Thursday, December 14, 2006

Get your free digital signage software!

Back in 2006 when I first wrote this article, it was just a snarky response to an equally snarky blog post from a fellow industry blogger:

Dave Haynes at Digital View is apparently competing against me for this year's Digital Signage Sarcasm Award (DSSA), and has put up a good fight with this post about free digital signage software from the latest entrant into our already-crowded industry. His take on the newcomer summarized in one line:
I never really thought our business was on the precipice of revolt, waiting for somebody to rise up and stick it to the man. But there you go.
I'm with you, Dave. Our list now has over 300 competitors somehow, and I shudder at the thought of how high that number would be if we were to add in the bulk of our European and Asian competition. While it would seem that the barrier to entry into the digital signage industry is quite low (as evidenced by the number of players in the market), to win any significant business takes not only a great product, but also years of history, expertise in your target market, and of course an absolutely killer staff that your customers will all love (so really, it's like every other B2B market).
However, traffic to this page, compellingly-titled "get your free digital signage software," continues to be pretty steady, and I'm guessing it's not just because you like my style of curmudgeonly humor. No, you're probably here because you're actually looking for digital signage software that is free. Well, there's some good news, and some bad news. First of all, folks, nothing in life is free. I know, I know, the curmudgeon rears its ugly head again, but it's true.

See, there are some open source digital signage packages out there (at least one built for the task, and a few that are bolt-on modifications to popular content management packages like Joomla), and those are generally free as in "free speech" and free as in "no money for this software." Of course, unless you value your time at ZERO, there's still the time it takes to assemble the components, get them running, and then maintain them, and a cost associated with that. Maybe you're an IT pro with Linux kernel hacking skills, and that's no problem. Maybe this is a fun hobby for you, which is great. Or maybe you just have to meet some business objective, and after that you have better things to do with your life.

If you're looking for low cost digital signage software or systems though, there are a fair number of options. Lots of vendors now sell low-cost turnkey packages designed for small networks. And of course, there are plenty more options for digital signage software as a service (SaaS), which you can think of as paying for help with the software (and ancillary stuff like bandwidth, storage, etc.), which might ease your sleep at night. It should certainly improve your operations.

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Cisco enters the digital signage market, acquired Tivella

Cisco, the latest entrant into the rapidly-approaching-Malthusian-style-catastrophe-overcrowded digital signage market, has acquired tiny digital signage software firm Tivella, and will be incorporating their technology into the Cisco product lineup. I predict that this will have much marketing (but little practical) impact on the market, which is more closely resembling a tiny version of the Internet market in 1998.

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Tesco testing electronic shelf-edge labels in two stores

Having already installed about 400 of ZBD's electronic label devices at their South Wigston store in Leicestershire earlier this year, Tesco is expanding the trial to a second store near High Wycombe. As the Retail Bulletin notes:

Tesco began experimenting with ESEL for deli items over a year ago and has been testing the ZBD system at its South Wigston store in Leicestershire, for several months. “Staff and customers in the South Wigston store have already embraced the technology - especially the rich content on each display unit,” says Mark Green, head of counters at Tesco. “The ability of instant price updates as well as the amount of additional product information that can be displayed have had a major impact on staff productivity and the amount of food being thrown away.”
While much attention is given to revenue-generating opportunities for digital signage that involve advertising and marketing, this cost-saving and waste-reducing measure is a unique spin on an old trick.

Tags: retail media, electronic shelf labels, shelf-edge advertising

Automatic keyword tagging for video coming soon

MediaSoon notes that, "the European Union funded aceMedia venture has developed a system to automatically tag or keyword video and image content. They do this by using computer algorithms to analyse the composition of individual frames. Partners in the aceMedia consortium include Motorola, Philips, the University of London and France Telecom."

While the current focus of the project is to help consumers tag their own content (home movies, photos, etc.), there are certainly implications for digital signage and other forms of retail media. For example, a few weeks ago I wrote about the possibility of Google-YouTube automatically providing ads or content to disparate digital signage networks based on some kind of tagging mechanism. While I suggested that Google may want to maually screen the videos, a tool like this could help reduce the work needed to categorize and apply massive amounts of content.

Likewise, digital signage software makers could add this type of technology to their products to allow customers to share spots, content, etc. based on a common tag vocabulary, suggested by the computer, with the opportunity for some hand-tweaking, if necessary. As Paola Hobson, the Project Coordinator at aceMedia says:

“You can’t make money out of content if people can’t find it, and the cost of annotating content manually is enormous. Automatic annotation will help people find what they want, and they would consume more of it.”

They may be thinking about the consumer market, but when it comes to monetizing content search and indexing, the company is sure to find plenty of opportunities in the B2B space.

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Laura Davis-Taylor on the measurement of in-store media

Laura Davis-Taylor recently published a nice piece over at looking at the current state of affairs in retail media measurement, and the need for an appeal to shoppers/customers, and not just the retailers and advertisers pushing retail media systems. My favorite quote:

From the customer lens, just as TiVo users are no longer captive to broadcast advertising, people in-store are also fully in control. They are TiVos on feet – what they don’t care about, they ignore or walk away from. We have to earn their attention and it’s only done via relevant messages or by adding some kind of value to the shopping experience.
Advertising that actually appeals to shoppers? This shouldn't be a new idea, but sadly so many advertisers still don't seem to "get it." There are so many opportunities to stand out and actually add value to the shopping experience, and that seems to be something that many marketers miss. Instead of improving the signal-to-noise ratio, many seem happy to simply have the loudest noise out there.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

WonderVision gives Reactrix some competition

Just ran across this cool blog post about WonderVision, a digital signage offering that (presumably among other things) can project an interactive image onto the floor for customers and random passers-by to interact with. Here's a video clip of the system in action:

As you can see, it's not necessarily destined for retail locations, though the firm claims some benefit (mostly based on the novelty factor, since I'd think it would be hard to shop by dancing around on a 10x10' section of showfloor to get product information or check out).

Wallflower says: ready for world domination

From the "I couldn't make this stuff up" department:

Synergetix, the maker of digital signage software called Wallflower, announced that they were "poised for world domination" in this press relesase. I didn't realize that any of the companies in our industry had yet formed an international alliance of evil, hijacked a sub full of atomic bombs, built a secret headquarters in a volcano, or done any of the other things I associate with such phrases. All sillyness aside, the press release is relatively devoid of news, though it does suggest that (for some, at least), the market is heating up in China, a'la this quote:

"We have been in India for some years now, but China is the most exciting market. We have a number of deals we have been negotiating there for some months."

He declined to give details, but confirmed the company was looking at a deal to drive 65,000 screens, while another could potentially see it involved with a 250,000-screen rollout in the US and UK, but mostly in China. Both deals should be confirmed in the New Year, he said.
I think I'll have to remain skeptical of pre-announced deals for very large networks by companies poised for world domination. Still, there's no doubt that while many companies have focused entirely on the US and Europe, there are established and emerging markets in Asia that deserve some attention.

Tags: Wallflower, digital signage, out-of-home advertising,

VNU To Develop In-Store Measurement Service

After creating quite the commotion about it's P.R.I.S.M store media measurement technique, VNU has decided to take the service live, doing what it calls the "lead-market phase" of the new service in early 2007, with full availability later in the year. From the press release:

The new service, which will be developed through a new unit of VNU known as Nielsen In-Store, will measure consumer exposure to a fast-growing and powerful array of in-store marketing vehicles, including television and radio, shelf talkers, digital signage, and other point-of-purchase displays. Collectively, these in-store marketing approaches stand as the sixth largest advertising vehicle in the U.S., at $18.6 billion in spending in 2005.

The new service will also help retailers improve results through better store layouts, category adjacencies and product selection. “The new information we provide for retailers and manufacturers will help them work more effectively to improve the shopping experience for consumers,” said George Wishart, who has been named global managing director of Nielsen In-Store. “We also will provide the advertising, media and retail industries with a new currency standard that can increase the efficiency of the media buying and selling process.”
The same big names featured in the pilot project are endorsing the full-scale system, suggesting that early results were good. Members of the consortium include 3M, Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, Miller Brewing, Procter & Gamble and The Walt Disney Company, as well as major retailers like Albertsons, Kroger, Walgreens and Wal-Mart.

(Cross-posted at the retail media news blog)

Tags: VNU, P.R.I.S.M, retail media, media measurement, in-store advertising