40 episodes

This podcast is the audio extension of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that's been documenting the growth and filtering the BS of the digital signage industry since 2006.

Sixteen:Nine - All Digital Signage, Some Snark Sixteen:Nine

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This podcast is the audio extension of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that's been documenting the growth and filtering the BS of the digital signage industry since 2006.

    Gavin Smith, Voxon

    Gavin Smith, Voxon

    When I was at the big ISE pro AV trade show a few weeks ago, I yet  again saw several products that were billed as holograms, even though they didn't even loosely fit the technical definition.
    I am always paying attention to news and social media posts that use that terminology, and once in a while, I come across something that actually does start to align with the true definition of holograms and holography. Like Voxon, which operates out of Adelaide, Australia.
    Started years ago as a beer drinking and tinkering maker project in a garage, Voxon now has a physical product for sale that generates a visual with depth that viewers can walk around and see from different angles.
    That product is mainly being bought by universities and R&D teams at companies to play with and learn, but the long game for Voxon is to produce or be the engine for other products that really do live up to the mainstream, Hollywood-driven notion of holograms.
    I had a great chat with co-founder and CEO Gavin Smith.
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    Gavin, thank you very much for joining me. I know you're up in Scotland, but you are based in Adelaide, Australia, correct?
    Gavin Smith: Yes, that's right. I'm originally from Scotland. I grew up here, spent the first part of my life in the north of Scotland in Elgin, and then I went to university in Paisley, Glasgow and then eventually, after working for 10 years in the banking sector, I immigrated to Australia and I've lived in Adelaide for the last 14 years. 
    That's quite a climate shift! 
    Gavin Smith: Yes, it is a climate shift. I was speaking to my wife the day before, and it was about 40 degrees there, just now they're having a heat wave, whereas up in Elgin here, it's about 1 degree at the moment.
    Yeah. I'm thinking, why are you there in February? But on the other hand, why would you wanna be in Adelaide if it's 40 Celsius? 
    Gavin Smith: I quite like the cold. I prefer to be in this temperature right now than 40 degrees, that's for sure. 
    Oh, I just spent 45 minutes with my snow machine clearing 25 centimeters of snow off my driveway, so I wouldn't mind being in Adelaide today.  
    Gavin Smith: Thankfully I can have the best of both worlds. I'm heading back there in about a week and a half time. 
    I was intrigued by your company. I saw a couple of LinkedIn posts with embedded videos and thought that's interesting and I wanted to speak more. So can you tell me what Voxon does? 
    Gavin Smith: Yes, sure. So Voxon is a company that started in about 2012-2013, and it came out of two joint research projects. One was me and my friend Will, based in Adelaide, we had a Thursday Night Lab Session, as we called it, where we went to the shed and we drank a few beers and we tried to invent things. It was a bit weird, science-esque.
    So this wasn't exactly a lab? 
    Gavin Smith: It was a shed. Let's face it, with a beer fridge and there was a lot of machinery, which was in various stages of repair. We used to get hard rubbish off the right side of the road in Adelaide and take it apart and see what we could make. 
    It was just amateur invention hour. But it was at the start of that project, we built fairly rudimentary machines, CNC machines and we took apart laser scanners and were just inquisitive about how they work from a mechanical point of view. But that then turned into more of a, let's see how far we can push ourselves and learn new stuff, and we've been inspired by sci-fi, Star Wars, all those sorts of things. So we said, let's try and make the sort of 3D display that we'd seen in the movies and those science fiction movies always had the same type of display, and that wasn't a screen, that wasn't a headset. It was always some sort of floating image that you could walk around and you could look out from any direction and the common name for that in popular media was a holographic display. That's w

    • 46 min
    Brandon Harp, Electrosonic

    Brandon Harp, Electrosonic

    When I see an ambitious new visual display project lit up at a new or reno'd airport, office tower or attraction, I just about assume that if it's in the US, the company that put it in is probably Electrosonic.
    The company is, technically, an AV systems integrator, and there are lots of them out there, of all sizes. But where corporate meeting spaces, control rooms and reception areas are the day-to-day work for most of those companies, the bread and butter work for Electrosonic is in locations where experience is the primary consideration and mindset.
    The company - which has offices in the US, Europe and Asia - has a ton of experience and expertise in delivering AV and IT jobs that involve more than getting infrastructure in place. They work a lot with creative design and technology shops who are fantastic at the big ideas and compelling visuals, but want and need to hand off the install to a seasoned team.
    I had a great chat about Electrosonic with Brandon Harp, a senior business development manager working out of the company's New York offices.
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    Brandon, thank you for joining me. Can you give me the rundown on Electrosonic and what it does that's different from a lot of the AV integrators who are out there? 
    Brandon Harp: Sure. Thanks, David. I appreciate you having me on the podcast. I've been a longtime admirer of your content and so forth, so I've been following you for many years, so I really appreciate the opportunity.
    So Electrosonic is a technology professional services firm. We design, build and support innovative technology solutions that create unforgettable experiences where people live, work, and play for many years. You probably know of us from the museum and the theme park world but we've expanded over the years and have really started to focus solely on immersive and experiential environments, and so for us, we're a bit of a specialized firm. We do consider ourselves still a boutique-style AV systems integrator, but the kinds of projects that we work on are global level and span a multitude of different industries, including corporate and retail and attractions and a multitude of others.

    You said you expanded into this from museums and those kinds of attractions. Was that a conscious decision or is that just where the business was going? 
    Brandon Harp: Right after Covid, we made a decision to go back to our roots, which were always these complex sort of custom environments that we had been working in for many years, which our clients best knew us for. We've done away with just the kind of typical hang-and-bang conference room projects. We still do a portion of those if there is an element to a more project that fits better into our scope. But we've really done a good job, I think, as a company of being able to identify where our strengths are and where we can really add value for our customers. And that is really in that experiential and immersive sort of environment working with video walls, various different interactives, projection mapping, and things of that nature. 
    Is it a situation where you don't really want to do the meat, potatoes, boardroom, collaboration displays, all that sort of stuff because there's no money in it or minimal money in it, or is it just not terribly interesting?
    Brandon Harp: I think it's a combination of all those things, Dave, I think with the standard corporate conference rooms, it's really become a race to the bottom, and we just as a company have recognized where our strengths are on delivering these projects and really our delivery model best lends itself to more of these custom really high-end engineering projects where we need a certain level of technical ability that not all integrators have, and so those are the kinds of projects that we're setting our sights on, and that's the ones that we continue to get hired for becau

    • 46 min
    Mark Ossel, Global Signage Alliance

    Mark Ossel, Global Signage Alliance

    When I was doing my initial recon walk through the many halls of ISE a few weeks back, I went by a stand that was highlighting something called the Global Signage Alliance, which was unfamiliar to me and made me curious.
    The stand's occupants weren't there, and I was on the go, so I never got a chance to get filled in at the show. But I asked some questions and made some contacts after the fact. I assumed this was a Euro-centric version of the Digital Signage Federation. There have been 2 or 3 of those, I think, and maybe this was another. But it turns out that's not what the GSA, as it is called for short, is all about. It's a formalized user community for Samsung digital signage software and smart display products.
    The cynic in me thought "OK, this is kinda like big pharma and energy companies that form institutes." Imagine me doing air quotes around institutes. But that's not what this is, according to GSA chairman Mark Ossel. He says the organization was initiated out of common needs among companies - starting in the Netherlands - who wanted to share information, ideas and business opportunities ... who were all, also, using Samsung's CMS software MagicINFO, or Samsung's smart signage displays. It's the shared purpose, strength in numbers thing at play here.
    However, Ossel did say that Samsung does now provide some financial support. This makes sense, at least to me. A user group has the interest and mission to stay closer to a product and its evolution, as opposed to being disparate end-users that end up with new functions or features just getting dropped on them by a technology company. Which happens.
    For Samsung, they can be closer to some key customers and support a user community, without perhaps doing as much heavy lifting to build and nurture that community.
    Have a listen.
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    Mark, thank you for joining me. Can you tell me what the Global Signage Alliance is all about? 
    Mark Ossel: Yeah, my pleasure, thanks for asking. The Global Signage Alliance is a user group, meaning a group of companies, and individuals from the digital signage world, coming from the creative side, coming from the services side, or being an end-user company using digital signage. So it's all kinds of companies who basically come together in the organization. It's a nonprofit organization, on a global scale, to exchange information, and share experiences but at the same time where there are opportunities to work together because these days more and more opportunities cross country boundaries as well as of course cross the own area of specialism. So you want to join forces with other companies to basically be able to fulfill the requirements of a proposal, tender, or procedure where you basically need to combine hardware, software, services, implementation, installation, integration, whatever it is, beyond what your own capabilities are.
    So it's working together as well and then last, but not least, joining forces for marketing events or all kinds of exposures, which we jointly do to promote digital signage and the capabilities of the group. Moreover, the group as well secures the quality of what is being delivered by, in fact ensuring training to employees, and staff members, raising the bar in the quality of what is being delivered.
    In the future, we want to create a quality stamp to let the market and the buyers know that these are companies that have the right skills to deliver a quality solution. 
    What's the backstory? Where did this come from? 
    Mark Ossel: It started in the Netherlands with a few companies in digital signage who basically understood that it makes sense to work together as well as to exchange experience, and information sharing and those companies had in fact an informal network, then it was growing with other companies across Europe, and then basically, yeah, it came to the poin

    • 46 min
    John Hoyle, Sook

    John Hoyle, Sook

    If an entrepreneur or an established brand wants to open a temporary pop-up store on a busy retail street, there's a lot of planning, work and cost involved in making that actually happen.
    So what if there was a retail space in a high profile location that could be rented for as short a time window as an hour ... that uses LCD video walls and software to establish the look and feel of the shop?
    That's the operating premise behind Sook, an interesting UK start-up that has digital-first spaces for rent in attractive locations around the UK, including London's retail-lined Oxford Street.
    I visited that Oxford Street location when I was in London recently, and had a good chat with Sook founder and CEO John Hoyle.
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    John Hoyle: So it's really easy to quickly create a clean and bespoke environment and so that means you can literally do whatever you want in these places. It's a space that is as much about non-retail uses as it is about retail. It could be somewhere to have a screening of a movie, it could be somewhere to do yoga, pilates, or meditation or it's a shop in the more traditional form. 
    The whole rationale behind this is that if you facilitate hourly access to units like this, which would otherwise be empty, you can actually drive three to five times more revenue than a traditional lease because you are making use of the time before, you know, standard rent is over a 10-year period, deeply inefficient because someone sits in a space and expects there to be effectively making all of their money on in the peak hours whenever those are, which is like a Saturday. Using this you can drive your own footfall, drive different peaks across 120 hours of the week and generate more revenue, as well as make it much more efficient for occupiers to come and engage with the space. 
    It's completely modular. You can take this entire fit-out away and move it elsewhere. It's all free-standing so there's a selection of furniture. You can see the hanging rails and shelving units here which makes it super easy for someone to come and self-serve if they want to. So using QR codes, you can learn exactly what you need to do, full WiFi, utilities, audio, et cetera, anyone can come quickly turn this into a space to use for whatever they want. These modules obviously can be disassembled and moved to another space. So we don't take leases. We are just a device that operates as an asset management tool within specific spaces. If a landlord wants to move us, they can, there's a small cost associated with that, but it's much more economically and environmentally sustainable to have this fit-out that can be reused in multiple other locations.
    This one is slightly compromised because we're over two stories and the rear loading is in the basement. It actually works better on one level with a big back of the house. It's a bit like a theater set. All of the physical preparation happens out back so that you can efficiently roll into the space for your activation. 
    I'll show you downstairs. Everything that’s here, we can take away. There’s storage out back, but this has been everything from a rave for Jaegrmeister who launched a party, to the launch of a High Streets Reports by a big industry insider to a salsa dancing class. So it's all about using the same space for multiple different activations and doing it in a way that allows digital content to drive how you make that place appropriate.
    That's why it's interesting to me that they have started to add digital screens to retail kind of after the fact and now we're in the situation where you have people who look like this, that are setting up pop-up retail with digital as the enabling part of it. So you can change the feel of a store, change the message, and everything else with a few keystrokes. 
    John Hoyle: Absolutely. If you think about where the brands of

    • 46 min
    Ben Maher, Outernet London

    Ben Maher, Outernet London

    I spent a few days in London, UK ahead of Integrated Systems Europe - in part to break up the trip and flights, but much more so to meet with several companies and see some projects that I'd only been able to see in photos and videos.
    The one I particularly wanted to see was Outernet London, a very ambitious, multi-faceted development in the city's center that has, as its visual centerpiece, a huge set of wall and ceiling LED screens that are fully open to the public and positioned in such a way that they can't be missed as people flow from a main exit of the busy Tottenham Court Road Underground station.
    I assumed, wrongly, that this exists primarily to run Digital Out Of Home advertising and compete with big screens like those in nearby Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus. But there is much more to Outernet, as I learned walking and talking with the developments Chief Commercial Officer, Ben Maher.
    The audio may be a bit hit and miss, as we did this on the go and in the crowds that were there even on a chilly January afternoon.
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    Ben Maher: We have this incredibly famous set of assets on this side of the district, which is Denmark Street. So as a business, we've been a landlord on Denmark Street for over 25 years looking after the music stores and we've made, as we said, a huge number of acquisitions, meaning that we own nearly all of the property there by Parcel two or three, and we run a baker for Baker Policy. So if we lose a music store, we replace it with music because we wanna maintain it, sorry, I don’t know how familiar you're with Denmark Street, but as an asset, we wanna maintain this as one of the nice, iconic music streets in the world. 
    The first music store opened in 1911, Charlie Chaplin wrote the song, Smile here in 1926. The Melody Maker was founded here in 1954. The Enemy was found here. The owner of the Enemy went around the street with a ledger of all of the music that was sold, and that became the first-ever music chart, which was compiled on this street.
    Elton John had his first job as a runner here, and it was the home of the labels, the writers, it was the home of the lawyers, and the management, so people would hang out here in the hope of being discovered. But importantly, talent would wanna be discovered and they'd hang out in the cafe here, this was called the Gioconda Cafe and you'll see Tim Hannaly, the home of British music. But importantly it would be people like Marc Bolan, it would be Jimmy Hendrick, and David Bowie moved and converted an ambulance onto the street and lived here. So it really was an incredible, authentic crucible for music. We’ve maintained the music stores. We put in a 55-room luxury hotel residence, so you stay in the rooms where Frankie Fraser, the Richardson, the Gangland fame, their bar, which was called the Pannaly Bar. Number six Here, out the back is the News House that Malcolm McLaren rented for the Sex Pistols. So you can now stay in that, that's the Anarchy Suite. It's complete with their original graffiti. 
    Did big pressure wash it down? 
    Ben Maher: No. For better or worse, it's there and it's good. It has a great two listings on it now, but again, in a building like this, incredible history, and Hypnosis were based here. They were the world leading album cover designers. So they created album covers for the likes of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon was created in that room.
    When you stay in the rooms, they have names. Like Hypnotized for that room, and then Kiss the Sky is the name of the room where Hendrick used to jam. This is the store where Bob Marley bought his most famous guitar, which was destined for a dustbin for a car mechanic from Essex. This is where the Stones did some of their first-ever recordings and people recorded here all the way through to the likes of the Brit Brats, Ade

    • 46 min
    Ted Romanowitz, Futuresource Consulting

    Ted Romanowitz, Futuresource Consulting

    Ted Romanowitz has been around the commercial display and tech sectors for a whole bunch of years, and for the last two or so, has been an industry analyst for the research firm Futuresource Consulting.
    Futuresource is in the UK, but Ted works out of the Portland, Oregon area - spending his time looking at professional display technologies, ranging from projectors to mini and microLED video wall products.
    He was at CES and he'll be at ISE this week, meeting with manufacturers and walking the halls, seeing what's new and interesting.
    We had a good chat about where the different display technologies are at, and how miniLED is seeing a lot of traction for fine pitch LED displays. We talk projection and we spend quite a bit of time discussing the state and vast potential for microLED.
    One thing I particularly liked was his qualifier about "true" microLED, as all kinds of manufacturers market their premium products as microLED, when they're really miniLED.
    Ted, thank you for joining me. Can you explain what you do for Futuresource and what Futuresource is all about? 
    Ted Romanowitz: Oh, I'd love to do that. I'm a principal analyst at FutureSource Consulting in our business-to-business (b2b) practice. I lead the entire professional display Segment. So we cover everything Projection, LCD panels, tiled LCD, and interactive displays, as well as my forte, as you may know, is LED. I have more than 10 years of industry experience in LED with Planar, Leyard and Christie Digital. It's wonderful. There's a lot going on in pro displays right now. 
    So what would you be doing primarily? Are you producing research reports? Are you talking to companies? You know, what's your day-to-day?
    Ted Romanowitz: We do three really big things. One, we do quarterly trackers for all these technologies. So you can look at the data by company, by specification, by country, and comparatively by brand. We also do annual reports. We've just published a video wall report as well as a strategic market outlook. We've got a big digital signage report coming in the springtime. We're looking forward to publishing that, as well as a refresh of our true micro-LED report coming in the first half of the year.
    So we do a lot of annual reports, and then the third bit is custom research. So if there are any companies out there that have a specific business need for the information, they can reach out to me and we'd love to talk to them about a one-off type of project to get the analytics that they need to make an informed business. 
    How hard is it to get the data from all the different display manufacturers and to talk about their sales and their market size? 
    Ted Romanowitz: It is definitely a challenge and I think, especially during the Covid timeframe, to keep relationships established has been challenging. We just came back from a major trip to the Asia Pacific in November, so we were literally the first company meeting these large pro AV vendors in Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. We spent two weeks over there face-to-face and you just can't say enough about building face-to-face relationships and having those conversations and that's why we're so much looking forward to ISE this year, getting everybody back together. 
    So when you say you are the first company, what do you mean by that? 
    Ted Romanowitz: A lot of these vendors haven't had research companies or other people come and visit them face-to-face. So they were really glad, almost ecstatic to have us show up at their doorstep for a meeting. It was wonderful to rebuild a lot of relationships. It's so much different to do it face-to-face. It's more meaningful.
    As opposed to at a table in a trade show booth?
    Ted Romanowitz: That's also face-to-face, so I think those are good as well. 
    It's hard to get good data, setting yourself aside, there are one or two other companies that are focused on this, but there's this avalanche or a steady torrent of crap coming out of research factories from India. Do you have to fi

    • 46 min

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