As a distributor of presentation and production technologies, we are often asked our thoughts on the market for 4K. One of the related factors regularly cited is the availability of 4K content, or lack thereof. The May issue of Videomaker magazine, does a nice job of addressing 4K from the content creators perspective. The issue focuses on the pros and cons of entering the market, unexpected challenges, system requirements, etc. If you make videos and are considering the switch to 4K, consider taking a look. It will give you some food for thought as you consider your next steps.
Every day at Almo Pro A/V, a major part of my job is being a “coach” to the team here by setting goals and helping us to achieve them. What some of you might not know is that I’m also a real volunteer athletics coach at Johns Hopkins University.
Swimming has always been a passion for me throughout my life, whether it was competing in college, being a summer league coach, watching my three children compete, or swimming at Masters’ nationals.
I was very fortunate 5 years ago to be invited to be a volunteer swim coach at my alma mater, Johns Hopkins University. George Kennedy, a great coach and a close friend, is entering his 30th year of coaching at JHU. He and I used to have a lunch after the end each season and he would fill me in on how the team did at the NCAA championships. During one of these lunches I told him that I had always had a dream to retire early and come back to Hopkins as an assistant coach.
At that time my old company, was just about to go out of business, which ultimately ended any hopes of an early retirement. George said that he would be happy to have me on deck as a volunteer and that I could come in one day a week or more if I wanted. I told George jokingly that I would agree to this offer as long as he would agree to double my salary each year (which is $0). George has lived up to his side of the bargain!
I really look forward to Saturday mornings which is the primary time that I coach. I also coach at the early Monday morning practices. Being on deck at 6 am is a little too early for me, but don’t let the swimmers know that. Sometimes I will run the entire practice for the entire team, but for the past few years George has had me primarily working with our distance swimmers.
The first year I coached our team our men finished 11th in the country and our women finished 21st. George and I spent a lot of time in the hospitality tent that year, because we didn’t have hardly any swimmers in the finals. We made a pact to get both teams on the podium within a few years. The top 4 teams get honored with a podium finish.
This past year we hit our goal as our women finished 3rd in the country which is the highest finish for our women ever in our program’s history and our men finished 4th. George, our head coach, and Nikki, has been the assistant coach for the past two years have done a great job bringing in quality swimmers and getting them to swim fast when it counts. We have our strongest recruiting class ever coming in next year with 15 outstanding men and women. So the future is bright for Hopkins Swimming.
The lesson learned here is that if you are content to eat donuts in the hospitality tent, then don’t set goals. However, if you want to be in the action, set goals and put a plan in place to achieve those goals. It is much more rewarding to be receiving an award on a podium than eating the donut- trust me!
When we started Almo Pro A/V five years ago, we had no sales, no vendors but a dedicated team of 22 professionals with a vision. We just finished our fiscal year with $200 million in sales! We set our goals and made a plan to achieve them.
In my next blog I am going to talk about what the college kids taught me. My final blog on my other “job” will be about #36. Most of you probably don’t know what that means so stay tuned.
“How do I get started in digital signage?” I get asked this question several times a week and it’s not a simple answer as there are several things to consider. The Digital Signage Federation defines Digital Signage as a network of digital displays that is centrally managed and addressable for targeted information, entertainment, merchandising and advertising. Now Digital Signage means different things to different people. It could be a digital display at a supermarket checkout line showing information about products and promotions; it could be a television in your local deli or pizzeria showing live programming and advertising for businesses in the area; it could be a welcome sign with the day’s events in a hotel lobby; along with a nearly unlimited number of other purposes.
When someone asks the question about getting started in digital signage, it is helpful to understand what that person’s background is. Traditional AV integrators typically have no problem understanding the hardware that is involved and handling complex installations, but may need some coaching on the CMS software or on the networking side of things. IT resellers are usually experts at networking and software packages, but may not be as comfortable with the installation and connectivity requirements for displays and media players. Both of the above may have big voids when it comes to the content creation requirements, while ad agencies and traditional print sign companies are strong here, but are most likely green when it comes to installing display hardware.
Digital Signage systems require strengths in many areas including the specification of appropriate sized displays and placement for optimal viewing, as well as understanding mounting and power requirements. Additionally knowledge of different video signals, cable length limitations, and the different types of signal distribution hardware is essential. Education on these topics is available through organizations like infoComm as well as value added distributors like Almo.
Also, since almost any Digital Signage system lives on a network, at least a basic understanding of networking is a must. Education on this topic is available through various sources including network equipment manufacturers such as Cisco and control system hardware manufacturers like AMX as well as infoComm. Training on the actual Digital Signage CMS software will usually have to come from whatever vendor you choose for your client’s application, while content creation services will have to be outsourced if you don’t have the appropriate staff in house to provide that. Note that Almo has recently announced content creation services available to resellers and integrators, helping to round out the complete solution to offer to customers.
Other advice I would offer is to start small. Call on local and small businesses that might require just one or a small handful of digital signs in order to get your feet wet. Perhaps your local pizza shop owner wants to have live television in his dining room, but also sell advertising space on a portion of the screen, or maybe the local coffee shop wants to switch over to a digital menu board. Also, pick one or two digital signage delivery systems and get to know the software and processes very well. With a few hundred products on the market, you need to focus on just one or two that will work in most applications.
Last week I was visiting one of our largest partners at their headquarters for a business review. All parties had spent countless hours preparing their presentations, pivoting their pivot tables, analyzing the business ten ways to Sunday. When the moment arrived and all parties assembled, I go to plug in my laptop – fishing through a spaghetti junction of cords while searching for the right adapter… praying it was going to work and… the screen was blank… totally blank. Ten minutes later with some sort of control system voodoo, there was finally an image. I wondered what the collective salaries were of the 15 people in that meeting waiting for that meeting to start. I wondered how many meetings go on in the dozens of conference rooms each day in that building that experience the same thing – plagued by the one thing that should be so simple – to just display the image (oh and collaboration is nice too!)
This is not a Barco ClickShare commercial. This is a bona fide – I see the light – cue the choir – testimonial! If you haven’t seen Barco ClickShare, you can’t appreciate the simplicity with which it solves a myriad of problems, including those of the aforementioned story. Our control system BDM Jamie Finnegan can explain it so eloquently. We have demo units you can borrow to experience it for yourself. Try it, you’ll never want to use anything else.
Looking into our conference room, I’m wondering where our Barco ClickShare unit is (probably out on demo loan). I’m calling the warehouse today to get a permanently unmovable unit. We practice what we preach – now cue the choir!
It’s hard to believe that the earliest touch screens were being developed during the early 1970s, and multi-touch technology was in development as early as 1982, however nothing has brought touch technology to the masses like the introduction of the iPhone by Apple in the summer of 2007. This was even further enhanced with the introduction of the iPad in 2010. Previously, you would see touch screen technology primarily used in ATMs and some POS systems, but now, according to some projections, nearly 20% of the U.S. population will own an iPhone in 2014.
Apple is not the only player in town, as Android based tablets and Smartphones have about an equal market share, so we have a huge chunk of the population walking around with multi-touch interactive devices in their pockets at all times. This has completely changed people’s expectations as to how they get delivery of digital content, and gone are the days of single touch, as gestures like pinch to zoom, and swipe are the new norm.
While large format touch monitors have been around for a while now, the emergence of personal touch devices has led to an increased demand for touch enabled devices in public places. Whether it is a building directory, a museum exhibit, a kiosk in the mall, an alumni wall in a university, or an ordering station at a quick serve restaurant, the expectation for touch enabled devices is there. I remember a recent stay at a hotel where in the lobby there was a large format monitor in a floor mounted kiosk displaying information about the hotel and local area. They had to put a physical sign underneath the display stating “This is not a Touchscreen” in order to curb visitor’s natural tendency to try and interact with the display. Even with that, there were fingerprints all over the screen.
Now it’s one thing to create simple static content for looping and scheduled playback systems, as images can be created, edited and shared, and even simple tools like PowerPoint can be used to create digital signage content, however when it comes to touch interactive content this is not the case. More advanced software tools or programming are required in this case as well as careful planning and layout as to the storyboard of your touch project. Not only does the content need to be visually engaging, but it also needs to be intuitive to the user that is interacting with the screen. For this reason, partnering with content creators such as Almo Content Creation Services will be valuable to integrators of touch technology.
I look forward to the advancements we will see over the next five years!
Many of you in the industry have been hearing or reading about BYOD or “Bring Your Own Device”. There is a tendency in this day and age to beat terms into the ground. Fortunately, this has not happened yet in this case. In fact, quite the opposite… a groundswell of interest is building almost by the day driven by the demand to more effectively collaborate in the workplace. What I’m seeing unfold before my eyes is a “culture” of collaboration taking shape. What is at the heart of this is supporting BYOD within this growing culture. A serious challenge to say the least…
The proliferation of the mobile platform world is in full swing. No longer is about a personal device solely used for personal needs. The crossover of the PD to the workplace is why we’re seeing technologies emerge such as the Barco ClickShare.
I’m a veteran of this industry and frankly anymore it takes quite a bit to impress me, but every so often a new technology surfaces that really captures my attention. The ClickShare system is one of those rare solutions that after I saw it works its magic, caused me to say wow, so simple and yet so powerful! I’d love to hear what your thoughts are for those of you who’ve seen the ClickShare in action. For those of you who have not seen it, here’s a link to a really cheezy, yet effective depiction of why this technology exists.
The challenge becomes how to most effectively allow for seamless collaboration while at the same time support cross platform interoperability. The physical version of the button is a no brainer, it’s inclusion of mobile devices within the collaboration session with full mirroring that presents a real challenge, especially on the Apple side of things. Apple does not allow for full mirroring to occur launched from a 3rd party Application. It’s a legal lock down by Apple. Android does not have this issue It’s a legal lock down by Apple. Android does not have this issue It’s a legal lock down by Apple. Android does not have this issue when using Samsung Galaxy tablets. Here’s a link to some valuable information pertaining to this aspect of the ClickShare technology.
So please, share with me your experience with ClickShare, good, bad or indifferent. We’ll all benefit from collaborating (sorry couldn’t resist 😉 ) on our thoughts, ideas and experiences so far.
Through modern technology advancements and the transition to LED backlit and direct-lit LED flat panels, it may seem that the appearance and design are becoming more closely aligned between commercial and consumer displays these days. To make things more complicated, a number of display manufacturers offer what’s being referred to as hospitality displays. So the question becomes, what are the real differences?
While there are still quite a few differences between commercial and consumer displays, there are two key factors that are often overlooked but should be considered as “make or break” issues when determining which type of product to deploy in any given project. The first is durability: commercial displays are still unmatched by consumer counterparts when it comes to impact resistance, cooling and dust management in addition to strong power supplies built to withstand moderate power spikes or fluctuations common in commercial environments. After all, durability is the backbone of a quality commercial grade product and is crucial to long life spans in the field. The second make or break factor is warranty. When it comes to commercial clients, they expect prompt service response with minimal (or no) downtime, both of which can be achieved with commercial warranties offered by Samsung, Panasonic, LG and other major brands to include on-site service for three years while most consumer warranties are typically one year and require servicing at an authorized repair center, but are often voided after 90 days if a consumer display is used in a commercial environment.
Now just where does this leave hospitality displays, you ask? Some have rumored these displays are simply consumer models with warranties more similar to their commercial cousins; others believe they are stripped down versions of a commercial product, but let’s get to the real scoop on this matter…
Yes, this could be hospitality as in mainstream hotel chains but primarily, we’re looking at in-room entertainment outside of the major chains, think boutique hotels, assisted living communities, and more. Let’s review the main features that make hospitality displays the perfect solution for this market:
- Commercial grade, commercial warranties
- Built-in USB cloning capabilities minimize installation labor & setup costs
- Digital Rights Management (DRM) Technology Such as Pro:Idiom™ or Samsung Lynk delivers in-room entertainment to guests while protecting satellite-delivered HD programming and video-on-demand content against piracy and reduce additional hardware required in guest rooms reducing costs, power consumption, cabling and more.
- MPEG compression technology minimizes costs from satellite providers.
- LED technology & Energy Star 5.3 compliance ratings result in highest possible energy savings
- Lockable TVs, including channel mapping, volume limiters and physical lock-down features maintain content standards and minimize tampering and theft.