The sessions: Content Day, Mobile and Gestural Signage, and more
I had the opportunity to speak at sessions for both the "Content Day" track and the "Mobile and Gestural Signage" track on Tuesday, before the expo hall opened. The good news is that the Content Day room was mobbed -- it was standing room only the whole day through -- which means that there are at least 120, maybe 130 people out there who understand how important this stuff really is. That day's festivities began with a creative brief smack-down, with four different creative houses competing for a hypothetical contract with Samsung. There were several other good presentations, including a very interesting and illustrative panel session with a bunch of content lawyers at the end of the day. What I learned from the lawyers: if you're doing anything that effectively allows you to make money off of somebody else's content, you need permission. What I learned from the audience members: many companies are too cheap/small/busy to get permission, so they're going to shoot first and ask permission later.
Image credit: Sid/Stephen
I didn't get to catch much of the Mobile and Gestural Signage event. However, the one event that I did participate in (along with Jay Patel from Bluefire Digital and Stephen Randall from LocaModa) demonstrated that the audience there, if somewhat smaller, was no less enthusiastic and knowledgeable. Between talking to people at that event and noting the number of mobile- and touch-enabled screens on the floor, it's clear that interactive digital signs are the next hot thing. Which means I can dust off that old article about kiosk-signage convergence from 2004 and pretend it's all new :)
The show floor: Solid turnout, a few new toys, and signs of maturity
As I mentioned, I didn't really get a chance to spend a lot of time on the show floor aside from walking to or from meetings. There was a lot of square footage, and a LOT of exhibitors. Conversely, floor traffic looked a bit down from last year (though it might have been an illusion because there was so much empty space). But the folks I talked to were pretty happy with the traffic levels, and generally thought that turnout was good. It certainly could have been much worse given this economy. Every cab driver I came across made an effort to tell me that business was down 30% from last year. I think they were mostly fishing for bigger tips, but I'm sure the story was rooted in truth somewhere.
Aside from lots of new ways to interact with screens, it also seemed like everyone and their brother were also flogging 3D screens of some sort or another. I've been watching those things evolve for years, and this is the first time I've come across one and thought "you know, that might actually work." The manufacturers seem to be figuring out how to improve brightness and viewing angle. I understand they're getting cheaper, too. Along the same lines, the small form-factor, low-power media player seemed to come into its own at this year's expo. There were easily a dozen companies on the floor flogging tiny, fanless boxes for digital signage. Too bad most of them still cost upwards of $1,000. But the trend towards embedded devices and reduced power consumption seemed to be pretty strong.
In all, I was actually kind of satisfied to find myself bored after just a few minutes of perusing booths at the DSE. We're a maturing industry now, and while there are still hundreds of vendors out there essentially trying to solve the same problem over and over, at least now the solutions are starting to look more like one another. Were there new, cool technologies that might be able to make a meaningful contribution to the industry? Absolutely. But the fact that most companies on the floor were offering "better mousetraps" instead of "new paradigms in mousetrap technology" is an indicator that maybe the flood of hype will begin to subside and we can get on to some real business.
Other thoughts and observations
- I was really surprised by the number of people who just walked up to me and said something like "Hey, you're Bill Gerba! I read your stuff all the time!". I'm continually both surprised and flattered by the amount of attention that this blog gets, and I very much appreciate the feedback -- both good and bad -- that you provide.
- DailyDOOH's Adrian Cotterill doesn't care much for fish. He will, however, down deep-fried soft shell crabs with wanton abandon.
- The folks at BroadSign had the good sense to keep Dave Haynes locked up in a small plexiglass box a'la David Blaine for most of the show. Surely they were worried that his célébrité was such that out in the open, he would be overwhelmed by hordes of die-hard fans pleading for his autograph.
- Neither @KioskGuy nor @DigitalSignGuy look like their Twitter icons. @raffivartian and @manolo_almagro do (the latter only recently), as do I (though I'm a bit less blue in real life). By the way, you can follow me on Twitter if you like.
- Speaking of Twitter, one company on the show floor actually issued a two-sentence press release indicating that they were joining the "Twitter revolution." Seriously. Lame.
- Lyle Bunn simply must be two or three different people. No matter where I went in the convention center, every time I turned around he was there, deep in conversation with someone or other. I walk pretty fast, so there's just no other explanation aside from there being at least two Lyle's. Scary -- I know -- but it must be true.
- Consumed too quickly or with too much enthusiasm, DS-IQ's specialty "Optimizer" cocktail will leave you in a decidedly less-than-optimal state, I'm told.
- Despite what many predicted, Scala's Jeff Porter + CoolSign's Lou Giacalone != spontaneous combustion. We had them both in a room for quite some time and there was hardly even a spark. Bummer. Oh well, maybe next time.
What was your favorite conference session, or your favorite booth on the show floor? Leave a comment to let us (and them) know!