While the storm system now known as Icepocalypse stranded would-be flyers across most of the east coast leading up to Valentine’s Day, the majority of the digital signage world was enjoying shirtsleeve weather in the Nevada desert at Digital Signage Expo 2014. It was a whirlwind three days, with the progression of events and activities unfolding as expected. As always, the folks from Exponation did a terrific and professional job of organization and execution. I did not have the time (thankfully) to walk the entire floor, so I will leave the reviews of what is new and what isn’t to others. The rumors and gossip were as prevalent (and much more interesting) than the endless press releases. My own observation from it all is that leaders who have built and executed a great strategy, and more importantly focused upon creating a great company, have prospered. Those who have prioritized financial strategies and exits over customers, or have succumbed to opportunism have generally found the brass ring to be out of their reach. That will become self-evident soon enough. Or maybe not soon enough.
At our own booth, we engaged in a number of very interesting conversations, and not just about the same old thing. People responded extremely well to the notion that small is the new big, and many new ideas and use cases came out of those discussions. We also talked a lot about Near Field Communications (NFC), something that has been discussed a few times (Here, here, and here) in this space. In fact, (self-promotion alert) we had tremendous response to our demonstration of the ability to synchronize the behavior of an NFC tag (or group of tags associated with a media player) to the content displayed on screen. When a movie trailer was displayed, a tap of the NFC tag drove the smartphone to Fandango’s site to check local show times and purchase tickets. When a restaurant piece ran, the same NFC tag delivered a coupon for free Mozzarella Sticks to the user. A generic spot for our company appeared, and the same tag drove the user to a web form for more information. People from a variety of networks very quickly realized the value of being able to manage the behavior of a low cost NFC tag. Each came up with specific ideas of how that could be applied in their business. In the end, the ability to dynamically connect on-screen engagement with hand-held computing was an eye opener, and the opportunity to collect very valuable analytical data seemed to be the clincher.
No, NFC is not new, as evidenced by the dates of the above-referenced posts. And yes, until Apple embraces NFC (iPhone 6, please?), the true tipping point of usage is unlikely to materialize. Nevertheless, it is being increasingly adopted, especially outside of North America, and the rate is accelerating. Ironically, the clamor over Apple’s iBeacon and other BLE approaches may be helping to bring people around to NFC. Despite some apparent security issues, many of the Apple acolytes believe that iBeacon may be Apple’s “answer” to NFC, but the jury is decidedly still out on that. In fact, if it becomes as pervasive as some expect, the default setting for most people’s smartphone Bluetooth will very likely become “off”. Here’s a big reason why: