Eric Henry, Tightrope Media Systems

June 14, 2017
00:0000:00

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.

Subscribe to this podcast: iTunes * Google Play * RSS

Rick Mills, Creative Realities (CRI)

June 6, 2017
00:0000:00

If you have followed the digital signage business for a few years, you have probably seen stories about the financial tailspins of a set of companies that eventually got blended together as Creative Realities, or CRI for short. Sitting in the cheap seats watching it all go down, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one thinking, Well, this won’t end well.

Then the company merged with another company, ConeXus World. Which had me thinking, Who? And then, Why???

Turns out there was a master plan here, started years earlier. Rick Mills, the CEO at ConeXus, had long had roll-up plans in the digital signage business, and picking up CRI was his first, but not his only move.

He brought some structure to the business, calmed things down, including clients, and in the last couple of quarters, brought a company that had been hemorrhaging red ink into the black.

Now he’s aggressively hiring people, looking to expand, and planning to acquire some smaller competitors to become one of the big boys in the digital signage solutions business.

Subscribe to this podcast: iTunes * Google Play * RSS

Rodolfo Saccoman, AdMobilize

May 16, 2017
00:0000:00

There’s nothing all that new about digital signage networks using video analytics to get some sense of what’s happening with audiences near screens, but AdMobilize is not just another company peddling the same old stuff.

I spoke with CEO and Founder Rodolfo Saccoman about a product and service he says rolls up a wide range of different measurement technologies under one simple, harmonized platform.

Saccoman comes out of the IT side of the hospitality industry and he totally gets the importance of customer service and experience. He also understands buzz, and the insatiable appetite out there for cutting costs. That may explain, in part, why the company’s AdBeacon measurement device runs off the extremely buzz-worthy Raspberry Pi board.

We get into a lot of things in our chat - including how he thinks computer vision and artificial intelligence will work in the future in digital signage and digital out of home.

Subscribe to this podcast: iTunes * Google Play * RSS

Lee Summers, Reflect

May 9, 2017
00:0000:00

Lee Summers is only a few months into his job as CEO of Reflect, but neither the industry or the company were unfamiliar when he took over at the company’s Dallas head office earlier this year. In an unusual twist, he’d been on the other side of the table, as one of Reflect’s highest profile clients.

Summers came out of the retail agency business and actually got his start as a creative, but in recent years he’d been the digital innovation guy looking at how to kit out the mammoth Nebraska Furniture Mart in Dallas.

As the saying goes, they do things big in Texas, and this store is a monstrous 600,000 square feet, or about four Ikeas tied together. He was also in charge of the vast multi-tenant retail space around the store.

We get into that project, but talk more broadly about the challenges and opportunities of being a CMS software and services company squarely focused on retail, when bricks and mortar stores are under siege from online.

We also talk about Ad Logic, an advertising and targeting platform that was built for a client and is now being extended for any retailer that can’t find what it wants from ad platforms which are almost all built with online - not stores - in mind.

35 minutes flew by.

Subscribe to this podcast: iTunes * Google Play * RSS

 

David Keribin, CityMeo

May 3, 2017
00:0000:00

Most of the companies I sit down with on these podcasts are well-established, and my interview subjects have a lot if history behind them. But I got pitched by a French start-up called CityMeo, and I agreed to meet up for a chat several weeks ago at ISE in Amsterdam, even though I knew zero about them.

CEO David Keribin says his company was started with three IT-engineer colleagues, operating from the premise that all the digital signage solutions on the market "sucked" for day-to-day users.

I thought that was a bit of a reach, but wanted to hear more about the French firm, which in three years has quickly developed a client base in 19 countries and does everything from retail to internal communications in French nuclear plants.

This is the last of the dozen-plus interviews I did at ISE. 

Subscribe to this podcast: iTunes * Google Play * RSS

High Coghill-Smith, ONELAN

April 25, 2017
00:0000:00

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.

Subscribe to this podcast: iTunes * Google Play * RSS

 

Martin Romanowski, SmartSign

April 18, 2017
00:0000:00

Martin Romanowski is the CEO of the Swedish CMS software firm Smartsign, which has been providing a digital signage solution all the way back into the late 1990s. His company is best known in Europe, and it has offices in eight countries and users in more than 30.

Romanowski and I chatted at ISE in Amsterdam, where his crew had a large booth. One of the big messages was about Smartsign’s ease of use. He agreed easy is an over-used pitch in this business, but when his guys talk about it, he says they really mean it.

Romanowski gets into how the company is seeing great year on year growth, and why the heck there are so many digital signage software companies based in Sweden and Norway.

Subscribe to this podcast: iTunes * Google Play * RSS

Ke-Quang Nguyen-Phuc, Quividi

April 12, 2017
00:0000:00

A lot of companies have come in and out of video analytics for digital signage, but the one constant has been Quividi - a French company with an anonymous pattern detection product a lot of people will tell you is the gold standard for this tech.

I sat with CEO Ke-Quang Nguyen-Phuc during a break at ISE a few weeks ago, and got the rundown on the company and what’s going on with this technology, now and in the future. We talk about the distinction between face recognition and face detection, and what the technology can do for network operators and brands.

We also get into the insights delivered by audience analytics, including how long people really look at screens, and what screens generate the least attention. It's a little technical here and there, but you'll learn stuff.

Subscribe to this podcast: iTunes * Google Play * RSS

Jerome Moeri, Navori

April 5, 2017
00:0000:00

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.

Subscribe to this podcast: iTunes * Google Play * RSS

Burr Smith, BroadSign

March 29, 2017
00:0000:00

Burr Smith is the CEO of BroadSign, arguably the most successful CMS software company when it comes to advertising-based networks. His Montreal-based company has contracts with many of the top digital out of home ad networks in North America and Europe.

Things are really good around BroadSign these days. Staff numbers are growing, a New York office just opened and the company has a big party tonight on the Vegas strip.

But it hasn’t always been like this. Smith not only runs the company. He owns it, and steered it through a really rough patch in which the company ran into money troubles when the recession hit in 2008 and 9. That ultimately led to BroadSign filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Smith talks candidly about that period, and how he and a loyal core group scratched their way through and out of that. He also talks about where things are at now, and why his company has broadened into a supply side platform for programmatic advertising.

We spoke a few weeks ago at ISE in Amsterdam.

Subscribe to this podcast: iTunes * Google Play * RSS

SCREENFEED-SPONSOR.jpg

Luis Villafane, Maler

March 21, 2017
00:0000:00

Luis Villafane have been email pen pals for years, but I only met him in person for the first time last month in Amsterdam, at ISE. It was a treat, because the guy not only knows the signage business in and out, but is blunt and funny as hell.

If you are a regular 16:9 reader you will remember some of his frank and funny guest posts, like a plea to vendors and service providers to Have The Cojones To Admit And Share Mistakes.

He runs Maler, a digital signage service provider based in A Coruna, on the northwest tip of Spain. Maler is all about managing digital signage networks, and a small team runs some very big networks, like KFC in the UK. Maler recently signed on as the sponsor of the companion 16:9 podcast, called Projects. But that's not why we're talking. He was on my "gotta talk to" list months ago.

In our chat, we talk about how the company got started, what they do, what's genuinely important when it comes to running stable networks, and what makes Luis crazy.

Subscribe to this podcast: iTunes * Google Play * RSS

SCREENFEED-SPONSOR.jpg

Francesco Ziliani, SpinetiX

March 15, 2017
00:0000:00

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.

Subscribe to this podcast: iTunes * Google Play * RSS

SCREENFEED-SPONSOR.jpg

 

 

Chris Riegel, Stratacache

February 22, 2017
00:0000:00

I have been trying to get Chris Riegel for an in-person interview for almost a year, but the CEO and sole owner of STRATACACHE has been a busy guy in recent months, expanding his business organically, but also through acquisitions of competitors like Scala and Real Digital Media.

We couldn’t make it happen when he was on one of his frequent trips through Toronto, but we managed to carve out time in Amsterdam a couple of weeks ago, at the ISE trade show.

Riegel gets into a lot of things in this podcast - notably how his company got to north of $500 million in sales in 2016 and how he plans to double that within a couple of years. We also talk about how he got started and how he manages a high-growth company that now has some 400 people, but is very much centered around him.

This is a seriously smart, ambitious guy. He's also a smart-ass and doesn't bother using much of a filter when it comes to things like talking about companies he sees as the real enemy in this business.

Here's a snippet of our talk, with me asking who he sees as the competition ...

Riegel: I would say without sounding crass or arrogant about it, the companies that we regard as competitors are the guys who really understand marketing and marketing in retail, so you take, potentially, an Adobe who understands that market, specifically. In sector, I don't really see much competition there. Really for two reasons. One, this kind of deep retail practice that we built around PRN, the expertise that we have there, is really unique in the industry. Number two, when we go into provide solutions to customers, we'll go into very large retailers. We're building that network, financing that network and doing a managed service over the course of 3 years, 5 years … there's not a competitor in the space that will do type of financial models that we will.

Me: So you're carrying the paper on the hardware?

Riegel: We carry the paper on the hardware, the service, everything.

Me: Okay.

Riegel: A retailer has the pockets, but little dinosaur arms, so they won't reach into those deep pockets. We call it the T-Rex problem.

Subscribe to this podcast: iTunes * Google Play * RSS

SCREENFEED-SPONSOR.jpg

Mike Tippets, Hughes Media Solutions

February 15, 2017
00:0000:00

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.

Subscribe to this podcast: iTunes * Google Play * RSS

SCREENFEED-SPONSOR.jpg

ISE 2017 Bonus Episode

February 13, 2017
00:0000:00

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.

Subscribe to this podcast: iTunes * Google Play * RSS

SCREENFEED-SPONSOR.jpg

Special Episode: Chats From ISE 2017’s Exhibit Halls

February 7, 2017
00:0000:00

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.

Subscribe to this podcast: iTunes * Google Play * RSS

SCREENFEED-SPONSOR.jpg

Paul Vincent, Flexitive

January 25, 2017
00:0000:00

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.

Subscribe to this podcast: iTunes * Google Play * RSS

SCREENFEED-SPONSOR.jpg

 

Michael Schneider, ESI Design

November 16, 2016
00:0000:00

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.

Subscribe to this podcast: iTunes * Google Play * RSS

SCREENFEED-SPONSOR.jpg

Mark McDermott, ScreenCloud

November 2, 2016
00:0000:00
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.
 

Subscribe to this podcast: iTunes * Google Play * RSS 

SCREENFEED-SPONSOR.jpg

Leo Coates, The Coates Group

October 26, 2016
00:0000:00

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.

Subscribe to this podcast: iTunes * Google Play * RSS

 
SCREENFEED-SPONSOR.jpg