Joaquim Lopes Jr., 4YouSee

February 21, 2018
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I have traded emails with Joaquim Lopes for at least couple of years now, and he has been telling me about his company 4YouSee and its efforts providing software and services to the Latin American digital signage market.

He was at Integrated Systems Europe in Amsterdam a couple of weeks ago, and when we finally met in person, I suggested we grab a quiet spot and do a podcast chat.

The company is based in Brazil but also does work in other countries. We had a good chat about the marketplace, and his company's products and services, including an interesting creative tool.

I picked up a whopper of a bug at or after ISE, so my voice on this intro probably sounds a bit rough. My edit guy is also on holiday, so I am hacking this episode together myself. Back to more polished work next time.

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Andrea Varrone, Digital Signage Expo

February 14, 2018
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Trade show managers like to attend other trade shows to see what's going and how things are done, as well chat up exhibitors who might also want to hang a shingle at that trade show manager's own event.

So it was no surprise last week to find Andre Varrone - who runs Digital Signage Expo - walking the maze that is Integrated Systems Europe.

Her own show is coming up in just a few weeks, so we agreed to sit down and talk about why she was at ISE, but more to the point, what digital signage people will see at the end of March at DSE.

We found a place up above the crowd, which worked pretty well until near the end, when someone starts singing. Stupid me thought interviewing above the audio area, around happy hours, was clever.

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Jaffer Haider, Poster My Wall

February 7, 2018
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There's no question that making a proper investment in creative is essential to successful digital signage networks, but there's also no question that a lot of small businesses don't have the budget for full motion graphic design work, or wouldn't even know who to ask to do that work.

A few companies have popped up in recent years offering versions of template tools that allow small business people to produce videos for their signs without having any motion graphic design skills. It's fair to say none of them have really caught fire, though at least one is still around. Sixteen:Nine readers may remember my own crack at this, called Spotomate.

PosterMyWall is a Silicon Valley company that has, for several years now, offered online tools that let people build the creative files to make print posters, and digital versions for big social media channels like Facebook.

Now the company has taken the same toolset and made it possible for users to build simple but polished videos from templates, and download them for all of $15. I got the rundown on the product, which was introduced a few weeks ago, from Jaffer Haider, the company's CEO.

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Jason Barak, D3

January 31, 2018
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16:9 just released a Special Report called The Total Guide To Fine Pitch LED. It’s a big, 70 page look at the display technology, coming at it from all kinds of angles.

The free report (you can download it here) came together, in part, because of sponsors - like the major one, custom LED design firm D3. They not only contributed to the report, but two of their main guys went along with me when I went to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Shenzhen, China in November to get a deep look into the companies and technologies.

They go over there a lot, and knew who I should talk to and what I should see. To their everlasting credit, the tour was in no way about them. George Pappas and Jason Barak just wanted to ensure I got a good look, and that I made the most of my limited time over there. Shenzhen is vast and bewildering, so that help was incredibly valuable. Stupid me thought I could get 4 or 5 meetings in per day, but I had no idea about Shenzhen traffic or the sheer geographic scale of the place.

Jason runs the business development, client-facing side of D3, and in the wake of the report coming out, I wanted to catch back up with him to talk about what’s going on in fine pitch LED, which is a LOT.

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Lisa Moore and Hugh Turvey, OOHscreen

January 24, 2018
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Hospital and clinic rooms are rarely places people like hanging around, and digital signage has long been seen as a way to distract and entertain patients, and their family or friends.

A London-based solutions provider called OOHScreen has a very different take on what digital signage should look like and do in those places. Instead of ads for cold remedies and wireless providers, they work with health care trusts in the U.K. to put in screens that are focused on beautiful visuals that ease anxiety and take peoples' minds off why they're even in those waiting rooms. At an oncology clinic that has the set-up, 98% of patients strongly agreed that the screens improved the waiting area environment.

The company's principals used their backgrounds in art and communications to come up with a turnkey service that puts the screens in place, and keeps them fresh with things like custom-developed visuals shot in the surrounding countryside.

I spoke with Hugh Turvey and Lisa Moore about what they do, and why it works.

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Sakchin Bessette, Moment Factory

January 17, 2018
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Fantastic creative is at the heart of any great digital signage project, and when I am asked to rattle off the names of creative shops capable of doing top-level work, Moment Factory is automatically in there.

The Montreal-based creative technology group has evolved from a small collective doing VJing and just, basically, have a fun doing cool stuff, to arguably being the premier multimedia shop on the planet for jobs that involve big screens and projection mapping.

Moment's people projection-mapped the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. That's their work in the LAX International Terminal. And at Singapore's Changi Airport. Moment Factory did the reasonably modest, but awesome, ceiling display in Oakley's flagship store in New York.

Moment does digital signage, but they also do live shows on cruise ships, light up bridges and even design multi-purpose media systems for stadiums.

Saky Bessette, Moment's creative director and one of the founders, was kind enough to take a few minutes from his crazy work days to talk about a company that now has 250 people and offices all over the world, and the thinking behind all that great work.

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Mike Blackman, Integrated Systems Europe

January 10, 2018
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Integrated Systems Europe is now just a matter of weeks away, with the doors to the massive pro AV trade show in Amsterdam set to open on February 6th.

The show has broken attendance records in recent years, and it looks very much like the 2018 number will exceed last year's count of 73,000-plus.

ISE covers off a lot of different technologies, but of the 1,200 or so exhibitors this year, more than a third of them list digital signage as one of their product or service categories. That vendor count is twice the number of vendors who set up at DSE.

I managed to get ISE's managing director Mike Blackman to slow down for a half-hour to talk about why ISE keeps growing, who attends, and what's new and different for 2018.

We spoke by Skype, and unfortunately, the connection is a little chunky in spots. But it's still worth a listen if you are going or want to know more about the show.

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Dan Garner, Xibo

January 3, 2018
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By far the busiest post on the Sixteen:Nine blog is one that lists the many options out there for free, kinda sorta free, or free to start with digital signage CMS software.

One of the oldest - and among the few that are legitimately free - is Xibo, an open source digital signage solution that started as a student project in the UK many years ago.

It's still around and has grown up and dramatically evolved. Xibo is still open source and still fundamentally free, but a company has developed around it to provide supporting services - things like hosting and technical help. The open source Xibo code in its early days was definitely stuff only propellor-heads could make any sense of and use, but Xibo now has friendly installers and easy user interfaces - making it a product anyone can easily work with.

I spoke by Skype with Dan Garner, the student who first developed Xibo in Brighton, England, back in 2004. He now runs the supporting company, Spring Signage.

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Merry Christmas And Happy New Year!

December 27, 2017
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A quick message from podcast host Dave Haynes. Back to regular programming in a week.

Rob Gorrie, Bricks + Matter

December 20, 2017
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Rob Gorrie is among the most digitally-savvy and sharp people I know - some of that based on the DNA of a family that's been doing marketing for more than a century. But it's also based on a pile of real world experience starting and running digital companies.

The one Gorrie's been focused on for the last few years is Bricks + Matter - a Toronto-based strategy consultancy that works with retail brands and shopping centers to figure out all this emerging digital stuff - how it works, what it means and what to do with it.

Digital signage is just part of the technology stack, so to speak, and in this chat we get into what retailers are doing and worrying about, as well as what works and what doesn't. Rob's a blunt realist and he's not afraid to say how a lot of what's been tried in retail - like sticking screens all over the place - simply has not worked.

We also spend some time talking about Adcentricity, which about 10 years ago was trying to somehow organize and represent the advertising avails of the many, many digital out of home ad networks that were out there back then. It didn't quite happen, and we get into why, as well as how that's in many ways still the story.

It's a great chat with a guy who has a lot to say. Enjoy.

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Manolo Almagro, Q Division

December 13, 2017
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Just last week Manolo Almagro pulled the curtains back on a new company he's started, under the umbrella of Chris Riegel's ever-growing STRATACACHE empire.

It's called Q Division, a retail tech consultancy that in many respects is the sum total reflection of 20-plus years that Manny has been around tech, in a crazy variety of ways.

His roots go back to desktop publishing for print, but somehow or other he ended up working with an agency that had McDonald's as a client - and he was behind putting digital menu boards into the QSR chain back in the 90s, before flat panels were even around. They used Macs and big-ass rear-projection cubes to pull it off.

He's since been an early adopter and, in many respects, an evangelist and guru for a lot of emerging technologies for online, mobile and in retail.

I caught up with him late last week, and we had a great conversation that got a little out of control here and there.

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Jin Fan, ClearLED

December 6, 2017
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One of my big takeaways from the trade show circuit earlier this year was my conclusion that transparent LED was starting to look really good.

If you're not with me on what that is, think LED displays that are a bit reminiscent of window blinds, with the LED lights on the louvers. What you end up with, when it's done well, are super-bright, full-color and full-motion LED displays that you can still kinda sorta mostly see through.

The indoor versions go into windows - so you don't have a solid mass like a normal LED or LCD display blocking the view. When they're used outside, they can turn a normal building into a multimedia facade - but again still allowing natural light into the building.

The company that's arguably doing the most in this emerging area is ClearLED, which is based in beautiful Vancouver, B.C. That owes a little bit to CEO and co-founder Jin Fan realizing the company that started in Shenzhen, needed a North American footprint for sales and support. But also because Vancouver is where she's from.

I chatted with Fan recently about the company and technology.

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Antoine Doublet, Deepsky

November 29, 2017
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The last interview and meeting I took on my recent trip to Asia, getting a crash course on the technology and manufacturers doing fine pitch LED, was with Deepsky.

The LED display startup is based in Hong Kong, but has deep French roots, as you’ll be able to pick up easily in the accent of Antoine Doublet. He’s the Head of Global Sales for the company, but an engineer to the core. I rarely talk to someone in a sales function who is as technically sound as Antoine.

Having visited a range of manufacturing plants in the suburbs of Shenzhen and Taipei, it was fairly weird to find myself in an office tower high-rise in the Western New Territories part of the city,  overlooking the harbor. That building serves not only as head office and R&D lab, but down in the basement areas as the core manufacturing facility.

Deepsky is not a typical LED company, nor is the product they are bringing to market. The fine pitch LED displays we all know are made of tiny LED lights surface mounted one by one on circuit boards. Deepsky is using emerging technology, called Chip On Board, that does things very differently, and from Doublet’s perspective, can change the whole LED sign market.

I just had my audio recorder going to spare me from taking notes, but I realized as we chatted that our talk had the makings of a podcast episode.

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Michael Clarke, Citilabs

November 22, 2017
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The digital out of home media industry has been growing rapidly, and as awareness has built, there’s been more and more of a push from brands and media buyers to provide better, deeper detail on the actual audience.

The old way of selling audience for outdoor was gross traffic counts and extrapolations on what they meant. The new way is big data, and a Sacramento company called Citilabs is working with the out of home industry’s main guys on audience measurement, Geopath, to provide what they call a complete knowledge of how Americans move around their country.

When you have a deep understanding of patterns, volumes and demographics, you can fine-tune advertising and make it more effective and attractive.

In this episode, I talk to Citilabs CEO Michael Clarke about what the company does, how it does it, and what that means not only for digital out of home advertising, but for interesting stuff like data visualization.

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Mike Kilian, Mvix

November 15, 2017
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Mvix is another one of those companies in the digital signage ecosystem that ticks along, doing its thing, without making a lot of marketplace noise.

I assumed the software and solutions provider, based in the high tech corridor west of Washington, DC, had maybe 20-25 people. But I found out Mvix has about 70, mostly in the DC area. They also have a sizeable development team in India - not outsourced, but staff.

The company has been around for a dozen years and has put much of its focus on government, healthcare and education, and picked up a lot of business based on an easy to use platform and turnkey services.

I spoke with Mike Kilian, a senior director at the company, about how Mvix goes to market, what they’re up to, and how the company’s platform is opening up to deal with a much wider range of playback devices, like Chromeboxes.

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Sean Levy, MediaSignage

November 8, 2017
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There’s no question that consumers like the word free, and it’s a term that has certainly worked for LA-based MediaSignage, which sees about 100 new accounts opened up everyday for its mostly free digital signage platform.

There are lots of software offers in this business that are free for the first account, but you pay after the second and third, and so on. Or ... the software is free, but if you want more than very basic functionality, you need to send the vendor real money.

In this case, MediaSignage says about 80% of the functionality of its platform is indeed free. And if clients do need the rest of what’s on offer, the most they can pay a month is $100 for an enterprise account, no matter how many players they have in a network.

In this episode, I speak with Sean Levy, one of the two co-founders of MediaSignage. We talk a lot about free, and how that works as a business model. The company has run lean, has no sales people, and leverages the hell out of cloud services. We also get into the technical side of the platform, and talk about where the digital signage marketplace is going.

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Ryan Sterling, GreenScreens

November 1, 2017
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There is a bit of a gold rush aspect to the rise of the cannabis industry in the United States - first in Colorado and now in several states. The rules aren’t all set, but up here in Canada the whole country is supposed to be legalized by next summer.

There’s a lot of money in the business, and a lot of business being done servicing that sector. A handful of digital signage companies, doing various things like content, have started working in the sector, and one of them is a pure-play startup called GreenScreens.

Based in a cannabis-focused incubator in Boulder, Colorado, the company is providing a full signage solution to dispensaries in three states, with designs of being in 500 locations a year from now.

Their screens educate and pre-sell customers, and based on some field experience, move a lot of extra product.

I had a chat with co-founder Ryan Sterling about the origins of the business, the mighty challenge of an industry that is constantly evolving, and the road ahead.

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Peter Cherna, Scala

October 25, 2017
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This week we are doing a little wayback thing, talking to someone who has been working specifically at digital signage for almost 25 years, for a company that’s been at it for 30.

One of the events that’s part of of all the digital signage week things in New York next week is one that’s marking three decades in business for Scala, one of the best known brands in this industry.

Peter Cherna joined the company as a software developer in 1993, and he’s now Scala’s Chief Product Officer - basically the guy making all the decisions around what the content management system does and delivers.

We chatted about the really early days of Scala, which was started in Norway and built at that time off the old Commodore Amiga computer and software platform. He was at Commodore, and like several other developers, got off what was a sinking ship and joined Scala.

We get into a little bit of the history of the company and this industry, but also look at what’s going on with technology these days, and how things are evolving.

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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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Mark Boidman, Peter J. Solomon Company

October 11, 2017
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If you want to get a sense of what’s really going on with the digital out of home media business and the technology ecosystem that feeds into it, you need to pay attention to Mark Boidman.

That’s his gig - looking at the opportunities and risks of the business, as a partner running the marketing services wing of New York investment banking house Peter J. Solomon Company.

That company has been deeply involved in the sector for the last five years, putting Boidman right in the middle of the business as an advisor and the lead on some big mergers and acquisitions.

With me in my home office and him talking at his iPad at the company’s midtown Manhattan offices, we had a great chat about the state of digital OOH and what’s going to happen. We also revisit his lost career as a cruise ship host. No, really.

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