Yahav Ran, Synect Media

October 18, 2017
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When I get asked about digital signage installations that I think really have it together, I tend to talk about Microsoft’s retail stores, and more recently, the crazy one by many 100s video wall at the check-in counters at Orlando’s airport.

Turns out both projects were pulled together by Synect Media, a Seattle-area agency that is as much an integrator as it is a creative design studio.

Yahav Ran started the company in 2011, really on the back of work he was doing for Microsoft. But his experience in digital signage goes back a lot longer, to his days with the Israeli video wall software company Cnario.

Those two jobs, and a bunch of others, have made Ran a very busy guy these days, working on and pitching projects built around video wall content and solutions. I managed to slow him down recently and ask about his company and the thinking and execution on really big digital canvases.

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David Labuskes, AVIXA

September 20, 2017
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I was in the Washington, DC area last week for what turned out to be the rebranding of Infocomm as AVIXA - a loose acronym for the Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association.

The trade association had invited me, and a pile of other trade journalists, for a press conference and follow-ups about … something. They wouldn’t say what and had us signing NDAs promising we wouldn’t spill the beans ahead of time.

It’s a lot more than just a name change for Infocomm, which will still be the name of the big annual trade show and versions of it in other countries. The new AVIXA branding reflects much deeper thinking by the InfoComm board and executive team, which is run by CEO David Labuskes.

On the tail end of a crazy-busy launch day, and in the middle of a cocktail party, I managed to grab Labuskes for a chat, to find out what AVIXA is all about, and what it  means for people and companies in the digital signage industry.

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Peter Fahlman, Telemetry

September 13, 2017
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A lot of companies run by creatives and software developers have found their way into the digital signage business on the backs of projects they delivered, but I wouldn’t really see that happening with a company that’s all about online payments.

That’s exactly, though, the back story on Telemetry, a Vancouver, BC start-up that grew out of a need by the sister company to visualize all the data they were generating from transactions. The software team looked around the marketplace for applications that would do the job, and when they concluded what was out there didn’t fit, they wrote their own.

With home-grown digital dashboards around the office showing the team what was going on in the business, CEO Peter Fahlman and his colleagues concluded what they had was a great tool - but also something they could productize … without really even knowing what digital signage was all about.

Now Telemetry is a full, cloud-based digital signage CMS, tightly tied in with Google’s Chrome services. Enabling real-time dashboards is, to me, the particularly interesting aspect of what the company does, but Fahlman tells me in this conversation that they’re more than just live pie charts and graphs.

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David Douglas-Beveridge, SmartContent.TV

September 6, 2017
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If you spend any time clicking around the internet, you are very quickly going to bump into a website that is using a slider - a piece of browser functionality that shifts text, images and video in and out of a web page.

The most heavily used slider out there comes from a German company called Themepunch, and that little coding shop has spun off a new company and product called SmartContent.TV.

The company’s digital signage platform is built directly off the Revolution Slider that’s been licensed some 4 million times for WordPress websites - allowing everyone from expert WordPress developers to total newbies to build and launch animated, dynamic digital signage shows for very little money. If you want a sense of what sliders can do, visit the website, it has multiple sliders on the landing page.

SmartContent just came out of beta and is now marketing a solution that runs on $60 Amazon FireSticks and costs about $15 a month to use,.

In this episode, I have a chat with David Douglas-Beveridge, co-founder of SmartContent, to talk about the roots of the product, how it’s used, and where it’s going.

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Zach Klima, WaitTime

August 30, 2017
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If your digital signage screens are there to make something faster, better or easier for the people who are looking at them, you are doing good things.

That’s the idea behind a Detroit start-up called WaitTime - a digital signage and smartphone app solution that uses cameras and artificial intelligence software to give  people at sports and entertainment venues mission critical information like which washroom lineups are shortest, and where to go to get intermission beer and drinks quickly.

The data that comes out of those camera feeds and software inform game and concert-goers where lines are shortest, which is great for fans - but also for venue operators. The screens load-balance lines and reduced the number of times people abandon lines at concessions. That means more sales.

CEO and founder Zach Klima says the systems tend to pay for themselves at arena and stadiums in less than a year.

In our chat, we talk about the roots of the platform, how it works, who’s backing it, and how it can play nicely with the digital signage companies who already service the sports and entertainment venue market.

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Curt Thornton, Provision

August 15, 2017
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Hologram is up there with artificial intelligence as one of the most abused terms in tech these days - with all kinds of stuff being labelled as holograms when they’re nothing more than reflections or projections. 

Provision has been marketing what it calls 3D holographic media for a bunch of years, and while purists might argue it’s not fully a hologram, it’s a lot closer to holograms than most stuff. Walk into a drug store chain and you might see a kiosk with a motion media piece floating in front of a coupon kiosk, visually and physically detached from any display device.

It’s eye candy. It’s wow factor. But it’s also media that’s making a difference, because they draw eyeballs and pull people over to machines that might otherwise get ignored. They put these things in and coupon redemption rates in the stores went from 1 to 2 percent to 17 percent - across multiple brands, and in the case of the drug store chain, across 500 stores.

I talk to Provision founder and CEO Curt Thornton about his company, the technology and where things are going, including big national rollouts and life-sized 3D holograms.

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Michael Higgins, Harris School Solutions

July 19, 2017
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Public schools would seem like a natural fit for digital signage because of all the communications that circulate, all the time, in K-12 schools.

A software company that’s focused on the education market - Harris School Solutions - recently announced a product that’s an interesting blend of digital signage and smartphone apps. It’s designed to communicate what’s on the menu in school lunchrooms, and get feedback from students and their parents about whether they like the food getting loaded on cafeteria trays.

In this episode, I talk to Michael Higgins about EZSchoolLunch, and about the challenges of developing digital signage software solutions, selling them into bureaucracies and dealing with the long lead times of schools and school districts.

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Robin Carlisle, Framestore Labs

July 12, 2017
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Robin Carlisle is Global Head of Creative for Framestore Labs, a UK-based creative technology shop that specializes in making beautiful and cinematic real-time visuals.

Labs is part of a larger company that has been doing amazing visuals for years. For example, that’s Framestore’s work in movies like Gravity, which somehow imagineers what happens when satellite debris takes out a space station.

Carlisle’s company is involved in all kinds of projects, and recently, has done work that falls squarely in the digital signage and interactive signage buckets. That includes work done for the London Stock Exchange, Morgan Stanley and Ford.

We connected by Skype, with Carlisle joined by the company’s production head Jonny Dixon, just in case the questions got too deep into the technical weeds. They didn’t.

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James Fine, Telecine

June 21, 2017
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James Fine has been around the digital signage ecosystem since the earliest days. He founded Telecine in the mid-80s to do high-end video production for the corporate sector. By the mid-90s, he was getting into signage, putting networked screens in Quebec casinos.

We talk about the early days of the business - like spending $25,000 for 62-inch plasma displays for a retail job. That’s $25K PER display.

Things have changed, and both the industry and his business have grown. Telecine now does a turnkey solutions service for a variety of clients, and the work has won awards - notably for the great data-driven signage you’ll see if you visit a Bloomberg office.

Fine and Telecine are from Montreal, and one of the things we get into in this chat is why there are so many great creative shops coming out of that city.

We spoke last week at InfoComm.

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Susie Opare-Abetia, Wovenmedia

May 31, 2017
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I had a great chat recently with Susie Opare-Abetia, the CEO and Founder of Wovenmedia. Her company does all the heavy-lifting work to connect digital signage and place-based networks with video from major content producers like TV networks, movie studios and pro sports.

If you are in a big US retailer or in a health care environment that has screens, there’s a decent chance at least some of the material you’re seeing was aggregated, rights-cleared, QA’d and distributed by her now seven-year-old San Francisco company.

We get into a lot of things in this episode, from how the service got started and how it works for network operators, to what kind of material works with audiences and what doesn’t.

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Dan Dawson, Grand Visual

March 1, 2017
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The production and creative technology firm Grand Visual does some of the most interesting data-driven creative work you'll find in the digital signage and digital out of home industry, so I was really happy to learn co-founder Dan Dawson was available at ISE to chat for a few minutes.

Dawson is the Chief Creative Technology Officer at the London-based company, which has been around for more than a decade and works with some of the world's biggest brands - including Pepsi, Google, McDonald's and Virgin - on technology-driven media campaigns. You may remember things like the Green Giant showing up via augmented reality at Grand Central Station or flying saucers and aliens seen invading London through the lens of bus stop digital screens.

We get into a lot of things in our chat - the creative process, the technology, strategy, what works and what is just buzz. We talk about programmatic content and media targeting, and we get into how data is a really powerful tool for marketing and messaging.

 If you touch on creative, listen and learn from a master.

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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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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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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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