As both of my loyal readers will recall, I like to make annual digital signage predictions long before filler content from others clutter the December Twitter streams and blog rolls. Because this blog does not accept sponsors, I am unable to enlist the help of Nate Silver to validate any of the predictions. For what it is worth, I did conduct a couple of Monte Carlo simulations, a bit of regression analysis, and a deep dive into the signal-to-noise ratio in digital signage… noise won. Oh, and I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express, but not last night.
No set of predictions is complete with out owning the last set, for better or for worse, so let’s have a look at how last year’s predictions turned out:
- Collateral damage: I predicted that two businesses of note would fail in the coming 12 months based on falling rates for both advertising and SaaS subscription rates. I could take the easy route and suggest that the Wireless Ronin acquisition of Broadcast International was a tacit failure of BI, while the subsequent capitulation acquisition of Ronin by Creative Realities (see #7) was the same, but arguably neither was caused by market prices. Near miss.
- Android profusion turns to Android confusion: Without doubt, there was significant uptake of Android-powered devices in the past year, but at the same time, many serious buyers have expressed concern about control, support, and upgradability and therefore deferred adoption. Android isn’t going away, and there are clear applications for which it is appropriate. However the introduction and likely rapid slide down the cost curve of Intel’s Baytrail family of processors (and its successors) may represent something more comfortable for many buyers, especially corporate types. Hit
- Big guys do some rethinking: This prediction centered on Samsung’s SoC strategy and Intel’s RCM venture. Without doubt, the whole RCM adventure has had a first year that can only be described as abject failure. According to reports, a planned deal with RMG Networks fell apart, and the normally tweet-loving Intel has been on radio silence for months with regard to RCM. As for Samsung, they did indeed beef up the latest version of their SoC displays, but have not yet opened the environment to mainstream CMS software. But they have stepped up the marketing on MagicInfo, their own software. Hmmmmmmm. Hit
- HTML ascends, Flash continues it descent: Without doubt, this has happened, and will continue to change the way content is produced going forward. Hit
- Analytics finally become important: More and more networks are using data to drive content decisions, and more and more solutions are appearing to enable that. While the prediction envisioned more use of POS and external data, the largest movement has come in the use of mobile data. The other place where data has become important? Programmatic buying, which just uses a different set of data to achieve its goals. Near miss
- Size matters: I suggested that small would be the new big, and that small form factor screens would begin to proliferate and establish new use cases for digital signage. We have seen a number of networks begin to mix screen sizes based on use case, and the introduction of many all-in-one devices with a variety of smaller sizes in the marketplace. Is it a takeover yet? No. Is it happening, Yes it is. Hit
- New models emerge: The prediction that the RMG Networks IPO would spawn attempts at riffs on the theme. This certainly happened in a very public way with the Creative Realities deal in which CRI acquired the public shell of what was once Wireless Ronin, which had in turn acquired the distressed Broadcast International. While the end game is not clear to me, the shift in business model certainly is. Hit
Final score: 5 hits, 2 near misses. Better than usual. So does that make it a trend or an aberration? Where is Nate Silver when you need him?
With the scorekeeping done, it is time to move on to a forward look with seven predictions for the coming twelve months. Let the games begin.
- Proximity marketing gets closer: Clearly, iBeacons and NFC are technologies that are sparking tests, concepts and consternation among digital signage network operators and software providers alike. In the coming year, Apple will unlock its NFC chip, opening up a wave of adoption. iBeacon tests will proliferate. Both approaches will endure, but with differing use cases. There does not appear to be a clear path to integration with digital signage for the push technology, iBeacon. The pull technology of NFC, bolstered by payment systems, will have more relevance to digital signage as there are logical integration points.
- Content rationalization steps forward: As mentioned above, HTML has won the battle for the hearts and minds of both content producers and software providers. The coming trend in content will be automated tools for autocorrecting content encoding to optimize playout on digital signs or other platforms. We’ll also see tools for making assets useful across mediums (responsive) in an automated way. I’ve already had a sneak peek at one, and it will make more sense as digital signage, web and mobile converge more than ever
- Sun Tzu comes to digital signage: The writings of the ancient Chinese general have defined the Art of War for millennia, and often translate well to business. His work is required reading in many companies and business schools globally. I believe we are seeing a well thought out battle plan being executed in our industry. In terms of specifics, all I can say is that some people want it all, and they will use others (“partners”) as human bridges from Point A to Point B (for the end game on bridges, see quote 3 below). Here are three quotes from Sun Tzu, that some may find enlightening… or scary:
“Those skilled at making the enemy move do so by creating a situation to which he must conform; they entice him with something he is certain to take, and with lures of ostensible profit they await him in strength.”
“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”
“When your army has crossed the border, you should burn your boats and bridges, in order to make it clear to everybody that you have no hankering after home.”
- It is, and will remain Digital Signage: There has been a call in several industry conferences for us to re-brand what we do as “Public Video”. Despite the credibility and track record of the primary purveyor of this concept, it is not going to happen. Predictably, one software company desperate for attention immediately jumped on the bandwagon by creating a twitter handle with Public Video appended to its brand. Yawn. What are we going to do, rebrand a number of journals, blogs and websites with PV (which to me is sadly evocative of HPV, but I digress)? Will the DPAA, nee OVAB, become the PVAA? As one wise person said to me recently, you have to leave your bait in the water if you want to catch fish. Let’s stop reeling in the industry and renaming it. It will still be digital signage a year from now, no matter what some big prospect wants to call it.
- NYDSW becomes a fixed part of many marketing budgets: This is a layup. With DPAA’s Annual Summit now officially part of a week that includes the NEC Showcase, the DailyDOOH Investor Conference, many open houses, receptions, seminars and this year the first DSE ONE event, the New York Digital Signage Week is here to stay. The happening that I like to call the Digital Signage Olympics will attract more and more industry players to New York to learn, network, sell, and otherwise engage with the industry. It is going to grow in importance and attractiveness, and that is nothing but a great development for digital signage.
- Consolidation accelerates: This sounds like a broken record, but the number of deals on the network and vendor sides has dramatically picked up in the past 18 months, and I expect it to accelerate even more. M&A activity will dominate, and there will be some quiet and not-so-quiet instances of doors being shut. Look for lots of personnel movement as well, as redundancies from M&A deals and cuts from dying entities will see some musical chairs going on at many levels.
- Programmatic, or Problematic?: The buzz around programmatic buying has reached unprecedented levels. At issue is both the definition of programmatic (is it real time bidding, or something much broader?), and whether digital signage must embrace and adopt the online exchanges to survive and prosper. I don’t think we will have an answer to either question in the coming year. There is no standard approach from platforms aimed at digital signage, and the adoption of online tools is no small task. One other issue is that the percentage of new digital signage networks that are ad supported is dramatically lower than has historically been the case. The rise of brand-centric networks does not increase the need for programmatic buying. It will remain a dilemma.
Well, that is seven for ’15. Leave a comment and let me know where you agree and disagree, and what I missed. We’ll keep score next year.