Digital Signage Expo 2016 ended almost a week ago but here at the office, we’re still thinking (and talking) about the cool stuff we saw. And we’re also still recovering from the overwhelming sensory assault of walking a show floor covered with a dizzying array of displays. So it’s fitting that we start with what we saw from display manufacturers:

The Immersive See-through World

A giant showcase of display screens, the Digital Screens Expo (eh!) floor was brightly lit up with stunning LEDs and OLEDS, flat and curved panels, ginormous videowalls and sophisticated IFSs (individual function screens). If there was some “real” innovation in the room, it was aptly visible in the revolutionary screens and displays – across shapes and technologies. The cutting-edge transparent OLEDs have eliminated the need for a backlight or enclosures, making it possible to create truly frameless glass design and hence see-through installations.

Digital Signage Expo 2016

Micro pixel pitch LED panels are now competing with multi-screen HD video-wall LCD screens, which in turn compete with extra large (84in+) single panel 8K screens.The non-standard form factors of OLED screens are now attracting the same eye-balls which have been fascinated with the LED tiles until recently. The future is indeed bright, when we see these overlapping technologies creating immersive experiences than merely creating walls of glass and color.

Digital Signage Transparent Display

It is exciting to be living through the era where displays are defying decade-old constraints of size, shape, color, opacity, and above all costs. Without a doubt, display screen technology is the dominant driving force behind the double-digit growth in digital signage.

More Educated End Users

A recent blog of ours explored how digital signage is now a “must have.” Where organizations used to consider it a “maybe” item, it is now a necessity. Pilots are becoming rollouts, creating a chain reaction where more organizations are buying bigger. A lot of vendors at DSE expressed the same sentiments. End users are becoming more comfortable with the technology so they’re buying more. They’re also getting more innovative in how they’re using the technology. They’re migrating from simple slideshows to professionally produced content that’s dynamic and highly targeted. They’ve matured and are shifting focus from the CAPEX to ROO and ROI.

Digital Signage as a Service

We also noticed a huge focus on solutions — and not products — by the vendors. This was made possible by a lot of partnerships — display and media player manufacturers are partnering with mounting solution companies for mounts, media companies for content, etc. Yes, the vendors highlighted their own tech, but they’re also showing off the work they do with partners to craft custom hardware, software and content, to provide end-to-end solutions. They’re also highlighting the services offered e.g. managed services.

So digital signage is becoming more of a service than a solution (there was actually a session on Day 2 by Intel and Accenture about Digital Signage as a Service).

Vendors want to, and should, position themselves as turnkey solution providers. However, this shift to solution/service can also be attributed to an interesting trend in large enterprises. These organizations are outsourcing digital signage to professionals so they can focus on their core business operations. They want the digital signage companies to provide a layer of management and fill gaps in content consistency on mobile, website and physical. Accenture observed that this approach gives the organizations one point of accountability for network design, content production, installation, custom integration, managed services, ongoing support etc.

Experience, Experience and more Experience

Experience was also a big theme among vendors. The sessions discussed it and vendors talked about it. We all know digital signage has great impact on customer experience — studies have reported high customer recall and satisfaction rates.

Reading about it is one thing, but seeing it in action is another. Samsung had mirror displays that of course acted as mirrors but also displayed promotion content.

Planar had a translucent display that was placed in front of a mannequin. There were other solutions that allowed attendees to virtually try on clothes without changing.

The idea is simple: digital signage is about the experience, the experience is not about digital signage.

Instead of using the technology as a “digital prop” to distract the customer, vendors are positioning the technology as forming part of the experience.

When done right, the customer doesn’t notice or think about the technology because they’re just enjoying the experience.

Digital Signage Look Thru Display

More Data = Content Automation

Content is NOT king, Fresh content IS King. All content providers on the show floor agreed on this. There were more creative companies than we have seen in the past, a testament to the importance (and profitability) of content in digital signage.

When screens show the same slideshow, video etc. over and over, viewers become desensitized to the screens, and the digital signage network loses value. Content automation feeds the screens with new, fresh content, and viewers will seek out the displays.

We saw and heard content providers, and even CMS providers, talk about forming relationships with data providers, and building digital signage widgets that automate the delivery and display of the data. The widgets give two layers to digital signage: the data layer, where they automatically pull the data, and the visual layer, where they provide an option of themes for displaying the data in a visually engaging format. We have been doing this for a while now, and it’s great to see the industry finally catching on.

Overall, DSE 2016 did not disappoint. We saw Slimmer, Faster, Easier, and More WOW digital signage. We have seen enough “regular” displays out in the marketplace so the DSE show was a great opportunity to show more unique and solutions.