Friday, May 31, 2013


A picture is worth a thousand words. This chart represents the number of current job postings mentioning "Digital Signage" growing from about 400 in the most recent trough to over 1100 over a period of a few months. Digital signage has the potential to be as big, in terms of total screen square footage, a TV sets. Further, the hiring in digital signage reflects new optimism on the part of retailers, increasing investment in promotion of their business.

While digital signage is not the new internet, digital out of home, incorporating social networking and custom tailored message delivery into brick and mortar retailing will help level the playing field between the B&M's and internet retailing.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Privacy Again

Some years ago when low light capability was part of the consumers’ figure of merit for a video camera, Sony decided to push the envelope with their “Night Shot” line. Night Shot had an infrared light and a CMOS sensor sensitive in the infrared. The camera worked well in the dark however there were some drawbacks to the technology. Fashionable clothes are sometimes made with very thin fabrics that are virtually transparent. Fashion designers compensate for this by coloring these clothes black or patterning them so that the transparency is less noticeable... If you are a human being looking with human eyes confined to the normally visible spectrum. If you are an infrared video camera, the black coloring or the patterning may not matter. The outcry from this newly discovered use of the Night Shot caused Sony to immediately modify the camera, adding an IR blocking filter to limit the range the camera could peer.

The privacy concerns raised by Google Glasses are, by comparison, minutia in that you cannot film anything with the device that you couldn’t ordinarily see. In fact, Google Glasses are less intrusive than a cell phone camera in that if you are filming with Google Glasses, it is obvious what you are looking at and may be filming. With a cell phone camera, in or out of your hand... you get the picture. In general f anyone objects to being videotaped, the best advice is to stay at home. The Boston bombers’ mother was arrested for shoplifting at the Boston Lord and Taylor; she was caught on camera. The exact same store seems to have been crucial in tagging her sons for the Boston Marathon bombing as the store video surveillance apparent extends to filming across the street. As Scott McNeally famously said... years ago, “ You have zero privacy anyway.”

In banks today, it is common to have multiple video cameras with multiple screens reminding you that you are being surveilled. In my opinion, this is a poor use of a public information display. The message that you are being surveilled could probably be gotten across 15 second bursts with the rest of the time being devoted to using those screens to promote bank services. This would be equally effective, less "Big Brother-ish," and allow the bank to promote itself better to its patrons. I expect that surveillance will only grow and the banking type public display of surveillance imagery will grow as well. I do not know if the Boston Marathon bombings would have happened if the bombers had realized just how many cameras captured their activities but it would certainly be a concern to shoplifters seeing themselves occasionally pop up on any in-store digital signage. As I noted in a previous post, I expect that the next or some soon Boston Marathon will feature this crime deference feature of coupling surveillance with a publicly mounted display. With or without the public display device, my suggestion is to not do or display anything in public that you would not want filmed.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Apple has not done a major new product intro for the better part of a year and these days, the Apple headlines are about how it avoids paying US Taxes. Sony, the Apple of its day, suggests that it might just be better off selling insurance rather than making electronics. PC sales are declining in favor of much cheaper tablets. Indeed the only excitement in consumer electronics these days seems to be Google Glasses; even there, there are significant questions about whether this may ever be a mainstream consumer product due to concerns about privacy, distracted driving, distracted walking, eyestrain, etc. Ahead, there is possibly an Apple watch, an Apple branded TV set, or some new consumer device from an unexpected source. There is also always the next generation of the iPhone. However, the digital-out-of-home market may be switching its emphasis from stand-alone consumer devices to a more interactive world where those devices are designed more to interact with each other and with public information displays…. digital signage.

Digital signage is one part of electronics that is certain to grow in volume and in scope of its social impact. Near Field Communications (NFC) and possibly other point to point or net linked communications services will offer new ways for retailers or service providers to interact with the public and for the public to interact with each other. With Apple opting out of NFC for its last version of the iPhone, the door is left open for someone with a business model more accommodating for the growth in digital signage, perhaps one of the other electronics companies, perhaps not an electronics company at all. Now is one of those times when someone with a completely new vision can change the direction of consumer electronics, much as Apple did when it jumped into the cell phone market.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Digital Signage Comes of Age

Wrigley Field is the second oldest ball park in the major leagues (Fenway is 2 years Older). The next closest in age is about 50 years its junior. Although the electric light was invented over 110 years earlier, Wrigley did not get lights, for the purpose of playing night games, until 1988. Wrigley still has its old scoreboard where the operator sits inside it with binoculars and has to physically change the numbers with each ball and strike.

This bastion of high technology early adoption is now contemplating adding a 6K square foot Jumbotron. The cost of not having one with its opportunities for advertising and crowd engagement is too pressing.