AV Technology Europe
November / December 2019
VC: HOW TO FUTUREPROOF YOUR INVESTMENT INTERVIEW: RACHEL GOWERS, DIGITAL INSTITUTE LONDON TUTANKHAMUN: TREASURES OF THE GOLDEN PHARAOH MEET YOUR INTEGRATOR: MEDIAZEST THE ROLE OF AI IN VIDEOCONFERENCING
ONE-STOP SHOP With increased competition from online and ever-more demanding customers, retailers are having to deliver memorable, personalised and engaging experiences. And AV is here to help
November / December 2019
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November / December 2019
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Jo Ruddock, Group Editor
RETAIL THERAPY With Christmas almost upon us, now seemed the ideal time to gauge the state of the retail sector when it comes to AV. Despite the gloomy outlook on the high street, the good news is that our industry has high hopes for this sector. There have already been many column inches devoted to the argument that technology can be the eye-catching USP that draws in disillusioned shoppers, encouraging them to part with their hard earned cash. As Geoff Robertson, CEO at MediaZest, says in our Meet Your Integrator feature on page 50: “There are very few examples I can think of where the store experience, and hence store performance, cannot be improved by digital.” The challenge, however, is how to stand out in a sector where in-store AV is increasingly the norm. Intelligent, personalised signage, gaming technologies and interactivity are all tools in the battle for boosting engagement. Turn to page 26 to find out more. Elsewhere it’s been a busy month for case study visits. The new Tutankhamun exhibition at London’s Saatchi Gallery was a particular highlight for me, showcasing the power AV has to enhance experiences and impart information without taking away from what is a truly remarkable collection. Look out for more from the team’s travels
online and in future issues. For now though, like many of you, our focus is very much on ISE for the next couple of months. I’m excited to take on the role of editor of the ISE Daily this year, particularly as the show’s popularity among end users has grown so much in recent years. We’ll have a full round up of key events and activities in the next issue, but suffice to say it looks like it’s going to be a busy show. ISE, along with owners CEDIA and AVIXA, are planning the most extensive programme yet for the show, with 13 conferences, not to mention Main Stage sessions and numerous other activities. Conferences will cover everything from control rooms to XR, while the popular Enterprise AV and Higher Education conferences will return following successful debuts last year. Again, keep an eye on the website for more details. Finally, I couldn’t leave this month without mentioning the sad passing of Abigail Brown, founder of recruitment company Openingz and a strong advocate of Women in AV. Abi transformed Women in AV and was passionate about bringing people together, sharing experiences and encouraging others. She will be sorely missed.
November / December
Cover Photo Courtesy of Samsung KX
FEATURE: RETAIL Digital signage has been shown to increase footfall in stores, but how can you remain relevant as the technology becomes increasingly common?
THE BIG INTERVIEW Rachel Gowers, director of Digital Institute London
CASE STUDY Behind the scenes at the new Tutankhamun exhibition
INTERVIEW NEC’s Andy Haywood explains the company’s One Global initiative designed to provide consistent support and standardisation to end users
CASE STUDY David Davies finds out how AVoIP is helping MedtoMarket’s training and research facility to thrive, bridging the gap from concept to market
Regulars November / December 2019
FEATURE: VIDEOCONFERENCING With VC now ubiquitous in many environments, it’s easy to think you can’t go wrong when specifying equipment, but there are a number of factors that need to be considered, not least how to futureproof your investment
CASE STUDY Samsing’s new community-driven experience space is much more than just a shop
06 Industry Insights 44 Tech Guide
TOP TIPS We highlight the key considerations that should be taken into account when choosing the right digital signage screen for retail environments
MEET YOUR INTEGRATOR Retail specialist MediaZest discusses enhancing the store experience with digital, the importance of data and the company’s plans for the future
48 Battle of the Brands 54 Getting to Know You 5
AI becoming a reality in VC Logitech’s Anne Marie Ginn highlights the important role artificial intelligence is already having in videoconferencing, and how this influence is only likely to grow
oday’s businesses are under increasing pressure to increase productivity and improve work efficiency across an increasingly dispersed workforce spread across multiple office locations around the world. This has a profound impact on work culture, technology in the workplace and office design. Maintaining productivity across such increasingly dispersed teams will require more effective collaboration tools and well-equipped meeting rooms to enable fast and easy collaboration between remote workers. These tools include easy, simple to use conferencing devices with high-quality video and audio. These types of tools are already being used in meeting spaces, both in large conference rooms and small huddle rooms, by many organisations, but the next step for effective videoconferencing involves a greater use of artificial intelligence. In fact, according to a recent study from Frost & Sullivan, artificial intelligence (AI) will play an important role in the future of videoconferencing, by creating applications that deliver more natural, contextual and relevant meeting experiences. I see three key ways in which AI is, and will likely continue to drive innovation, improve user experience and automate tasks in videoconferencing and workplace communication. COMPUTER VISION One key area of innovation in videoconferencing is computer vision. This technology can, for example, frame meeting participants and then automatically zoom on the speaker to deliver a better video
“To make the most of this opportunity, the industry must also ensure there is collaboration between videoconferencing and AI vendors”
experience for those on the far end. When the number of participants changes or people move to a different part of the room, the camera control allows it to automatically tilt, pan and zoom on the speaking participants to ensure great video quality. This could be particularly useful for more interactive meetings, for instance if someone stood up to draw a diagram on a flip chart. More advanced functions of computer vision include gaze correction and controlling the background environment in the room to improve user experience. For instance, when combined with AI capabilities, computer vision can support colour and light correction by automatically detecting potential issues and amending them by emphasising faces even in dim or backlit rooms. MEETING ROOM ANALYTICS AI-driven data insights can be a great extension of computer vision and help make conference rooms smarter and meetings more efficient by automating some of the key tasks associated with scheduling and running a meeting. For example, AI can automate the rescheduling of video calls and the rebooking of meeting rooms. It could also suggest which resources or documents you may need to bring to a meeting. The data insights generated from AI can also be a valuable tool for making the most of office space and helping facilities management teams to operate efficiently. For example, AI combined with computer vision, can help businesses to understand how meeting rooms are being used – how many people on average use each of them, for how long, at what times of the day and if
meetings typically overrun. As a result, occupancy levels could be better managed, making sure the right room is free for the right type of meeting. NATURAL LANGUAGE PROCESSING Another key innovation that has the potential to transform the meeting experience is natural language processing (NLP). NLP is a branch of artificial intelligence that helps computers understand and interpret human language, and it is already being used to improve videoconferencing applications in multiple ways. For example, NLP can be used to identify and tag the names of people and organisations, detect different languages being spoken and, when used alongside machine learning capabilities, it can analyse speech and even generate summaries. As a
November / December 2019
result, NLP can enable the automatic transcription of meetings, the sharing of notes and even the translation of conversations into different languages. And these arenâ€™t the only uses for NLP, machine learning and other automation tools in videoconferencing. When combined with AI capabilities, NLP can also enable chatbots or virtual assistants to start, join and leave meetings using voice command. These tools can also support better audio quality, by automatically suppressing echo and minimising background noise. For example, if someone was rustling paper or receiving noisy notifications on their laptop during the meeting, the technology is intelligent enough to muffle this background noise. This, coupled with evolving techniques such as automatic levelling and
beamforming, will make everyone in the meeting easy to hear and understand. Clearly, AI has the potential to transform videoconferencing and some of these technologies are already being applied, but there is more to be done as we move forwards. To make the most of this opportunity, the industry must also ensure there is collaboration between video conferencing and AI vendors, and that all vendors work together to ensure that advancements prioritise user privacy. Only by building end-user trust, will we be able to drive mainstream adoption of AI-based video collaboration and reap the benefits of the technology.
Anne Marie Ginn is head of video collaboration, EMEA at Logitech www.logitech.com
Stand out from the crowd Retailers can still use visual displays to attract and engage shoppers, even when everyone else is doing it too, according to Samsung Displays’ Chirag Shah
any brands now have fewer shops than they did before the online shopping and e-commerce industry boomed. Despite difficult trading circumstances, many retailers are choosing to invest in the stores that do remain. Shops, after all, are not just about selling goods – these physical locations encourage customers to connect with the brand and build relationships. To make these shops viable, customers must be encouraged to visit and then also urged to stay and engage with the brand. And this is where visuals play an important role. Attractive displays have long been important to retail. From painstakingly put together window arrangements to improve footfall, to simple yet effective price offer banners to boost conversions, catching customers’ attention has always been (and will always remain) essential for retailers. With indoor and outdoor displays, videowalls and stretched panels to choose from, business owners have many options to captivate their customers and passersby digitally – all in stunning resolution. 8K UHD resolution is being adopted by the TV industry, and professional-grade digital signage is expected to soon follow. As 8K UHD displays are capable of producing extremely detailed imagery due to their resolution of 7,680 x 4,320 pixels (4,320p or 33.2 megapixels), they are ideal for creating impressive talking points in retail stores. They help bring to life the finer details of the product and technology. Screens of this quality can be used to form part of industry-leading retail experiences and memorable pop-ups, with the displays’ hyperrealism and vivid colours capturing and
maintaining people’s attention. As well as bold brand-building advertisements, they can also showcase products in detail. The quality and scale of good displays alone will capture attention. However, in a retail environment where every store is competing to offer strong visual experiences, you need to do more than just be aesthetically pleasing to truly stand out. In recent years, digital signage and its complementary technologies have evolved to bring us the smartest screens we have ever seen. With integrated solutions available, retailers can move from a generic, mass-market approach to data-driven, real-time personalised promotions. This sophisticated level of customisation ensures that visual displays remain attentiongrabbing – even when they become the new normal for retailers. Displays can be used to show personalised dynamic content that can change based on engagement level, the weather and even the demographics of the
viewer(s). This tailoring can hugely improve the experience of customers which, in turn, will maximise ROI for retailers. The future offers many possibilities for optimising this experience. For example, cameras in shopping centres may be able to see customers throughout a mall, note what they pay attention to, the routes they take and translate this into ‘likely behaviours’, presenting highly targeted content on digital screens in targeted stores. It may sound like sci-fi but it’s a future that’s not far away. Highly targeted messages and ads like this can certainly attract customers, but you can go one step beyond to encourage engagement – augmented reality (AR). Again, it may seem futuristic but it’s already being adopted. At the moment, the use of AR is commonly used in apps and headsets but this still requires the user to take a step to engage with it (i.e. put on a pair of goggles). By combining AR into displays, you make it even easier to engage – helping people get involved without any hesitation. This can be done on a small (and practical) scale, such as virtually trying on outfits in false ‘mirrors’, or large (and memorable), such as interactive, gamified billboards. Encouraging relationship building with your brand is key for survival in today’s competitive landscape. Visual displays is one of the ways this can be achieved. Combined with amazing high-resolution displays and contextually relevant messages, retailers doing this right will continue to stand out when displays are a staple of every shop.
Chirag Shah is director, marketing, Large Displays, Samsung Display https://pid.samsungdisplay.com/en
The new rules of digital signage Taking a holisitic and connected approach to digital signage will help to avoid common pitfalls, says Jeff Hastings
he digital signage landscape is changing. The march towards cloud-based services is inexorable, and what was traditionally a separate ‘AV’ space is now part of users’ wider IT networks – with all the opportunities and challenges that entails. The old ecosystem of nonconnected screens and media players is dying out. Today’s deployments are large, ambitious and connected. Managing them requires new rules for network efficiency, cost and security. Meanwhile, the quantity of software options grows ever larger and more confusing. There are numerous offerings tailored to vertical markets, often without the requisite robust APIs to enable easy and effective integration with other digital signage software and hardware. This is problematic for AV integrators and users alike, and it increases the engineering burden on content management system (CMS) providers who, all too often, have to re-write code to ensure connectivity with different parts of the system. Inevitably, the shift towards a more IT-centric, cloud-based approach goes hand in hand with changes in how media player manufacturers, CMS providers, AV integrators and users must work together. Each now needs to think through the connectivity and software integration challenges presented by the new paradigm, instead of leaving them up to CMS providers to fix reactively. This means designing solutions around dedicated digital signage technologies that are purpose-built, work well together and integrate seamlessly and securely into other corporate systems. It’s no longer feasible to cobble together solutions using hardware and software borrowed from consumer markets.
Our aim should be to improve functionality, connectivity and security for everyone, not simply to expand the market. We need connected solutions that reduce the engineering workload for CMS providers and offer AV integrators the tools they need to deliver the performance that customers want. Happily, some new best practices are emerging among users and integrators. From airport screens a decade ago to today’s complex global retail rollouts and interactive data-driven systems, the industry now leverages new capabilities of the best softwaredriven media players, combined with cloud control of those players in the field. In practice, this means more IT-friendly solutions combining a dedicated digital signage OS with robust, industrial-grade media players engineered to perform like well-integrated software – not problematic hardware. A reliable media player is the foundation the whole solution rests on, but it is no longer enough for manufacturers to just throw their hardware over the wall and hope for the best. They actively need to re-architect how their chosen OS works, not only with their own media players, but with third-party CMSs and end users’ control needs. After all, if a technology tool can’t be easily integrated, it’s a problem instead of a solution. CMS providers need to be able to easily and tightly integrate their platform with different media players so they can get all that rich data fed back to their software and offer up the features their customers want, without having to recode each time. That means player manufacturers need to provide APIs that enable deep functionality for control, management and content. APIs can greatly streamline setup and
facilitate access to robust network management tools that many CMS companies weren’t able to offer before. In the past, some media players offered no sophisticated management tools at all. That’s changing. Incorporating control and management functionality offers a big advantage for CMS providers – and their customers. AV integrators have two ways they approach any digital signage deployment: they can assemble a solution using screens and media players and a tried and trusted CMS with all the functionality the user needs, or they can create their own offering, with the most tailored part being their custom-made CMS. Giving them better tools to implement either of those approaches in the form of APIs and cloud-based integration tools increases their options – which is good not just for end users, but for the industry as a whole. Well-integrated cloud-based services are making it much easier for users to control and manage devices and ‘look’ at them at a depth that was not possible before. Providing real-time performance information, pushing OS updates, sending subscription notifications and conducting remote reboots are some of the benefits of cloud-based platforms that users appreciate. But these are really just the tip of the iceberg. New digital signage software tools use artificial intelligence to deliver real-time playback triggered by feedback. Rich and engaging content is easier than ever before to input and manage, with the potential to create powerful, immersive experiences.
Jeff Hastings is CEO of BrightSign www.brightsign.biz
Game on 12
Rachel Gowers (director of DIL), Prof Liz Barnes CBE (vice-chancellor, Staffordshire University) and Dr Jo Twist (CEO of Ukie) at the DIL launch
he Digital Institute London is an offshoot of Staffordshire University, which last year launched the first esports degree in Europe. The university has taken this forward-looking approach and created a brand-new campus with teaching and collaboration spaces designed to be like the offices its students will likely be working in. Based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park the institute is dedicated to new and emerging technologies, offering high-spec learning spaces alongside a 100-seater esports arena with full gallery facilities. How did the Digital Institute come about and what was the thinking behind creating this kind of learning space? The idea came about last November when we started to look at our esports and games design courses and how they were going back in Stoke-on-Trent. We’d got very good numbers for these, but most of the industry that we were engaging with tended to be London based, so it seemed to make a lot of sense to open a facility there, both to give our students in London that opportunity, and also to bring those opportunities back to Stoke. The centre where we’ve based ourselves is on the Olympic Park and it’s already an innovation centre full of other tech and media industries, cyber particularly; in the press centre they’ve got a cyber accelerator with about 70 small companies in. So it seemed to make sense that we could offer our students the opportunities for guest lectures with all of those people under one roof. And it’s paid dividends already.
Not only does the Digital Institute look very different to a traditional learning space, it also offers more than your usual courses. Jo Ruddock catches up with Rachel Gowers, director of Digital Institute London, to find out more
November / December 2019
It doesn’t look like a traditional university in its design. Why is this? I wanted to design a space that was reflective of the type of places where people would work. I looked at Google’s offices and other tech industries, and at WeWork. I wanted to design a very collaborative space where students, whatever discipline they were studying, could find some common areas where they could meet and talk, and I wanted it to be as open plan as possible; again that helps with collaboration and also get students used to the idea that they are going to be working in a busy, noisy environment at times. Tell us about the setup at the institute. We have two 30-seater studios, those are for games design and cyber so we have all of the software related to those areas in those two. We’ve also got a 20-seater PR
BIG INTERVIEW area, where again different kinds of software for design and collaboration are. Then we have a 60-100 seater esports arena with all of the gallery that goes with it, so audiovisual, cameras, more TVs than I can even think about, just absolutely loads of stuff in there. Who designed the system? Well, it was complicated in a way. We’ve got our own in-house technical team and I’d already built something much smaller for the esports course in Stoke-on-Trent, so I used the same team that had helped me build the first one to spec out the second. We used our own in-house teams and then three external suppliers, including a design company called Tetris, to pull it all together at the design stage. Then we had our in-house project management team which I led. How long did the process take? We started physically planning it from around March time; we started building in May and we opened in September. You’ve clearly gone high spec with the technology in the space. With industries moving so quickly do you have a plan to ensure you remain at the forefront of technology? Absolutely. When we did the first build we spoke extensively to industry, we looked at what was out there and we looked at what’s coming next. A lot of the things we have are not even in the mainstream yet. We’ve also got it in the budget every three years to have a complete re-spec and rebuild. You were the first place in Europe to offer an esports degree. How has that been received? The degree came about on the back of a whitepaper on esports written by Dr Jo Twist. I read it in 2017 and thought actually, we’ve got all of this stuff going on,
we’ve got a great events management course, we’ve got great digital capabilities, we’ve got a great games design area, so really, as a university, all we have to do is put all of that together and we’ve got an amazing degree. I started writing the degree in January 2017 and by March it was validated. I wrote it with Dr Robbie Fletcher who is in the computer games design area and thankfully we have a very forward-looking executive team who thought it was a good idea to give it a go. I’d targeted and budgeted for around 40 students, which is quite a lot for the first year of a degree, and by about eight weeks after the application cycle opened we’d already got that number, and so we extended. First year intake was 120 and this year we’ve taken 150. How is that intake split between male and female students? So 94% of our intake is male, 97% are 18-21 year olds, but the London campus hasn’t exactly followed that format; we have more mature applicants in London, probably because we launched quite late in the cycle, and out of 25 students five are ladies, so that’s a higher ratio than we have back in Stoke-on-Trent. It is high on my agenda to try to get more females into this area. We’re working with Power Women and other organisations to promote this as we are predominantly male. Why do you think this sector is still so male dominated? It just doesn’t make any sense to me at all. If you look at gaming, over half of women are gamers; if you look at the whole population something like 51% of women are involved with games compared to 49% of men. There’s clearly a lot of work to be done around raising aspirations and raising the agenda, to say that it’s actually quite cool, quite interesting to work in tech. There still seems to be a bit of a stigma around women working in tech. There are certain things that are being
“There’s clearly a lot of work to be done around raising aspirations and raising the agenda, to say that it’s actually quite cool, quite interesting to work in tech”
BIG INTERVIEW done, more so recently, and I think that we’ll start to see over the next five years a real reverse because it’s going to take that long for it to go through the system. Even if we start now, it’s going to take five years to actually get that primary school level interest. We’ve done some work with Digital Schoolhouse who work on coding with primary school kids, and even from a very young age there’s been more males than females interested, which just seems crazy. There’s certainly a big piece for everyone to do in getting more girls involved. Do you think that esports will be taught in schools as well as at a higher education level? With esports it depends on how you look at it because there are a couple of elements to esports that actually make it transferrable. We approached esports from the basis of business management, so our course is much more like a business management degree where they learn about human resources, planning, budgeting, all of those things you would do on a business degree, but then we contextualise it to the world of esports. When I was writing the degree I went out to a school in Bergen in Norway and they taught 14-16 year olds esports in the classroom to motivate largely young lads who weren’t that interested in science, maths, PE and other traditional subjects. They found that if they told these pupils they could do esports on a Friday – and they got a pro player in to teach them – then they were all super engaged with their other subjects, so it was used as a reward mechanism. I went in and interviewed many of the students and they all said it had improved their communications skills, problem solving and English language skills. On the back of that, the second piece of research I did was with the Digital Schoolhouse – that paper is called Esports: Engaging Education – and the outcome was that primary school kids were more likely to be involved in any kind of team sport if they’d been involved with esports. So I think there’s definitely a big piece to do around esports and using it as a vehicle for teaching other skills.
LEARNING SPACES AT THE DIGITAL INSTITUTE The Den – A comfortable breakout space for socialising and eating, complete with wireless charging pads and informal seating The Hub – One of the main operational areas for flexible learning, this space is used for tutorials, group work and live brief work. Soft seating and desk areas with electrical points and workspaces make this area truly multifunctional Studio – This dynamic learning space can be used as a 60-seat, or two 30-seat studio spaces. Designed for collaboration, as well as smaller and more direct practical lectures it includes state-of-the-art dual monitor PC setups, individual ergonomic seating and central tables for group work The Hall – Dedicated to seminar groups, group discussions and class meetings, the space is fully flexible and can be configured to suit the needs of groups of up to 30 students. As well as soft seating it also features standing and sitting tables
Gowers: “There still seems to be a bit of a stigma around women working in tech”
Finally, what are Digital Institute’s plans for the future? This year we’ve launched with esports and games design, in January we start to deliver our Masters in esports, and then next September we’ve already got planned a games PR and community management course and cybersecurity. We’ve also just started to have discussions around what else we can do for 2021. My remit is that it has to be a career of the future, something that’s in demand, where there’s a bit of a skills gap and also something that not everyone else does.
November / December 2019
High standards Following the news that NEC Display Solutions has announced its One Global initiative, designed to provide consistent global support and services to AV/IT reseller partners, we catch up with Andy Haywood, sales director, global, strategic and vertical sales, to find out more
What’s behind the company’s move to global standardisation? And what effect do you hope it will have? When we launched the NEC One Global End User Programme at InfoComm in 2018, it was not a ground-breaking initiative, it was simply formalising and clearly articulating how we’ve been working with our multinational clients for several years. More and more businesses are looking to provide a consistent user experience across their estate, which clearly benefits the end user in terms of technology familiarity, but also the support teams in terms of fault diagnosis and the procurement teams for effective cost control. We wanted to help the IT and AV standards teams, many of whom are deployed internationally themselves, to have easy access to account management, products and support that are consistent the world over. The desired outcome is to make doing business with NEC as easy as possible for both our channel partners and end users. Up until now, how much disparity has there been geographically in terms of products and services? At NEC, we’ve always had core product ranges that
“There is still some variance in the way manufacturers declare certain specifications such as brightness, power consumption and mean time between failure rates, which needs to be addressed for the benefit of the industry” 16
are available across the world, such as our C, V and P series LFDs and our semi-installation and installation projectors; but alongside these we have products which have been deployed to meet certain regional market requirements, such as our E series and some touch solutions. We believe in a consultative approach with our customers; we will review a client’s need or a market’s potential in order to formulate a local product strategy where appropriate. Our warranty duration and service type has always been in line with, or exceeded, regional market standards, but customers who join our One Global programme will benefit from a complementary uplift to three years warranty globally and will also be the first to benefit from improved service types as we work to deploy Exchange Service (Advanced Exchange in the US) as a global standard. As a global company, how hard is it to pull together departments from different countries? Is there sometimes a need for local variances in process/outcome or is standardisation always the most efficient option? As our One Global programme has evolved we’ve adapted our methodology to have a flexible balance of Global and Local input. One size does not fit all and often regions with local budget control will question or reject HQ standards unless they feel they’ve been part of the decision-making process. Our ‘Glocal’ approach ensures regional account management and sales support are aligned to central strategy and standards. How would you characterise product/service consistency and standardisation generally across the AV industry?
INTERVIEW In terms of product design, there is a conflict between consumer trend and long-term product stability. At NEC, where delivering a long-life solution is at the core of our offering, we do not follow every design trend. Our priority is delivering consistency, enabling our customers to maintain aesthetic uniformity across their estate beyond a product’s life time. End users and solutions providers need to be able to make accurate comparisons across suppliers’ product ranges in order to make like-for-like assessment of fit for purpose suitability. There is still some variance in the way manufacturers declare certain specifications such as brightness, power consumption and mean time between failure rates, which needs to be addressed for the benefit of the industry. How does greater standardisation benefit end users? Using corporate communications as an example, as organisations move towards agile working practices to maximise productivity, familiar usage of devices and interfaces at any company location across the world will deliver a consistent user experience meaning meetings will be more productive in a shorter time. Internal IT resource can offer a more efficient response as support is easier to provide, while fewer spare parts are required on-site so budget can be reallocated. Meeting spaces will be less cluttered, requiring less equipment as equipment manufacturers speak a common language.
through the potentially anxiety-prone process, but operators can also increase capacity without needing to invest in new premises. The challenges facing wider adoption of biometric solutions are primarily concerning data protection issues – by law, parameters of usage must be defined and agreed to. In the corporate environment, employees can be requested to opt-in to internal IT systems allowing biometric access to buildings and room booking services, thus businesses can enjoy greater efficiency in utilising resources and improving security, along with measuring meeting room usage, attendee engagement and various other metrics to provide ROI to IT and AV services teams. In the public domain, however, unless the subject has ‘opted-in’ to the facial recognition service, its usage is currently limited. In the retail environment, facial recognition tools are used for audience analysis. The technology sees a human face and estimates the gender, age group, dwell time, viewing distance, etc. This information is highly valuable in measuring audience demographics and analysing customer behaviour, enabling the retailer to enhance the effectiveness of its marketing campaigns and offer a more personalised, contextaware shopping experience. Because the data used is anonymous, retailers are already enjoying the benefits of this technology without fear of GDPR.
NEC has developed facial recognition technology – what are the benefits and challenges of applying this technology in different environments? Facial recognition, or biometric technology, supports public safety and improves an organisation’s interaction with people at a more personalised level. There are benefits over other biometric systems which use finger or palm prints since it is noncontact and images can be captured from a distance. Using the human face as a key to security, biometric face recognition technology has great potential for a wide variety of applications, not just in law enforcement and security but also in enhancing the user experience in transport, corporate, retail, leisure and hospitality environments. For example, the world’s airports are at capacity yet demand is increasing, by using facial recognition as an enabler to speed passenger throughput your face becomes a biometric token at key bottlenecks such as security, bag drop off and boarding. Not only do passengers benefit from a smoother journey
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Communication is key Videoconferencing needs the best AV and infrastructure more than ever before as it embraces user experience. Rob Lane reports
ideoconferencing has come a long way since its early days of dodgy lines and ropey video, and is ubiquitous in today’s commercial AV fit-outs. And while it’s true that popular systems such as Zoom also allow VC to be portable and laptop based (a high-flying, multi-millionaire work-from-home pal opined “we all use Skype – that’s all you need!” when I mentioned this article!), decent AV is central to a successful office-based conferencing experience. “Audio quality and visual clarity are critical for any VC system,” explains Andrew Hug, VP SE EMEA at Poly. “It’s essential that participants can clearly see and hear one another because as much as 80% of communication consists of non-verbal and visual cues.” “There are a number of things that are needed for a decent VC system and service,” agrees Christian Bozeat, director at macom GmbH UK. “A set of quality hardware (a decent audio solution is a must), a properly designed network and a working process design that maps to the users’ working processes – plus a service and support process to match. “The business has to take the VC system as seriously as it takes its IT service and understand that VC, UC and AV are not all one thing but have a different set of skills needed to design, install and support.” Certainly the highest possible quality audio and video should always be specified, to ensure the experience is as close to face-to-face communication as possible and allow for productive meetings. “One way to ensure this is to use a reputable vendor with global distribution, and balance choosing an affordable system with being willing to make a significant investment,” says Anne Marie Ginn, head of video collaboration, Logitech EMEA. “Opting for the cheapest option is likely to result in a subpar experience.”
AI technology is already playing an important role in videoconferencing, with features such as auto-crop and focus
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MAKING ROOM But before the choice of technology is even considered, it’s essential the room and environment is carefully chosen, otherwise audio and video quality may be compromised. “Room acoustics, lighting and finishes are often overlooked,” explains Dan Watson, senior consultant, PTS Consulting. “Reflective surfaces, noisy mechanical services, high ambient light, poor surface lighting and noisy finishes on the walls all contribute to a bad experience for the far end participants. The quality of a videoconference overall is only as good as the weakest link.” “Rooms equipped for VC not only need to have
the technology in them, but they need to be acoustically fit-for-purpose,” agrees Richard Knott CTS, market development manager at Shure UK. “Treat the room first, then use technology to make the most of that room. If the room has bad acoustics to begin with, technology can only go so far to help you transmit your message effectively. “Ultimately you need to be able to see and hear each other (whether one-one, one-many, manymany), and have a reliable system with which to do that. The experience should be the same for everyone no matter at what size or scale.” User experience should always be central to the thinking of those specifying a VC system, especially when it comes to the shape and size of the room. “Before video enabling a room you should consider the appropriate solution for the room’s size,” says Ginn. “If it’s a huddle room, consider something with a wide-angle lens to catch all the participants. If it’s a long board room, consider a solution with a powerful camera and which can take expansion microphones, so everyone can be heard.” It is also essential that employees are able to screen share, host multiple people on a call at the same time, use multiple screens and walk into a meeting room and instantly connect to a call. This enables employees to effectively collaborate and communicate with a large number of people, without being hindered by location issues. It’s this ease of use that’s central to the success of modern VC systems. Solutions that are either plug-and-play or as simple to use as everyday communication and social media applications help with user adoption and are essential for maximising usability and ultimately profitability. “You should consider a solution that is quick and familiar to use,” says Ginn. “Any solution that at first glance appears too difficult to use (and too much effort to learn how to use) will put employees off using and adopting it. The technology should effectively be invisible, with a participant only having to concentrate and focus on the meeting itself. Features such as one-click join are just one way that technology providers can go about doing this.” “The workforce dynamic is changing dramatically and with more people than ever working from home, employees have become reliant on videoconferencing systems to help create an environment that can bring stakeholders together efficiently,” opines William MacDonald, chief technology officer, StarLeaf. The basic requirements of a VC system should support the dynamics of today’s modern organisations, with staff expectations geared towards
Enterprises are beginning to see the value in standardising their VC offering, but this isn’t without its challenges
modern, flexible tech-influenced communications. It’s almost as much about giving them what they want as what they need. “We’re seeing that teams are increasingly distributed, so there’s a greater need for deeper engagement across employees, customers, partners and suppliers,” explains Dan Creigh, head of UK and Ireland, Zoom Video Communications. “We’re also seeing changing workforce expectations. In the US, for example, millennials make up 35% of the workforce, and they want both flexibility and engagement – plus they’re a generation that’s comfortable using video. Employees are increasingly influencing IT. The end-user experience is priority number one.” AT SCALE One of the fundamental decisions companies have to make when choosing a VC system is whether to go with traditional, proprietary codec solutions or the new wave of USB-based conferencing systems – with
“The business has to take the VC system as seriously as it takes its IT service” Christian Bozeat, macom GmbH UK
flexibility and scalability key considerations alongside audio and video quality. “Ensuring that a system is optimised for the major platforms, such as Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams or Zoom, will help to ensure that the experience is intuitive for all users,” says Ginn. “Systems tied to proprietary software are likely to be less familiar than users’ everyday platforms, and hence users may be discouraged from using it or waste valuable meeting time setting up and joining calls. The more compatible a device, the fewer barriers there will be to user adoption.” “VC systems should typically be compatible with multiple videoconferencing services, including Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business and Cisco Webex, so anyone can join no matter what application they use,” agrees Hug. However, there’s also a desire to consolidate communications services among business leaders. According to Forbes last year, 62% of organisations use three or more videoconferencing solutions, with 100% of CEOs/presidents saying that they would achieve greater effectiveness in consolidating platforms. “A VC platform should offer one consistent enterprise experience for all users, and be engineered and optimised to work reliably,” says Creigh. “Ideally, it should be able to host up to 1,000 video participants and 10,000 viewers, while being easy-to-use, buy and scale. Finally, it should be affordable with straightforward pricing.” Zoom, of course, provides one solution for consolidation, with flexibility key to its offer. Zoom Rooms is designed to tackle the three biggest pain points of the conference room: starting a meeting, booking a meeting and sharing content. Indeed, HSBC, one of the world’s largest banking and financial services organisations, recently announced that is has standardised to use only Zoom. The company is set to consolidate all of its communications services onto Zoom’s video-first unified communications platform. This includes videoconferencing, audio conferencing and screen sharing across mobile, desktop and conference rooms, for both internal and external meetings. “By standardising on Zoom, HSBC will consolidate costs and create an enhanced, frictionless experience for end users,” explains Creigh. However, most organisations tend to have a mixture of collaboration tools and meeting room systems across their network, particularly if they are a global organisation. This makes the move across to singleplatform solutions much more difficult to realise.
“The main thing I would recommend is to move towards a networked-based infrastructure for AV sooner rather than later, if you haven’t already” Richard Knott, Shure UK “Today, businesses are seeking frictionless, cost-effective and intuitive solutions that have the ability to integrate multiple endpoints and infrastructure with new systems, which can extend the life of existing videoconferencing equipment,” explains MacDonald. But the utopia of moving directly to a single platform can be difficult to achieve, even with the best intentions. “So, organisations need to opt for a solution that provides a wide range of interoperability to achieve this goal. Integrated cloud-based solutions serve to better connect users smoothly in real-time high definition with any third-party standards-based meeting systems and deliver optimal control to allow authorised users access anywhere and from any device.”
Ease of use is central to user uptake
THE FUTURE OF VC However, while simplicity, ease of use and – for some businesses – one-system standardisation are
key to VC decision making, a number of emerging technologies are coming on stream that are set to complicate the decision-making process, even as they enhance the conferencing experience. “We are already seeing AI technology play an important role in videoconferencing, with features such as auto-crop and focus helping to make the conferencing experience as effective as possible,” explains Ginn. “For example, Logitech RightSight technology can automatically move the camera lens and adjust the zoom to frame meeting participants based on the size and shape of the room they are in, eliminating complicated remote controls and ensuring everyone can be clearly seen and heard. “In the future, we are likely to see an even greater use of artificial intelligence, perhaps in the form of automating tasks such as rescheduling calls and rebooking meeting rooms based on conversations over email, and could help intelligently manage meeting room bookings according to which rooms are available and which are busy.” “AI-powered technology is now being embedded in videoconferencing solutions to transcribe meetings which are then shared with participants post-call,” adds McDonald. “This is a technology that isn’t widely used at present – however, this is one to watch over the next couple of years.” There has also been an increase in voice recognition software, with systems such as Microsoft’s Cortana making calls from voice commands given by users and offering suggested replies to share during conversations. New tech: helping to make the meeting experience even easier and more intuitive. When it comes to future-proofing videoconferencing systems, it may be possible to ensure that specified AV products already include so-called next generation technologies. “A good example is 4K optics,” says Ginn. “These are already available on market-leading devices, delivering the best possible video experience today – so devices that are ready for broader 4K deployment are likely to be future-proofed if 4K becomes the industry standard.” Ultimately new and newly improved technologies will always be available, and the most effective future proofing is more likely to be with regard to infrastructure and ‘back-end’ tech, as opposed to audio and video hardware. “It is not really possible to future proof this type of technology,” explains Bozeat. “However, you can have a plan and a strategy for its deployment and its
integration for the next five years so you can future proof your processes. “It is clear that VC is not going to go away, so the best thing that an organisation can do is understand this and allocate funds for looking after AV and VC in the same way they do for IT. You can ensure that you have the correct internal departments or external consulting expertise in place to ensure that you are constantly looking and developing your VC service and solutions.” “Since we just don’t know what wider developments in technology are around the corner, it’s quite hard to say how and even if you can fully future-proof a VC system,” says Knott. “But the main thing I would recommend is to move towards a networked-based infrastructure for AV sooner rather than later, if you haven’t already.” “It’s also worth considering networked solutions that can be remotely monitored from a central location,” adds Ginn. “These can provide information and analytics on their current status and how they are being used. This can save your IT department a lot of time, and ensure that your video solutions are always operating at full capacity.” Most importantly users should opt for a solution that is accessible and has minimal barriers to initiating a call, to ensure that the product is used to its full potential throughout its life cycle. Another way to ensure that a system is futureproofed is to invest in one that can be easily updated via an easy-to-use management platform. The ability to add the latest features to an existing device allows organisations to stay up-to-date with the best performance and to benefit from more advanced capabilities. Ginn adds: “Logitech RightSight software can be added to Logitech’s Rally and MeetUp conferencing cameras to offer automated camera control, moving the lenses and adjusting the zoom to show meeting participants optimally on the screen.” “In Zoom’s case, our solution is cloud-based, so making further improvements to the platform is easy,” says Creigh. “Customers can be assured
“The emphasis in the market is changing away from the big giants like Cisco and Microsoft dictating to their customers what the users have to do” William MacDonald, Starleaf
they’re getting the most recent version of the software and all the benefits that it brings – such as up-to-date functionality and security at all times, across all popular and emerging platforms and devices.” Customers can be confident that Zoom is futureproofed, as a result of it being architected differently to offers from competitors, Creigh explains. “By way of example, it is the only true video-first unified communications platform, giving it reliability and scalability for global enterprises. Our architecture has been optimised to handle video’s demanding requirements.” Recent business collaborations between Shure and Teams, and Kramer and Logitech are being touted as further ways that VC is helping to future-proof and improve ease of use and user experience – particularly product integration. “As part of Shure’s commitment to building the next generation of audio products that power collaboration in the workplace, we are continuing to work with market leaders in unified communications on platforms such as Teams, Zoom and Skype for Business,” explains Knott. “These kind of collaborations are essential for ensuring integration of products into an overarching VC system is as straight-forward as possible for the end user.”
KEY POINTS • Audio and video quality are essential for the best videoconferencing experience • The choice of room is equally essential, for acoustics and also suitable lighting • User experience must be front and centre in all VC planning, with flexibility and ease-of-use at its heart • Consolidation of VC solutions is central to the thinking of many businesses today • Centralised management platforms can help businesses to future-proof their VC • New collaborations illustrate how the market is set to change in the coming years
Signagelive’s media playback and cloud-based scheduling solutions are behind the LED walls on the facade of Champs Sports in New York’s Times Square
Retail digital signage: from messages to experiences Digital signage is proven to work – to increase footfall and sales. But, as Ian McMurray finds out, what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow
FEATURE EVOLVING REQUIREMENTS “Retailers are still investing in message-based digital signage, but as their requirements are evolving due to the expectations of customers, they are sourcing solutions that have more flexibility,” believes Helen Kenniff, product marketing manager at Sedao Digital Signage. “For example, where traditionally retailers may have deployed screens for displaying full size posters, videos or multi-zoned messages, we’re now seeing a shift towards investing in solutions that provide customer interaction.” Her view is shared by Jeff Hastings, CEO of digital signage player manufacturer BrightSign: “Messagebased signage is still at the heart of digital signage. However, it’s the delivery of, and reception of, that message that is evolving. A retailer wants to deliver a message that this brand is the only choice. First time users might try to do that with video messaging, audio and images. The upgrade comes when retailers learn to create an experience that customers cannot find anywhere else. We are now seeing retailers deliver their message by blending physical interactive experiences with spectacular audiovisual displays and playable gaming technologies to create something memorable and exciting. Retailers implementing these systems are often on their second or third generation of signage.” “Retailers are increasingly seeking to engage with customers through more intelligent signage, linked to their wider marketing communications,” adds Jasmin Stemmler, who is product marketing manager at NEC Display Solutions Europe. “Many of the larger retailers, and those in strong competitive situations –
From top: Florian Rotberg, invidis consulting; Helen Kenniff, Sedao Digital Signage
t’s incredible how rapidly we take things for granted – especially when it comes to technology. It no longer seems remarkable that we can chat, face to face, with anyone in the world. Controlling your home with your voice now seems as natural as using a light switch. No longer needing a map book to find your way is an everyday occurrence. Back in 2012, FedEx Office reported that 76% of American consumers enter a store they have never visited before based on its signs, and 68% have actually purchased a product or service because a sign caught their eye. Fast forward seven years, and the question has to be asked: would that same signage still have comparable appeal? Few markets are more dynamic – or more competitive – than retail. What worked yesterday is unlikely to work today in the face of increasingly blasé consumers. Where once a sign with movement caught our eye, there is a case for saying that’s no longer enough to stand out from the crowd.
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Beaver Group developed an interactive concept which drives an NEC PX803UL laser projector to project life-sized rug dimensions onto the showroom floor, making customer choice easier
DIGITAL SIGNAGE AND BIG DATA A growing phenomenon is the use of digital signage to capture data – data that can help in substantially improving multiple aspects of a retailer’s business. Embedded sensors can track individual customers as they move around the store – enabling not only increasingly personalised experiences, but cumulatively contributing to a larger database of information that can help provide insight into demographics, and deliver better store layout, better product placement, more appropriate stocking levels and so on. And, of course, it can inform decisions that will lead to a better understanding of what digital signage works – and what doesn’t.
particularly in their flagship stores – are leading the way in this regard, seeking to deliver heightened shopping experiences through greater interaction and smarter communications. They are starting to deploy business intelligence systems that include digital signage screens, viewing them as a holistic marketing tool rather than isolated digital posters.” INCREASING COMPETITION Florian Rotberg is managing director of digital signage consultancy invidis. “Retailers are being driven to change, not because they’re adventurous companies, but because they’re facing increasing competition from online,” he says. “Pilot installations of more advanced digital signage are now appearing in flagship stores and, in some cases, across the store network. Scalable digital experiences is currently a major trend.” To paraphrase Hastings: digital signage has moved on from its early days. Kenniff talks about ‘interaction’ while Hastings talks about ‘experience’ – and the two
From top: Jasmin Stemmler, NEC Display Solutions; Jason Cremins, signagelive
are closely related, because they imply a more personal approach to communicating key messages. The holy grail of digital signage has long been ‘engagement’: the only question has been how to best achieve that – and the bar continues to get higher. When it comes to personalisation and increased engagement, interactivity has been clearly demonstrated to work in engaging consumers – but Jason Cremins, founder and CEO of Signagelive, sees the industry moving forward from the technology that once defined that interaction. “We are seeing considerable interest from retailers interested in creating interactive experiences without relying on touchscreens,” he notes. “Our integration with BrightSign and the Nexmosphere range of sensors provides a great platform for us to work with our partners to build custom solutions that incorporate RFID, buttons, lift and learn, lighting and so on.” As Cremins implies: the number of technologies available to retailers to stimulate a personal interaction continues to grow. EXCITEMENT “We’ve seen lots of excitement around the experience of seeing messaging that applies specifically to the customer via facial recognition, of seeing messages that are applicable to the customer’s location and environmental factors enabled via AI, of changing the messaging on screen by proximity, gestures, or interaction with mid-air haptics,” says Hastings. “Of course, there is also touchscreen interactivity, RFID sensors, GPIO button press and mobile device interactivity. The list goes on…” A large part of the backdrop to this search for an ‘experience’ is what has become perhaps the most important demographic – across many industries – of all: millennials. Perhaps their most analysed trait is the value they place on ‘experiences’ rather than ‘possessions’. Smart retailers are responding by making their stores destinations. But not just any destination. In the same way as the restaurant industry seems to be prioritising Instagrammability above all else, so also retail is progressively embracing social media. “With the advance of social networks and the expectation of instant gratification, the buzz in the retail industry is extending the current customer experience to create an immersive experience that integrates in-store technology with personal technology – perhaps engaging with your ‘Insta followers’ to make selections in-store,” says Kenniff. “Many retailers are now looking at how they can incorporate digital signage into their overall media strategy – including online and mobile,” adds Cremins. “This can include implementing dynamic content
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PROVEN RESULTS Adapting the digital signage message to a specific customer type is proven to work. In a controlled experiment carried out by Living Retail Lab, it was conclusively demonstrated that merely switching from analogue to digital signage does not generate additional sales. Image-based signage rather than text-based signage delivered a worthwhile uplift in sales. However, gendertriggered content proved extraordinarily successful in one case, where sales improved by 800%.
scheduling where real-time data – weather, audience analytics, stock, for example – is used to determine ‘what plays next’ on any given digital display.” “In addition,” he continues, “we are seeing a trend towards store-wide digital experiences where various displays can transform and act as a single canvas for ‘takeovers’ and integration with sound, lighting, scent and mobile apps create a truly immersive experience for the customer.” “AV technology can excite and entertain with one-to-one experiences, creating moments to share on social or bringing brand assets to life like catwalk shows and celebrity ambassadors,” believes Mark Childerhouse, sales director at digital infrastructure specialists Pioneer Group. “It can also inform, making the retail experience richer in a personalised way.” That personalisation is key to the ability of bricks and mortar retail to compete with online shopping. Depending on your point of view, shopping with Amazon works because it seems to ‘know’ you and can make recommendations based on other things you’ve bought. There’s no reason a physical store can’t do the same. “The experiences most sought after are ‘personalised experiences’ in bricks and mortar,” says Rotberg. “Consumers are spoiled with personalised content on their smartphones – and that has dramatically changed their expectations in the store environment.” The technology everyone in retail digital signage is talking about that is enabling these increasingly personalised experiences is AI, in conjunction with sensors – often cameras. “Sensors are a very interesting area of development which enable you to assess consumer reaction to a store layout or product range rapidly and with corresponding ROI,” says Childerhouse. “This is very useful in the grocery and FMCG spaces, where consumers visit regularly and make on the spot
decisions. AI is a rapidly developing area, creating automation within stores which takes the pain out of the boring parts such as queuing, leaving more time for engaging and personalised experiences.” VALUABLE DATA “AI has great potential to tune digital signage presentations in real time, collecting and analysing large quantities of data and automatically displaying environmentally-responsive content,” explains Hastings. “For example, if a particular product is selling better than normal today, displays can switch to highlight that product to shoppers. AI also enables companies to deliver highly personalised messages through screen-smart device interaction, linking intelligent displays with consumers’ smartphones. In the process, they can capture valuable customer data that can be used both on an individual and aggregate basis to complete a virtuous circle of information and improvement.” Kenniff also sees the transformative potential of the two technologies. “Sensors and AI are important
“We are now seeing retailers deliver their message by blending physical interactive experiences with spectacular audiovisual displays and playable gaming technologies” Jeff Hastings, BrightSign www.avtechnologyeurope.com
FEATURE footage from outside the store where a VIP is promoting a new product.”
BrightSign helped create a striking visual experience at the recently opened Levi’s flagship store in Times Square, New York
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progressive AV tools and are proving more popular in retail than any other sector as they enable data collection and distribution of relevant information. Recognising demographic changes in a specific environment enables triggering of target-specific marketing messages which engage with the audience in front of the screen and create personalised experiences. Using AI to identify customer behaviour to create more effective marketing strategies is an ideal way to increase sales in the retail environment and this aspect of technology will continue to develop.” Another proven method of engaging consumers with signage is to reflect the real world. Cremins adds: “A great example we have worked on is a Times Square retailer who has created a fully integrated, cloud-based digital signage solution. The solution incorporates traditional displays and an LED display canvas, lighting, sound and a 4K camera which is installed to capture live footage from outside the store. For key product launches, the retailer can switch to a preconfigured event that triggers all the screens to display synchronised content mixed with the live
A STEP TOO FAR The quest for personalisation as a means of creating the engagement which drives sales continues. However, for some, personalisation that knows who you are can be a step too far – something of which the industry is acutely aware. The compromise reached in many cases is to attempt to ascertain the type of person you are, rather than who you are. “The tools used for audience analysis are anonymous,” explains Stemmler. “They are not facial recognition tools and are no threat to privacy. The system sees a human face and estimates the gender, age group, dwell time, distance and so on. This information is highly valuable in retail as it can help keep a log of the type of demographics entering a store and analyse customer behaviour, as well as delivering messages or offers that are more likely to be relevant.” “The introduction of GDPR policy means retailers have got to be careful and transparent about the way they use customer data,” adds Childerhouse. “Data is an extremely valuable resource these days, and is pivotal in creating personalised and customer-oriented experiences. The other side of that coin, however, is that companies need to handle data carefully if they want to avoid breaking the law.” Rotberg has some words of advice to those thinking of taking the next step in retail digital signage: “The biggest mistake you can make is to add digital just for the sake of being digital. Digital needs to add value to the customer journey – so smart solutions are better than, for example, plain videowalls.” “And,” he continues, “in planning customer-facing digital communication, ensure that it’s connected and integrated with backend processes like ERP and CRM. That creates a far more powerful solution.” As retailers seek to preserve – perhaps even grow – their market share in the face of intense competition from online, the solution that they’re increasingly arriving at is a paradigm that could be said to be the best of both worlds. “Retailers are certainly developing their digital signage experience, and we’re seeing the correlation of the emotional engagement of being in store combined with the intelligence of online,” believes Childerhouse. We’re entering a new era of retail digital signage in which it’s no longer enough to attempt to communicate with consumers en masse. Personalisation that creates engagement that creates an experience that creates footfall and sales is unquestionably the way forward. At least, for now. Will consumers become blasé about this too? Only time will tell.
Retail digital signage: how to choose the right screen While much of the current discussion in the digital signage world is about what’s behind the screen – the sensors, the AI, the CMS, the links to CRM systems and so on – the choice of the screen itself is no less important than it has ever been. Ian McMurray asks the industry’s advice
digital signage screen represents the public face of the enterprise. Unlike in the early days, when there were indeed some pretty bad flat screens out there, today, there’s no such thing – but that doesn’t mean all screens are created equal. The industry is pretty much unanimous: when choosing the screen – forget about the screen. Yes, there is a choice between LCD, LED, projection – and even, to a limited extent, OLED – but none is ‘better’ than the other. “Each technology offers a different set of features and benefits,” notes Jasmin Stemmler, product marketing manager at NEC Display Solutions
Europe. “What’s crucial is gaining a clear understanding of what you’re trying to achieve before deciding on the technology to use. Key factors to consider include viewing distance, ambient brightness, operation time, interactive requirements, mounting infrastructure and, indeed, budget.” “Digital signage is not a ‘one-size fits all’,” adds Drew Rogers, senior product manager, large format displays at Samsung Electronics (UK), “and so it is important to take into consideration what the organisation wants to achieve from the display and to understand the needs.” Laila Hede Jensen, board member of the Digital
TOP TIPS Signage Organisation (DSO), agrees. “The project should always be led by the desired outcome and strategy to engage the end user,” she says. “It’s important for those involved in planning the project to ask ‘what is my message, and what am I trying to achieve?’ This should come before any decision on technology.” That said: a screen has to be chosen… Perhaps the first issue is where the screen will be located. High ambient light means the need for a higher brightness screen – but lower brightness may be more appropriate for parts of a store interior with lower ambient light. “In general, the 450 nits that’s typical of many screens is nowhere near enough for the average retail environment,” says Florian Rotberg, managing director of digital signage consultancy invidis. And if the plan is to deploy the screen outdoors? “Outdoor displays are available with different levels of ingress protection (IP),” Rotberg continues, “making them less susceptible to the weather. Look out also for screens with filters and active cooling to protect against the heat of the sun.” Indoors or outdoors isn’t the only consideration. Will the screen typically be seen face-on – or will it be in an environment where it will often be seen from the side? “In those cases,” says Rotberg, “angle of view is important. The wider it is, the more clearly visible the image is from almost any position.” Size also matters. What will the typical viewing distance be? A large screen may be appropriate for attracting a crowd from a distance – but will overpower a viewer who is close to it. COMMERCIAL GRADE Cost, of course, will always be a consideration. “Many customers select domestic screens rather than commercial screens for reasons of price – but these miss the mark on quality of viewing as well as long-term reliability in a 24/7 environment,” says Helen Kenniff, product marketing manager at Sedao Digital Signage. “We recommend end users invest in the best commercial-grade products they can afford – and we back them with a five-year warranty.” There’s also the temptation to look only at initial purchase price – a mistake, Stemmler believes. “A lack of appreciation of the comparative costs associated with digital signage deployments is all too common,” she claims. “Often, buyers ignore the fact that the initial buying price reflects only 30% of the total investment, leading to false economy with a
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solution that’s not fit for purpose.” “Customers are increasingly aware of their impact on the environment,” adds Kenniff. “They’re looking, not only at the green credentials of manufacturers, but also whether they use technologies that save energy and reduce long-term cost of ownership.” “Robustness and longevity are vital in maintaining peak performance over an extended life time to minimise operational costs and ensure investment security,” echoes Jensen. “And,” she adds, “digital signage screens are often a single element in a larger estate, so support for centralised monitoring and control will ensure effective management of the signage network.” Installability also is too easily overlooked. “Very large screens may be impressive,” says Rotberg, “but will they go through the door? And is the structure on which it’s planned to mount them capable of taking their weight? The wrong decision could end up in significantly higher installation costs.” COMPELLING CASE With all the above said: LED is increasingly making a compelling case for itself – not least because its inherent modularity can lead to unprecedented levels of creativity. “With its modular architecture, excellent levels of brightness and contrast, high refresh rates, wide colour gamuts and long life – LED now presents itself as a great option for digital signage projects,” believes Jensen. “Videowalls are starting to lose relevance in the face of what LED can do,” adds Rotberg. “Any wall larger than six displays is mostly built with LED nowadays. LED is module-based, so almost any shape and form is possible. But, in contrast to LCD displays, LED is not typically a finished product – although recently, manufacturers have started offering ready-to-use LED solutions that are designed to compete with LCD.” Choosing a screen is, as noted at the outset, first and foremost a function of the planned application. However, it’s perfectly possible to choose a solution of the appropriate size, brightness and resistance to environmental conditions; that is built for 24/7 operation; that can be installed with minimal disruption; that is environmentally friendly and boasts a low cost of ownership; and that enables the required level of creativity – but that still misses the mark because of poorly executed, out of data, irrelevant content. But that, as they say, is a whole other story.
A journey to the afterlife After breaking records in LA and Paris, Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh has arrived at London’s Saatchi Gallery to much critical acclaim. Jo Ruddock gets a behind the scenes look at what it takes to create an AV experience for a travelling exhibition of such magnitude
arking 100 years since the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb, the latest blockbuster exhibition brings 150 of the treasures found inside the Boy King’s tomb to London, around 60 of them have never been seen outside of Egypt before. It is also the last time these items are expected to travel before they’re permanently housed in the Grand Egyptian Museum, set to open in Giza in 2021. Arranged across multiple spaces in the Saatchi Gallery, the exhibition combines audio soundscapes with projection techniques and digital content to create a compelling story of Tutankhamun’s journey into the afterlife and his rebirth with the influence he has had on media and culture upon rediscovery. As soon as you step into the first room of the exhibition, not only is the atmosphere set, but so are your expectations about the role AV will play in this impressive collection. The darkness of the Intro Theatre and the powerful audio delivered by JBL AC18/95 speakers and ASB6112 subwoofers powered by Crown amplification add to the feeling of immersion delivered by the custom-designed 180-degree screen, which delivers an engaging introductory video about Tutankhamun and the discovery of his tomb by Howard Carter.
While undoubtedly set to be a hit with visitors, this room immediately raises the issue of how to design an AV solution for a travelling exhibition that’s set to visit 10 countries over five years. With each exhibition space having its own unique footprint, tweaks and changes are only to be expected and this was the case with the Intro Theatre in London, as Khalil Williams, CEO of system integrator Design Electronics, explains. “The layout of the Saatchi Gallery essentially required us to reconfigure the system into three separate buildings, additionally we expected theatre dimensions to change and specified lenses that would accommodate these changes without additional costs for our client.” THE REVEAL Once the introductory video is complete, visitors begin their journey into the afterlife; they are guided through each section of the tomb, encountering the artefacts that were placed at each stage to carry Tutankhamun on his journey to meet the gods that would grant him access through each portal and into the afterlife. On top of each portal entrance projection mapping informs visitors about what to expect as they walk into the next section. From this point, technology is largely designed to enhance the
“Taking something that was designed for one open space and then breaking it into six different spaces here at the Saatchi Gallery really shows the flexibility of the technology; it’s the perfect use case for Dante”
exhibits rather than distract from them – you won’t discover any interactivity here, for example. Instead, the exhibits are given space to be appreciated, with case toppers – different videos on top of the cases – providing context and information. An added benefit for this travelling exhibition is that these allow for languages to be changed on the fly. Working with such delicate artefacts also meant other considerations such as heat and light emitted by devices had to be considered. “We have to think about the technology we place around these items,” adds Williams. “One thing to consider, for example, is mounting position. While technology provides a seamless backdrop, it must be carefully located and planned for serviceability that cannot subject priceless artefacts to overhead work.” BACK TO LIFE As visitors navigate the exhibition they pass through the afterlife until they reach the Wishing Cup, which is meant to signify the king’s eternal life, that was discovered at the top of Tutankhamun’s tomb. Here a portrait-mounted Barco F70-4K8 with ultra-short throw lens delivers an incredible visual recreation of the discovery of the tomb while audio adds atmosphere with muffled voices, tapping and digging noises. The final image is of the steps that lead down to the tomb where the Wishing Cup was discovered. This is under Crestron control, with a simple interface for guest services to operate. An advanced mode is also available, for example to enable lights to come up for items like cleaning and preset audio levels. The visual feast continues into the Discovery Timeline room. This is one area that benefits from the move to the Saatchi Gallery as there is significantly more space available than in other venues. This has allowed timeline projections, charting the history of King Tut through to the present date, to be spread over two walls. Additional projectors used around the exhibition have built in warping, something which has proved useful for this travelling exhibition. As Williams explains: “Given the changing venues over the world tour, we may not have a dead centre point or lighting may be in the way, Barco’s built-in projection mapping allows us to quickly and easily map the projection to these borderless screens.” The exhibition comes to a close with perhaps the most impressive exhibit on the tour, at least by scale. The colossal statue of Tutankhamun, which comes in at 14ft tall and originally guarded his tomb, dominates the final gallery, but again the atmosphere is set by the AV. In the London exhibition, projections fill the entire back wall of the room with the statue eerily casting shadows on the left-hand wall. In previous setups the projections are on either side of the statue meaning the videos weren’t designed to blend as they do here.
This wasn’t the only change needed to house this grand finale. The last gallery is across a hall from the rest of the exhibition, effectively in a separate building, presenting another challenge. Williams explains: “On the fly we added Kramer Dante amplifiers, so basically this is sitting as a one off on the network taking care of this room. It’s a very inexpensive solution for what would normally be quite a complicated problem – how do you get signal to the speaker. In the very near future, with expected improvements to technology like Dante POE and Power over HDBaseT, the convergence with IP will provide us tremendous opportunities to increase flexibility in our system design, making things quite literally ‘plug and play’.” OVERCOMING CHALLENGES Just a few years ago the technical challenges of moving such a high-profile exhibition across continents and delivering the same experience no matter the location would have been an enormous undertaking. And while there are still difficulties today, the rise of networking has undoubtedly made a huge difference. “Taking something that was designed for one open space and then breaking it into six different spaces here at the Saatchi Gallery really shows the flexibility of the technology; it’s the perfect use case for Dante,” says Williams. “The system has been designed from when we were originally in LA to be network enabled so we were able to convert the signal over to Dante and basically put it into any environment without the customer having to completely re-engineer everything on the system. It’s a centralised system but it can be broken out in these pods and each engineer can leverage the existing network infrastructure to patch everything into the mesh network and distribute the audio.” This also makes it easier on the venue, as Williams explains: “Because we’re on a digital network we can remote in and identify particular issues and really diagnose what’s happening for them.” The BrightSign players that enable the projection mapping are also networked in, adding to the flexibility. Of course, not only is this a touring exhibition, it also has to stand the test of time and be able to wow audiences for five years. With that in mind, the design was based around the latest video technology. Williams adds: “We’ve used 4K video in the Intro Theatre – it’s 3x4K, so effectively 12K. But we always had to remember that the purpose of this is to behold the artefacts. The technology needs to be transparent which is why for all intents and purposes you don’t really notice that it’s there as far as the hardware goes. The visual experience and the audio experience is there but everything is quite concealed.”
Above: AV is used to enhance the exhibits rather than overwhelm them
Reliability is also an important consideration. “When you’re talking about a five-year touring exhibition, the equipment has to be robust enough to handle travel, setup and environments that aren’t as controlled as a standard fixed installation would be. We want to make sure it’s going to be reliable as well. There’s a very fine line in determining what we’re going to use and how we’re going to use it. A lot of the early discussions are based around what does the creative director ultimately want to achieve and how can we achieve that inside the framework of a budget.” Indeed even on an exhibition of this scale and popularity, budget is still a major factor in the AV installation. “The challenge is always the budget and this is where we have to get creative and determine what products we can utilise to meet the customer’s budget without
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compromising on the experience. That’s one of the key challenges in any environment.” ETERNAL LIFE According to the Ancient Egyptians, to speak the name of the dead is to make them live forever, and nowhere is this more true than with Tutankhamun. The pharaohs who succeeded Tutankhamun tried to cover his name and his history, yet by doing so they preserved his tomb better than any other, meaning his name is still being spoken more than 3,000 years later. Williams concludes: “This story of adversity is something that people can relate to in their everyday lives. When education becomes entertainment by supplementing the story with technology, the experience truly lasts forever.”
A medical first A Crestron-powered installation means that video display and distribution at MedtoMarket’s newly unveiled facility in Texas are second to none, writes David Davies
ounded by practising physicians, MedtoMarket is a medical training and co-working organisation established to help medical innovators ‘bridge the gap from concept to market’. With a focus on harnessing the latest technologies to assist research and training, MedtoMarket opened its first facility – located in south central Austin, Texas – in June 2019. As well as its permanent team, MedtoMarket regularly pays host to visiting medical professionals, guests and academics. Given all this, it’s not surprising that highquality video display and distribution was a key requirement for the development of the Austin premises from day one, not least to ensure that medical procedures could be relayed in high-resolution and at the lowest possible latency. Dr Aaron Ali, CEO and co-founder of MedtoMarket, says that the facility’s AV infrastructure has been a priority “since we started to put the design together about two years ago. We knew that AV would be a key component in terms of making this project successful. It had to be a high-quality and robust system, and one that allowed us to satisfy our main principles, which are physical training, medical device innovation and the disruption of traditional innovation [in hospitals and universities]. “Bringing all the elements together in the best way possible is something that I have thought about pretty much every minute of the last two years.” Audiovisual design consultancy AV Helpdesk was brought into the process at a formative stage, with a team led by Collin Hogan and Steve Grace advising on the best solutions to take the project forward. Ali recalls: “We started to talk to them about how the facility should be set up and how the equipment should be incorporated into the goals that we had defined for the facility. They then started to look at the various options in terms of brands and so on.”
Above: Scalability, flexibility and ease of use were top considerations for the facility
Far Right (from top to bottom): Aaron Ali, Colin Hogan and Steve Grace
CASE STUDY Several specific items topped the MedtoMarket shopping list, including support for 4K HDR (aka High Dynamic Range, “for the highest quality visuals”); distribution with very low latency so procedures as well as other video contributions can be seen in real-time; ease of configuration and operation; and flexibility of future expansion, allowing extra rooms and external facilities to be added to the infrastructure with minimal upheaval. An awareness of the current product range, as well as positive previous experiences, soon led MedtoMarket and AV Helpdesk to a Crestron-based solution. As Grace observes, a big factor was that the “Crestron support is second to none. It is possible to obtain demo equipment and mock things up, and they have facilitated us in that way. And when we have encountered any technical issues, they have always put us in contact with the project engineer. So, yes, the dialogue with Crestron has always been great.” ENTERPRISE-WIDE 4K DISTRIBUTION Crestron’s DigitalMedia AV distribution system is integral to the MedtoMarket installation. Specific products used include the DM-NVX-351, which is an AV over IP encoder/decoder that transports 4K60 4:4:4 video over standard Gigabit Ethernet with no perceptible latency or loss of quality. Developed with enterprise and campus-wide distribution applications in mind, the DM-NVX-351 supports HDR10 and HDCP 2.2 with built-in scaling and videowall processing, surround sound to stereo down-mixing, USB and KVM routing, and optional fibre connectivity. The video distribution network is enabled by Crestron’s NVX digital video distribution technology, which is capable of switching thousands of 4K video sources and displays at 60 frames per second with full 4:4:4 colour sampling, HDR and low latency over long distances. At the present time, the video distribution network covers a total of 11 rooms, including auditoriums, meeting rooms and an operating theatre; however, the facility has been designed in such a way as to enable straightforward expansion in the future. MedtoMarket also has multiple Crestron Mercury CCS-UC-1 tabletop console devices for various meeting rooms and collaborative spaces. Control comes from Crestron CP3N 3-Series rack-mountable processors, whose features include isolated control subnets to provide Gigabit Ethernet LAN dedicated for Crestron devices. The AM-200 Media Presentation System has been specified to provide secure wired and wireless presentation in multiple spaces across the facility, while Crestron DM Lite Transmitter (HD-TXC-101-C-E) and DM Lite Receiver (HD-RX-101C-E) products are also well-represented. Crestron’s AirMedia technology allows anyone to wirelessly share content on meeting room screens, while TSW touchscreens provide ease of control for in-house personnel and visiting clients. According to Ali, the
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touchscreens have “made it so easy to drag and drop different video content into different rooms. They are great to use.” Equipment installed to cater to the facility’s audio requirements includes Crestron’s SAROS IC4T-B-T-EACH, a two-way in-ceiling speaker incorporating a 4in woofer and 3/4in dome tweeter. With the bulk of the installation taking place earlier in 2019, the Austin facility opened its doors in June. AN ‘ALL-ENCOMPASSING’ INSTALLATION Several months on from the work taking place, Ali remarks that he is “incredibly happy with the way that the project has turned out. From the support we have received from Crestron to the installers themselves, the process was even smoother than I had hoped it would be.” Now firmly “embedded in the facility”, the Crestron technology will “allow us to innovate at the pace of academia, which is one of the main objectives” of MedtoMarket, he adds. The installation has already given the facility significant flexibility in terms of video content. Ali cites an instance where the “three visual capacities of the main auditorium –
two 85in TVs and a laser projector – can be used to relay three different visuals. For example, you can have a presentation on one screen, a live video feed from an operation on another, and then a video conference contribution on the remaining screen.” Meanwhile, in the operating room, it is possible to have different feeds on all nine of the installed screens. Among all the stakeholders involved in the project, there is a sense that the completed MedtoMarket building provides a firm insight into how medical research and innovation facilities will look in the future. The focus on high-quality video and audio in the medical sector is “increasing all the time, and so we observe that this is a very exciting market at the moment”, says Grace. Providing the Crestron perspective, head of public relations Ron Epstein says that the project is “an amazing example of the capabilities of the technology we provide, and the imagination and drive of people who are looking to use it. [The facility has] a tremendous business concept and will make a real difference in terms of the knowledge of people. The capabilities of the facility are remarkable and it has been wonderful to play a part in this project.”
High-quality audio and video are increasingly in demand across the medical sector
Redefining retail Samsung’s new experience space in north London uses AV to create a multi-sensory, community-driven space. Jo Ruddock finds out more
A flexible infrastructure was a must for this multifunctional space All images courtesy of Samsung KX
ocated in Coal Drops Yard, a new shopping and dining development next to King’s Cross station, Samsung KX is much more than just a shop. Spread over 20,000sqft it is intended to ‘redefine the retail experience’, according to Samsung, offering guests the opportunity to be among the first in the world to try the manufacturer’s technologies and discover, through simulated environments such as smart homes and connected devices, how its innovations are set to impact our lives. With that in mind, Samsung KX is home to a number of events, spaces and environments, hosting everything from yoga and music to exhibitions, gaming events and skills-sharing workshops. In order to enable such a wide and varied programme of events, an AV infrastructure that supports multiplicity and flexibility was a must. Snelling Business Systems was appointed to implement the design and support the AV and IT infrastructure to enhance the visitor experience. At a glance, the vast AV and ICT integration delivered a converged technology deployment, including the world’s first 10m-wide vertically curved 1.5mm Samsung LED screen and Europe’s largest uncompressed 4K HDR10+ video over fibre deployment via ZeeVee Zyper4k SDVoE. Charlie Sullivan, UK and Ireland business development manager at ZeeVee, says: “The brief specified there could be no compromise on uncompressed, real-time video with zero quality loss – mission-critical performance for Samsung KX. Snelling Business Systems has flawlessly delivered an impressive installation leveraging the whole set of ZeeVee Zyper4K’s rich features, flexibility to scale to any unique resolution, ultra-fast switching across a 10GB fibre network, and future-proofing to support the expansion of 100+ endpoints at any time in the future.”
CASE STUDY A MULTITUDE OF POSSIBILITIES The objective of the project is to showcase the full Samsung ecosystem – how multiple devices and services come together to deliver a complete and harmonised experience. According to Younghee Lee, CMO of Samsung Electronics: “This flagship space will allow visitors to see, hear and experience all we have to offer.” For example, film screenings are made possible with content played from a Pioneer UDP-LX800 Blu-Ray player. This content is distributed over the AVoIP system to the ScreenMax LED wall and/or other screens. A Trinnov cinema audio decoder provides multi-channel (surround) audio content from the Blu-Ray players, routed to the main loudspeakers (for centre/left/right channels) and to connection plates (for surround/rear channels) where temporary loudspeakers can be connected. To support live music acts, two front-of-house floor boxes allow connectivity of an audio mixing desk for routing of instrument/vocal audio channels and monitors between the FoH position and the stage via a stage box. There is also connectivity in the floor boxes for a lighting control desk and LAN connections for digital connectivity into the Dante audio network. When it comes to talks and lectures, two HDMI inputs at the Stage Box location allow video and audio from devices to connect into the ZeeVee CDN for display onto the ScreenMax wall and audio distribution to the loudspeakers around the ScreenMax. Wireless microphones provide speech reinforcement to the ceiling loudspeakers, and three PTZ video cameras installed in the ceiling troughs on the west side capture a full view of the stage to ZeeVee encoders. The AV system utilises three central AMX Netlinx NX Control processors to initiate video and audio processing, routing and equipment control. The AMX processors also provide the interfaces between the AV system and the Martin Lighting production lighting system, including façade lighting. A wired 10in touch panel in the manager’s office and mobile tablets provide a user interface to the control system. A networked remote PTZ controller is provided to control the PTZ cameras in the west side of the store. Steve Royans, sales director at Snelling Business Systems, concludes: “Samsung envisioned the space as an inspiring hub for curated, on-brand experiences that bring Samsung’s latest technologies and services to life. Samsung KX is a place of discovery, where people can interact with cutting-edge innovation and local community passions, such as film screenings and live music performances, under one iconic roof through a roster of skills-sharing events and workshops providing a breadth of experiences available to all. “It’s an engineering masterpiece. The systems and infrastructure we have deployed are critical to support the
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envisaged visitor experience. Look around and you will see only high-end commercial installation audio equipment, uncompressed 4K content distribution, large-format LED walls and more. Keeping in mind the design of the building and its iconic rooftop, our aim was to support the delivery of ‘London’s greatest retail experience’. “Samsung KX will be a unique experience space in the UK and I’m confident Samsung has set a new benchmark in experiential brand building.” The new venue is designed to showcase the full Samsung ecosystem
THE TECH GUIDE
A selection of some of the latest AV products and solutions now available to the market
Vaddio Product type: Installation software Target market: Corporate What does it do? The Vaddio Deployment Tool is a Windows-compatible application that simplifies equipment installation by providing a single interface for configuration management, device discovery, mass firmware updates and remote troubleshooting. It is designed to help AV managers keep their AV installations running smoothly. What’s new? At the click of a button the software shows all compatible Vaddio products across a deployment on one screen, allowing users to select devices from the network then choose an action such as configure controls, reboot the device, unmute the audio, or update firmware. With the configuration management feature, users can copy set-up configurations and apply them to other devices. The Vaddio Deployment Tool requires authentication from each connected device and encrypts all stored authentication. The application collects no user data of any kind to respect the privacy concerns of users. The tool is cost free, there are no licence fees or maintenance fees. Perfect for? New installations, both large and small Available: Now More info at: https://info.legrandav.com/ VaddioDeploymentTool
Product type: A 4K RGB pure laser projector Target market: Immersive experiences What does it do? Claimed to be the world’s first true HDR 4K RGB pure laser projector for the pro-AV market, it features Christie RealLaser illumination, true HDR and a wide colour gamut approaching the full Rec.2020 and Rec.2100 colour space. With true HDR, Christie Eclipse can process and reproduce HDR content on screen, in 4K resolution, at both high and low brightness levels. The result is a contrast ratio of up to 20,000,000:1. What’s new? Christie Eclipse offers the flexibility to customise the brightness level to suit the environment, from 2000 lumens up to 30,000. It features Christie TruLife electronics for 4K at 120Hz performance, and Christie Twist software for warping and blending capabilities. Christie Eclipse also supports Christie Mystique an automated, camera-based warping and blending tool that simplifies the deployment of multiprojector arrays. Perfect for? Planetariums, giant screens and themed attractions such as dark rides and flying theatres Available: Now More info at: www.christiedigital.com/emea
TECH GUIDE MXL Zoom Room Speaker Switch System
B-Tech Product type: Kiosk for LG’s 88in ultra-stretch digital signage Target market: Retail, education, corporate, hospitality What does it do? The BT7007 is one of a number of new B-Tech mounting solutions which are designed specifically for specialist LG solutions. Available in either a black or white satin finish, the digital signage kiosk combines durability with a premium aesthetic and simplified installation. The kiosk can be freestanding or bolted to the floor and can even be customised to feature company branding if requested. What’s new? The internal mounting system for the BT7007 utilises B-Tech’s exclusive System X technology, allowing LG88BH7D displays to be easily mounted using a simple ‘hook-on’ installation method. The removable front and rear panels fit flush around the display and make installation and maintenance quick and convenient, while rear vents allow airflow to and from the display. Perfect for? High-end installs that need a stylish, robust solution to provide information to visitors Available: Now More info at: www.btechavmounts.com
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Product type: Audio-tracking mic system Target market: Corporate What does it do? The new system uses three MXL AC-44 compact USB microphones and harnesses Zoom’s audio tracking software to co-ordinate with an integrated camera that focuses in on speakers. What’s new? The bundle consists of a threemicrophone array utilising MXL’s new AC-44 miniature USB microphone, which boasts an extra-small footprint, (measuring 2.5in x 3in), while delivering sound clarity in a wide pickup arc. The three AC-44s will be positioned in a Left, Right and Centre arrangement that automatically tracks to wherever each speaker is located. The integrated camera then focuses in on each speaker’s location based on the audio signals, creating a more dynamic and impactful Zoom conferencing experience. The AC-44 uses MXL’s signature three-capsule boundary design to create a small microphone with a wide pickup arc, which makes it ideal for huddle room and conferencing applications. The MXL Zoom Rooms Speaker Switch System will come with an additional 4-port USB extension hub for easy set up and operation. The MXL Zoom Rooms Speaker Switch System harnesses Zoom’s advanced internal audio processing software to track where the current speaker is coming from, and communicates this information to the integrated camera, for smooth and synchronous automatic panning that offers a noticeable improvement on the Zoom Room conferencing experience. Perfect for? Collaborative conferencing environments Available: Now More info at: www.mxlmics.com
Philips Professional Display Solutions Product type: Professional bedside TV designed for the healthcare sector Target market: Medical What does it do? HeartLine has been designed for healthcare facilities and has improved patient comfort in mind, with a 19in screen, Chromecast built-in and access to the Google Play Store. The TV can be installed in close proximity to patients and is designed for a sensitive healthcare environment – easy to clean and limiting the growth of the most common micro-organisms. What’s new? HeartLine is the first-ever dedicated TV designed for the healthcare industry. The Chromecast built-in feature enables hassle-free, wireless casting of movies, presentations and more from smart devices such as mobiles, laptops and tablets to the Androidpowered Philips Professional TV. It uses a JIS Z2801-compliant antimicrobial additive in its housing and is equipped with a toughened flat safety glass front, making it easy to clean. The glass is hydrophobic and repels fingerprints. It has no raised buttons, which means no crevices for germs to get into. Perfect for? Any healthcare environment Available: Now More info at: www.philips.com/c-cs/ProfessionalDisplay-Solutions
Product type: In-ceiling speaker range Target market: Hospitality, houses of worship, retail, education What does it do? The line-up consists of six models that are all available in semi-matt black or semi-matt white finishes. According to Tannoy, they deliver the power handling, wide frequency response and low distortion typically found in more expensive products. Each model has a powder coated aluminium mesh grille with dust protection. The drivers are mounted in a UV- and weather-resistant UL 94-V0 and 94-5VB ABS front with a plated steel fire can enclosures. In addition, each model has EN54-24 certification for detection and fire alarm systems, UL1480 certification for fire protected signalling systems and UL2043 certification for air-handling spaces. What’s new? The CVS 301 features a 3in polypropylene full range driver with butyl rubber surround for enhanced durability. The CVS 401, CVS 601 and CVS 801 feature 4, 6, and 8in coaxial polypropylene drivers, respectively, with butyl rubber surround and ferrofluid cooled soft dome high frequency drivers that provide classleading sound quality. The CVS 801S in-ceiling subwoofer uses an 8in polypropylene long-excursion driver that delivers weighty extended and controlled bass. The low pass baffle design allows for use with other loudspeakers without the need for a crossover. A low impedance version is also available. Perfect for? Environments that require highquality music and speech reproduction Available: Now More info at: www.tannoy.com
TECH GUIDE Avantis
Allen & Heath
Vivitek Product type: Laser projector series Target market: Corporate What does it do? The DU7295Z and the DU7098Z maintenance-free laser projectors are designed for mid- to large-office meeting rooms, due to their straightforward installation, simple cabling and quick image alignment. What’s new? With one cable management – HDBaseT – only a single cable is needed for image, sound and control. This makes the projectors ideal for rooms where it is necessary to run long cables up to 100 metres, without compromising signal quality. Network managers have the benefit of simple remote management, due to the DU7000Z series offering network monitoring. It is compatible with a multitude of help desk solutions, such as Crestron RoomView. Compared to traditional lamp projectors, the DU7000Z series’ lamp-free design prevents any hidden costs, thanks to its long-lasting light source. This reduces maintenance and negates the need to schedule a lamp change. It also achieves longlasting performance with up to 20,000 hours of maintenance-free operation. The projectors’ robust design is further enhanced with its thermal technology. They utilise a fully sealed optical engine and an enhanced ventilation system, which has been designed to aid cooling and minimise the impact of dust. Perfect for? Mid to large meeting rooms Available: Now More info at: www.vivitek.eu
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Product type: Digital mixer Target market: Live events, rental What does it do? Based on the company’s XCVI FPGA engine, Avantis puts Allen & Heath’s next-generation technology in a 64-channel/42 configurable bus console, with twin Full HD touchscreens, extensive I/O options and processing from the company’s dLive mixing system. What’s new? Right out of the box, Avantis is loaded with processing tools designed to meet the demands of most users and applications, including compressors, EQs and RackExtra FX units (12 slots). Upgrading to dPack expands Avantis further with additional dLive processing including the Dyn8 dynamics engine (up to 16 instances), DEEP Compressors, and the Dual-Stage Valve preamp. dPack purchasers will automatically receive all future DEEP and FX updates free of charge, future-proofing their investment. For local I/O, Avantis is well equipped with 12 XLR analogue inputs, 12 XLR analogue outputs, plus AES (Stereo In, 2x Stereo Out). Two additional I/O ports allow Avantis to benefit from the full range of current dLive option cards, including Dante (64x64 and 128x128), Waves, gigaACE, MADI and more, expanding the scope for system integration, FoH / monitor splits and multitrack recording. Perfect for? Venues, houses of worship and touring and rental that want a high-performing mixer at a competitive price Available: Now More info at: www.allen-heath.com/avantis
BATTLE OF THE BRANDS
In the loop Hearing loop systems work to reduce background noise, competing sounds, reverberation and other elements that can prove problematic for people with hearing impairments. We take a look at the lastest developments in this important field
A hearing loop, or audio induction loop, is a convenient and effective way of improving the listening experience for the estimated 34.4 million adults living with hearing impairments across the EU. The technology works in a number of environments, including at cash desks in retail stores with high ambient noise, in cinemas, performance spaces
Company: Ampetronic Solution: C Series Sell it to us: According to Ampetronic, C Series units not only feature digital signal processing and networking functionality, but also enable fast, accurate setup and adjustment via a simple and easy to use digital interface. Class D drivers built into the series also ensure low running costs and reduced carbon footprint. In detail: Consisting of the C5-1 and C7-1 perimeter loop drivers and the C5-2 and C7-2 multiloop drivers, the C Series has
and museums, and in medical services. Unfortunately, many hearing loop systems are outdated and ineffective, despite the fact that businesses must provide hearing loop systems for their service users by law. The good news is that there are a host of simple to use and install systems on the market. Here we roundup just a few.
the added benefit of networking capability, enabling installers, technicians and facilities managers to remotely control the driver and monitor its status along with resistance and induction measurements. Email condition alerts provide reassurance that, regardless of location, an operator will be informed of any issues with performance delivery.Â Networking also provides the opportunity for future integration with Ampetronicâ€™s Loopworks Measure suite of tools for automated commissioning. Available: Now
BATTLE OF THE BRANDS Company: Contacta Solution: IL-EL42-PB Sell it to us: Launched in October 2019, the IL-EL42-PB is part of the IL-EL42 OEM range and provides clear audio to hearing device wearers in one-to-one situations. The key feature of the IL-EL42-PB is that it is a complete system. It contains a driver and a hearing loop aerial which means it is quick and simple to install, both in a retrofit or new build. In detail: The IL-EL42-PB is designed for integrated one-to-one situations such as intercom and door entry systems, ticket machines, digital audio displays and emergency or refuge points. LED status indication displays drive and loop fault conditions and it features automatic gain control. This model will accept input signals from a full range of sound sources including VOIP (voice over internet protocol) audio adapters, low voltage loudspeaker outputs, intercoms and PA systems. Available: Now Company: SigNET Solution: ML1/K Sell it to us: Suitable for banks, post offices, small meeting rooms, reception desks, ticket booths and any other application requiring restricted or small area coverage, the ML1/K counter induction loop kit requires no specialist audio experience or connectors and can be fitted by any competent electrician. In detail: With its space-saving design, this double-gang wallmounting amplifier fits standard UK 25mm back boxes (requires fixed mains wiring), while the omni-directional AMT microphone (supplied) plugs directly into the 3.5mm socket on the amplifier’s front. Microphone sensitivity is user adjustable, and loop drive and input level controls are engineer-adjustable. The ML1/K meets and exceeds the requirements of BS7594 and EN60118-4 when correctly installed. Available: Now
Company: Univox Solution: SmartLoop Sell it to us: Univox SmartLoop is designed to assist in everyday, one-to-one meetings or noisy communication situations (ticket booths, check-in counters, supermarkets, etc), providing versatile desktop induction loop assistance for hearing aid users. The product can serve both as a personal portable system and a permanent hearing loop system. No extensive installation work is required. In detail: Both loop and amplifier are integrated into a slim, low-profile enclosure. Powered by a rechargeable Lithium-Ion Polymer battery and with a built-in microphone, SmartLoop is ideal as a portable solution, ready for immediate use in one-to-one or small group meetings. The level adjustment feature allows for adaptation to different hearing aids and situations. Thanks to its light weight SmartLoop can also be attached under a counter using only double-sided adhesive patches, allowing for a permanent hearing loop solution. Available: Now
November / December 2019
MEET YOUR INTEGRATOR:
MediaZest Jo Ruddock catches up with CEO Geoff Robertson to discuss the integratorâ€™s strong heritage in retail and to find out what the future holds
MEET YOUR INTEGRATOR
Tell me a bit about MediaZest’s history. MediaZest was set up in 2004 and floated on AIM, a sub-market of the London Stock Exchange, in early 2005 with a mission to bring digital signage to retail. In September 2005 it acquired then 30-year-old systems integrator Touch Vision Limited, to be the experienced engineering division to power the delivery of that. With that acquisition came a wealth of AV engineering knowledge and access to other markets as well as retail, although that remains where we are best known. What trends are you currently seeing in the retail sector? We’ve seen the first phase of digital in retail settle and it has touched every vertical – clearly the importance of making digital part of the in-store experience cannot be underestimated. The trends we are seeing are towards a deeper integration of AV within the store: improving the customer journey rather than just being background aesthetics. In retail customers expect stores to be reflective of a brand’s online presence and vice versa, so bringing multiple different stakeholders into decision making is also becoming more common to give customers a consistent, high-quality shopping experience. The other trend we see everywhere – and we believe this is driven from the macroeconomic environment – is measuring the impact of solutions and trying to establish ROI. And are there any technologies here that you’re particularly excited about? We’ve seen LED really push into retail now alongside high bright window screens, and touchscreens are extremely common in our retail deployments, but in terms of new technologies, often our most exciting projects are mixing physical with digital. Technologies allowing us to do that, be they sensors, cameras, touch pads or similar, give us a lot of creative scope now to bring the store to life. Do you think AV has a role to play in helping retailers navigate the difficulties they’re facing on the high street? 100%! There are very few examples I can think of where the store experience and hence store performance cannot be improved by digital. As we see retail trends including smaller spaces with some customers and fewer, larger ‘brand-centric’ stores with others, the importance of utilising that space effectively and appealing to the modern consumer is paramount.
November / December 2019
How important is data tracking and analysis in this sector? We believe this is one of the sectors it’s most important in. Being able to track ROI and demonstrate that to senior management for our clients is paramount. It’s not enough to look good, we need to show these solutions add value, and whether that’s allowing for better, more relevant content or allowing for personalisation, or tracking the in-store journey, data has a role to play. What projects are you particularly proud of? At the moment we’re very lucky to have a wide range of clients across different retail sectors who really understand digital and the need for effective and dependable solutions. Our work in automotive, initially with Rockar and Hyundai and more recently Jaguar Land Rover, Ford and Mitsubishi together, and our work with VW in a similar vein I think has helped change that landscape. In more traditional retail, I’m very proud of our work with Ted Baker, Lululemon and HP over the past couple of years, which was really taken us all over Europe and the world and demonstrated that we can perform in any country and positively impact consumers in them all. Are you facing any challenges in the industry? I would say the biggest challenge for retail right now is, of course, uncertainty in the wider economy, which quite understandably is making businesses think twice about the rate of adoption or deployment of audiovisual solutions.
MEDIAZEST Established: 2004 Offices: London, Woking Market reach: Retail, Corporate, Finance, Automotive Website: www.mediazest.com
MEET YOUR INTEGRATOR
Has the role of an integrator changed in recent years? We certainly feel like we are becoming more trusted advisers across a wider range of topics than ever before. As well as pure AV we need to understand and be able to deploy all sorts of other disciplines for our clients, be that engineering based, IT relevant or from the world of data science. Why should end users employ an integrator rather than attempt to go it alone? Like anything complex, you really need a specialist to deploy AV in retail. There are many pitfalls and many ways an end user can get things very wrong without proper guidance. Many of those we have learnt over the last 45 years through experience, but also through being deeply ingrained in the industry and with access to the right technology and resource. There are always multiple stakeholders and that means a balance of skills across lots of different disciplines are essential to a successful deployment.
What are some of the biggest mistakes made by end users when it comes to AV? The biggest mistake we see time and again is buying solely on price. Thereâ€™s always a way to be flexible or creative with a budget if necessary but we do see clients plump for the lowest initial cost a lot and invariably it ends up not delivering the right result, failing outright or never going live. When we design an audiovisual solution for a client, we consider bottom line cost and try to be as efficient as possible, but we also look at longevity, the ultimate aim of the retailer, the quality of the experience the customer is getting, ROI, and balance all those factors and more before making a recommendation. Finally, what are MediaZestâ€™s plans for the future? Weâ€™re currently building our team and expanding our clients across retail and several other sectors as AV becomes more and more part of the customer journey. And, of course, we are constantly looking for new clients and new partners to work with to bring our work to a wider audience.
GETTING TO KNOW YOU
Getting to Know: Steve Rickless, CEO, Tripleplay
Tripleplay is heading towards its 20th anniversary. What changes have you seen in the industry over this time? Market acceptance of IP and software has been a monumental change, it has really elevated our platform to the mainstream having spent a number of years in the shadows as we competed against hardware vendors pushing appliances and delivering across AV networks. This acceptance has also seen the convergence of IT with AV as both come to terms with one another. Uniguest recently announced the acquisition of Tripleplay. How do Tripleplay’s solutions complement Uniguest’s offering and what was the strategic thinking behind the deal? Tripleplay has been operating at a very high level for a few years now, delivering innovative and professional solutions while also maintaining an exceptional level of growth and profitability. Through our business, Uniguest is opening up a number of new channels and markets for its solutions, but also enhancing its own offering into the hospitality and aged care space. Together we’ve created a 350-person strong business, spread across the globe, delivering technology solutions into every market sector; there is a long-term strategic vision for our solutions and we can see that together we are much stronger than we are apart. There was a lot of interest in Tripleplay, but we had to find the right partner to ensure our business continued to thrive and with Uniguest we only see opportunity and complementary technology, and that’s why we decided to work together. Uniguest operates in a number of markets in which Tripleplay isn’t currently active. Do you see opportunities for growth here? We absolutely see opportunity from Uniguest’s expertise. The hotel market is one we have worked in
a lot across the world, but we’ve not viewed it as a key global market for several years as we strengthened our hand in stadiums, arenas, banking and corporate environments. With the introduction of our solutions to Uniguest’s clients, and vice versa, we can see a real opportunity to grow Uniguest’s brand outside of the USA, and we can see an opportunity to expand adoption of Tripleplay’s hotel and aged care solutions through Uniguest and our sister company, Touchtown. How do you see Tripleplay developing over the next few years as part of the Uniguest family? With this partnership we have financial leverage we have never had in our 18 years as a business; we are backed by a strong and keen backer in Uniguest and we intend to use that to drive our industry forward and make our own platform even better. There will undoubtedly be challenges to overcome as we merge Tripleplay with ONELAN and integrate our product sets, but we are taking a logical and sensible approach to that and will make it happen in a way that does not negatively impact our clients and allows us to deliver above and beyond what we had planned. Outside of work, how do you like to spend your time? When I am not working, my time is spent running my family around to their various activities during the weekend or going through the various lists of other household duties I need to get through. If I am lucky, I may get an hour or so to myself to try and play golf, emphasis on the word ‘try’. Finally, tell us something about yourself that might surprise people. I have jumped out of an aeroplane with a parachute and survived, flown a plane without crashing it, driven a high-speed car around some very sharp corners without crashing it and had to once be rescued at sea after my bad attempt at trying to sail.
One-Stop Shop. With increased competition from online and ever-more demanding customers, retailers are having to deliver memorable, personal...
Published on Nov 27, 2019
One-Stop Shop. With increased competition from online and ever-more demanding customers, retailers are having to deliver memorable, personal...