recently via Skype.

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Andrea Varrone, Digital Signage Expo

December 14, 2016
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Digital Signage Expo is coming up in late March in Las Vegas. It will be the 14th version of the big trade show and conference.

I sat down with DSE Show Director Andrea Varrone when she was up in Toronto last week, to run through what people should expect to see in 2017 at and around the show..

We talked about a lot of things - like what’s new and different about the upcoming show, and how the event is doing. Varrone talks about the mighty challenge of trying to grow the attendee base when more than half of it is brand new with each passing year. She has to, as she says, keep refilling the attendee bucket.

We get into some of the exhibitor rules that have made some companies cranky, and also touch on the future of a couple of spin-off shows aimed at education and corporate communications, which didn’t exactly draw mobs last month in Chicago.

If you’re a regular at DSE, or thinking about it for 2017, you’ll want to have a listen.

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Daniel Siden, Lightvert

December 7, 2016
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This week’s podcast is a little tough, because I’m going to ask listeners to get their brains around something they really need to see. And something that’s just emerging from R&D, so you can’t see it.

But, it’s more than worth listening to Daniel Siden talk about Lightvert, a UK-based start-up that has technology that creates huge digital billboards that only exist in your vision. The company has come up with a way to use something called persistence of vision to safely print an image directly on the retina of viewers. But only momentarily.

Think of it this way. When you see something bright at night, and then look away, that bright image is still there in your eyes, for a heartbeat or two. So what if that was a logo?

It uses narrow reflector strips mounted on the sides or corners of buildings, and a thin, very high-powered laser beam to make it happen.

Siden was in London, and we chatted by Skype. Have a listen, as this guy does a way better job of explaining the hows and the whys of Lightvert.

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Iles Guran, Armodilo

November 30, 2016
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Software and display companies get a lot of attention in the digital signage industry, but projects don’t happen without the gear that holds screens in place and keeps them protected.

I travelled up to St. Jacob’s, Ontario - just outside the Canadian tech hotbed of Kitchener-Waterloo - to speak with Iles Guran, one of the two co-founders of Armodilo, which has built up a thriving little business making enclosures and stands for what you might call one to one digital signage.

Guran is a graphic and industrial designer first, and you can see it in the curves, material choices, colours and functionality of Armodilo’s products. They’re anything but tablets just protected by a bit of metal or plastic. Armed with not much more than an idea and some reference samples, they booked a big exhibitor trade show when they were starting up, and hoped they’d see some interest. They ended up being swarmed at their little booth, and left the show with one of the event’s big awards.

The company has seen steady growth in the last four years, and had to relocate a year ago to a new facility. They’re already wondering if it’s going to be big enough.

Guran talks about how tablets are being used for interactive digital signage in a bunch of interesting ways, and also goes into both the opportunities and challenges.

We chatted in the company boardroom, which was concrete, metal walls and lots of echo ...

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Phil Lenger, Show And Tell

November 23, 2016
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Phil Lenger of Show and Tell is a busy guy, but he slowed down long enough to sit recently for a chat in his company’s New York offices, near Penn Station.

He even offered a sip or two from one of the many, many bottles of seriously good bourbon he has stocked in the corner of Show and Tell’s meeting space.

But I behaved myself, and so did he. That allowed us to have a reasonably coherent talk about the background of his company, which definitely leads with creative but does a bunch more.

Show and Tell has for years and years developed and pushed content to many of the giant LED displays around Times Square. His team also manages some of them. But the company is in to a lot more than just spectacular ad displays, including retail.

One of the projects you may have seen in your travels is the Fashion Show Mall up by the Palazzo and Wynn in Las Vegas.  We had a good, frank talk about a lot of things, including the current state of much of what’s called digital signage creative.

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Michael Schneider, ESI Design

November 16, 2016
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I had a chance recently to tour the New York studio and offices for ESI Design, which has done some amazing experiential digital work in public spaces, as well as museums and in retail settings.

Michael Schneider is a senior experience designer and creative technologist at the company, and we spent time talking about the design process behind creating big, interesting and memorable digital canvases.

Among many, many projects through the years, ESI Design was the firm behind the giant fence board-like experience at the Wells Fargo office tower in Denver, and a sensor-driven ambient media wall in the lobby of a building in Washington, D.C.

To Schneider, and to the rest of the team at ESI, it’s not about the tech, it’s about the story.

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Brad Parler, Blinds.com

November 9, 2016
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A couple of years ago, an old industry friend, Raffi Vartian, said I really needed to see something. He sent me a link to a video, I watched it, and I sent back a note saying, "That’s FREAKING brilliant."

The video was for a corporate communications project at the Blinds.com offices in Houston, Texas, and it showed staff-facing messaging being done in a way I’d never seen. 

The guy behind that was and is Brad Parler, a video production geek who got an entry-level job at the company to pay the bills of his growing family. He was in sales, but stuck his hand up when the company decided to add digital signs through the facility. They needed to figure out how, and what to use for needed content.

What he came up with went over big, not only within the company, but around the signage industry. Now he’s getting asked to speak at conferences, and doing what he can to spread the gospel about the importance of populating screens with truly good, attention-grabbing, effective content.

We spoke recently by Skype.

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Mark McDermott, ScreenCloud

November 2, 2016
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This week we’re talking content management software with Mark McDermott, the CEO and one of the co-founders of ScreenCloud, which offers a platform that looks, feels and works like much of what we do online with other subscription software tools.
 
That’s because ScreenCloud grew out of Codegent, a software solutions company that was, and is, in the business of developing web-based applications.
 
In our chat, Mark talks about how ScreenCloud came out of a search for a third-party digital signage toolset that lined up with what he expected to find, but couldn’t find. So Codegent built one.

Mark talks about his team’s approach, their own thinking around content and built-in apps, and a signage future that’s all about things like data-driven content.

I reached Mark at the company’s London offices.
 

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Leo Coates, The Coates Group

October 26, 2016
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In this episode, I’m having a chat with Leo Coates of The Coates Group, an end-to-end digital signage solutions provider that’s heavily focused on the quick service restaurant sector. The Australian company already has a footprint in 35 countries - everything from rollouts to trials. Now Coates has opened up an office and innovation centre in Chicago - and it’s not a coincidence that Chicago is also the global headquarters of McDonald’s.

One of the most interesting things about Coates is that he’s just 32 years old, having bought the family business from his dad when he was just 24. He’s built it up from there, and expanded some existing business in Australia with McDonald’s and then moved successfully into some giant markets like Japan and China.

In our chat, Leo talks about how the company operates, how data from restaurant systems is critical to what they do, and why he’s building up a team of 20 in Chicago to go after the North American market. We spoke recently in Chicago, just ahead of the company formally opening its offices and showroom.

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Chris Lydle, Google

October 19, 2016
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This week I am speaking with Chris Lydle, who is the global lead for digital signage and kiosk activity at Google
 
We had a lengthy, very open chat about the what the technology giant is doing in the relatively small and narrowly defined digital signage market, how its technology fits in, and where things are going.
 
He talks about the importance of partnerships to develop and mine opportunities for ChromeOS and the devices out there that run it. We get into Android. Eddystone beacons. And how Google has fixed some of the grief associated with activating its device management toolset.
 
Lydle is quite open in stressing Google has zero interest in developing a full, competitive content management system for signage, saying simply, it’s just not what we do.
 
We had the chat last month in the lobby of a Denver hotel, when we were both at the Four Winds conference. Great conversation, well worth a listen.
 

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Kurt Dupont, PresentationPoint

October 12, 2016
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We’re talking PowerPoint this week, the presentation software that has usually been regarded with abject horror by people who’ve been around the digital signage industry for years.

While using PowerPoint templates to generate slides for signage systems is the fast lane to mediocrity, that’s not what Belgium’s PresentationPoint does with its software.
 
For the last couple of decades, they’ve used software integrated with the Office application to display real time data from Excel, databases, and RSS feeds, and do dynamic charting.
 
They started years ago with airports - for flights and arrivals - but PresentationPoint is now used in piles of different use cases.
 
I spoke with owner and founder Kurt Dupont recently.

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David Levin, Four Winds Interactive

September 28, 2016
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This week I’m speaking with David Levin, the co-founder and a bunch of other titles at Four Winds Interactive, a content management software and services company based in Denver.

David and I sat down for a chat last week in the Four Winds' offices, a day before his company’s second annual Forward conference, which attracts a lot of hardcore customers and prospects. The event was polished, and there was a good-sized crowd of customers, prospects and suppliers.

We had a pretty wide-ranging, open discussion about his company. Levin talks about the roots of Four Winds, doing interactive music sampling stations. We go into the early days, when the company was offsetting operating costs by renting out the old mansion they used as offices as a wedding venue on weekends, hauling equipment into the basement and taking other gear home.

We also go into the company’s current headcount, which is about 10X the size of most of their competitors. Where most competing companies have a sales team that could maybe field a softball team, Four Winds has about 90 people in some sort of sales or sales support function.

Levin talks about how the company is doing financially, and in a broader sense about where his company, and this industry, is going.

I forgot (duh) to get David to shut off his phone or get it the heck away from the mike, so the master recording picked up a lot of electronic noise from calls and notifications. We've applied noise reduction and cleared most of that out, but if the recording sounds a bit tinny, that's why.

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