Just back from three days in Las Vegas, where the locals are still talking about the disastrous NBA All-Star weekend. The 2007 GlobalShop Conference was certainly more sedate, and from what the cab drivers told us, attracted better tippers. Here are some thoughts based on what was seen and heard at the show.

The digital signage sessions and the digital signage area of the floor both attracted significant traffic, in contrast to previous years. Sessions took on a tone of experiential sharing, rather than pie-in-the-sky forecasts. One topic that came up several times was continuing discussion around measurement. It seems that the advertisers and their agencies are anxious to evaluate out of home networks in terms and measures that are analogous to traditional media outlets. In quizzing several neutral parties, none questioned the efficacy of digital signage. We are clearly over that hurdle. At issue is the relative value of one network to another, one location to another, even one day part to another. Measurement services will begin to emerge, as discussed in a previous entry entitled “Wallet Share: Measuring the Impact of Digital Signage”. Of equal importance, analytical tools such as DS-IQ’s Uplift Analytics Service will enable retailers in particular to make some sense of the combination of media player logs and POS data.

The exhibit floor of a tradeshow is a wonderful barometer of how digital media has become an accepted and expected part of business and everyday life. The vast majority of booths had at least one digital display, and many booths had several. I found it ironic that there were lots of booths with mannequins, fronted by digital displays. As we saw at NRF’s X07 exhibit in January, the day is not far off where the customer will become his/her own mannequin! With so many displays flashing as you walk the aisles, never was it so clear that content is, and always will be, king. Don’t take shortcuts there.

Speaking of exhibits, I was encouraged by the evolution of the Digital Store section of the show. There was a lot for attendees to take in, and needless to say, lots and lots of large digital screens. What struck me was what wasn’t on display in most digital signage technology booths: the media players. At RDM’s booth, our workhorse NEOCAST Media Player XF and HD-ready NEOCAST Media Player Z were perched on small shelves under our two 32” screens. We like to talk about purpose-built appliances with embedded software that are in fact media players and nothing else. It occurred to me that the hidden players in other booths were hidden for a reason: they are off-the-shelf PCs loaded with add-on software to give them media player capabilities. Therein lies the rub: they are PCs first and always, and calling them anything else is questionable semantics. I would hide them too, if they were part of our solution. The truth is, not a lot of retail CIOs relish the thought of remote management of hundreds or thousands of unattended PCs. We consider ourselves a software-centric solutions company, and part of our solution is deployed as embedded firmware on the rugged media player appliance platform. Why hide it in a cabinet if it works?