Development of digital signage solution (DSS) technologies and applications has matured over time. To gain more insight into the reasons behind this phenomenon, we have interviewed our European Business Development Manager, Bas Smeets, to discuss about the future trends, significant development of the Digital Signage industry.
- Why do you consider networking with software companies such an important element in our success?
Bas: Software is critically important to our success. Customers have different preferences and want utilities designed to their specific needs. What is appropriate for one may not be good for another. Every customer should think about what they need in a good digital signage system. Different software has different capabilities, for instance, one software solution’s focus may be on delivering advertising. With good relationships with software vendors, we can learn what customers need, have more opportunities to collaborate and gain recommendations from word-of-mouth advertising.
- Are there any special trends or applications in Europe that you don’t see being used in other major markets?
Bas: There may be some special trends that apply not just in the European market, but rather worldwide. For instance, mobility helps content creators distribute their content. Connectivity with mobile devices generates more connections and information gathering, making digital signage applications more interesting. If a customer wants to advertise, they can not only transfer a promotion to the signage panel, but also interact with the end user’s mobile device. This allows an advertising plan to be ubiquitous. Remotivity, or the idea of remote interaction with the signage display itself, as in Kinect technology from Microsoft, is another extension in digital signage use.
- Where is the most prominent market for DSS in Europe (For instance, schools, hospitals, retail, transportation, public spaces, entertainment, and so on)?
Bas: Retail, as it connects directly with human life and daily behaviors, is still dominant in the European digital signage market. It accounts for 50% of the market share and is used in supermarkets, shopping malls, and so on. However, other sectors have more potential in terms of growth, as new technologies and trends allow digital signage applications to expand into new areas. Of course, the corporate market is good, as internal communcations in offices or room scenario monitors require practical solutions. Education is also an interesting market, helping the flow of information control in scheduling and teaching. And museums are an area where exhibit information can be displayed and subscription services offered to audiences.
- In which area or market do you think Advantech’s products can be the most competitive?
Bas: Our products can actually be competitive in every market. For example, in retail, we present the reliability of our products as an advantage. In open areas such as supermarkets and stores, the signage display needs to be available all the time. Therefore, reliability really stands out as a crucial factor for users; a broken system or one that performs poorly will not draw customers. Having a standardized model is also good for large quantity purchases. We strive to make our products indispensible to our customers.
Reliability is especially important in dangerous environments such as certain geographic locations, places with extremely high or low temperatures, and in smoke-filled areas like restaurants. Our products are competitive and fill a market niche not found in other’s products.
- Compared to some of the huge screens displayed in some department stores or in areas like Times Square, how do you think Advantech competes?
Bas: Those types of screens and video walls are produced for specific needs on a project by project basis. Since these business solutions are highly customized and costly, they are quite rare. For Advantech, we like to offer reliable and quantifiable products, designed so a majority of our partners can utilize our solutions in many possible fields. We can also design those large-scale projects by customizing equipment, but they are not pervasive enough for a mass market. Therefore, we prefer to focus more on what our customers need and provide then with the right solutions and best quality.
- What do you think we have done really well so far in Europe?
Bas: In terms of ecosystem, we have done really well in building constructive relationships. Digital signage alone does not satisfy customer demand. They need software, screens, and even peripherals designed to their specifications to give them the machine they expect. We need solid infrastructure to fulfill these system requirements. When involved in a project, we need to focus on the software and other devices a customer prefers and add them into the project’s design. Relationships are of key importance in helping us accomplish any project, even more important in terms of manufacture, design, and assembly.
- What’s next for the Digital Signage Sector in Europe?
We will continue to build relationships. And we are looking for more distributors and channel partners, trying to find more opportunities for collaboration. We hope these partnerships will help us expand the range of digital signage customers and help us understand their different fields and specific needs. Apart from this, we are working with companies such as Philips to build an OPS (open pluggable standard) system that suits both of us. We want to make sure the standard works on each Philips screen. That’s a quick overview of the most urgent things we’re working on at the moment.
Interview to be continued…