Eric Henry, Tightrope Media Systems

June 14, 2017
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Tightrope Media Systems has been around the digital signage business for 20 years, and if you’ve heard of the company, there’s a decent chance you thought, like me, that the Minneapolis company was a broadcast software firm that also did a signage CMS.

Turns out it was the other way around, and Tightope started as a digital signage software company doing digital menu boards on old CRT screens for schools. The big driver was coming up with a dumbed-down application that people with more important things to do around a school could use.

That early platform seemed to have another likely home with community broadcasters, which is how Tightrope found its way into that side of the business. These days, it’s about 50:50 digital signage and broadcast.

Tightrope is in Orlando this week for InfoComm, and the big thing the team is showing off is an integration that turns $150 Apple TV boxes into managed digital signage players. It’s something that’s only really been possible in the last few months, and Tightrope President Eric Henry fills me in on how that happened, and the broader story of the company.

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High Coghill-Smith, ONELAN

April 25, 2017
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ONELAN has been around the digital signage market for many, many years, but the company is far better known on its UK home turf, and in other parts of the world, than it is in North America.

That’s changing, as ONELAN starts to build into the US and Canada with a really well respected software and hardware solution, as well as what Hugh Coghill-Smith calls the wrap. That’s the company’s managed services piece.

Coghill-Smith, ONELAN’s longtime sales and marketing director, sat down with me at ISE back in February to talk about the company’s past and present, how they work with jumbo clients like Dubai Duty Free, and the big spike ONELAN is seeing in the meeting room signs market.

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Jerome Moeri, Navori

April 5, 2017
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I’ve known Jerome Moeri, the CEO of Navori, for more than a decade, but we’ve never had much of a chance to have a good long chat. That changed at ISE a few weeks ago, when we slotted half an hour to talk about how the Swiss software company got started and where it is going.

Jerome’s a soft-spoken guy, but if you lean in to listen, the story is quite interesting. Navori’s been around for 20 years and the company’s first backers were LVMH, the luxury goods conglomerate that has brands like Louis Vuitton. We get into how the company got started and has grown, and how it now has well in excess of 100,000 software licenses out in the field, including 25,000 on one network in the Middle East.

Jerome talks about the five keys to good software, including a good explanation of native signage players versus web-based ones.

We also talk about Navori’s plans, which include possibly buying some competitors.

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Francesco Ziliani, SpinetiX

March 15, 2017
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SpinetiX has been on the digital signage scene for more than a decade now, and if you are in the business, you may know them as the Swiss guys who market a really nice little aluminum-clad, solid state playback box. They had that 10 years ago, when a lot of signage networks were still going in with desktop PCs.

What always stumped me was the price - which seemed really high. But in talking to the guys for the last couple of years I came to understand a couple of things - the boxes come with a slick software platform installed and included in the price, and the things last and last. There are SpinetiX boxes that were installed in 2007 that are still happily doing their thing 10 years later.

In a world of $45 Raspberry Pis and $100 Android boxes, a $700 box will seem high. But Spinetix says a really good Total Cost Of Ownership number realized when an operator starts thinking in terms of four, five and even 10 years of operation. Amortize a box and software over five years and it gets pretty affordable.

I met with CEO Francesco Ziliani to talk about his company, when we were both at Integrated Systems Europe a few weeks ago. It was a bit of a cliche, but he brought along chocolate because at trade shows, that's often also known as lunch.

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Jose Avalos, Intel

March 8, 2017
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Jose Avalos has been leading Intel’s digital signage practise since 2009 - evangelizing for the use of Intel chipsets and related technologies for the devices that play back content. When he got started, he says Intel was inside about 10 percent of the boxes used in digital signage. Now it’s more like 75 percent, he says. So from that measure, it worked.

But since 2009, smartphones and then smart TVs really bubbled up, and Intel has seen low cost ARM processors being touted and used inside set top boxes and sticks and smart displays as media players - cutting out the need for Intel CPUs.

In our chat, we talk about Intel’s role in this sector, the implications of ARM processors and system on chip displays, and what they’re doing about it. We also get into Intel’s dabbling in the software side of the business, and talk about IOT.

Jose’s a talker, but I did get a few words in here and there. Enjoy.

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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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Luka Birsa, Visionect

September 14, 2016
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This week, I’m speaking with Luka Birsa, the CTO and co-founder of Visionect, a Slovenian tech company focused on solutions that use Electronic Ink.

If you’ve got a Kindle or Kobo e-reader, think of that display but used instead for updated bus schedules at stops, or for telling people whether a meeting room is booked or free. Or on the back of an 18-wheeler.

In our chat, we talk about the origins of the company, and what e-paper is all about. We also answer a big question - Where’s Slovenia?

Luka will fill you in on why end-users would choose e-ink displays over LCDs or other tech, and where it’s a fit and where it’s not. He also talks about what’s coming for the technology - like larger, full color displays that could happily run just off solar power.

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Jeff Hastings, BrightSign

August 17, 2016
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If you're looking for concrete evidence that the digital signage business is now doing some serious volume, consider the word on this latest Sixteen:Nine podcast from Jeff Hastings, the CEO of BrightSign. His shipping department is packing and moving roughly 1,000 units a day.

Let me repeat that ... a day.

BrightSign designs, builds and markets little purple boxes used by a LOT of network operators as media players. In our chat, Hastings talks about BrightSign’s direct ties to another purple box company in Silicon Valley, Roku, and how that relationship has evolved.

One of the really sharp guys in this industry, Hastings talks about why the company is moving so much product this year, and how it will soon have more than 1 million units deployed. He also talks about where the company and industry are headed.

This was a Skype chat, so you'll hear the odd network hiccup and scratchiness. But it is 99% solid sound.

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John Wang, IAdea

July 27, 2016
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In this episode, John Wang, the CEO of Taipei-based IAdea, talks about the roots of his company, which primarily makes commercial-grade media players and all-in-one devices for the digital signage market.

He recalls starting up the business right out of school in Taiwan, and unfortunately timing that startup right when the first Internet bubble burst. Wang talks about the idea of Information Appliances - the IA in IAdea - and the journey taken by the company to today.

Now a trusted supplier for many signage software firms and network operators, Wang talks about staying on top of emerging technologies and where his company, and the business as a whole, are going. He also goers into the perils of cheap devices and the importance of commercial, rugged product for the signage business.

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