in September 2004
Networks: Next ‘Killer App’
Technology integration is the key to ESN's success.
Editor’s Note: In
our July issue, we published “Electronic Signage Networks:
ESNs can play a role in homeland security in addition to
traditional applications,” also by Lyle Bunn. This
time, the author takes us a little deeper into this “Killer
Graphic illustrating how this technology can be
used in public places.
Signage Networks (ESN) are poised to follow word processing,
VisiCalc, barcodes, enterprise resource planning and email,
in becoming the next “Killer App,” a technology
application that finds its place in usage quickly and broadly,
because of its enabling value and money-making potential.
The price and performance of each needed ESN component continues
to improve, and a key enabling element needed to control
image display in a secure, flexible, auditable way is the
The ESN software control system
is called “Dynamic Image Provisioning Applications”
(DIPA). Hardware, software and communications components
can be assembled to create electronic signage networks able
to display compelling images or provide information at the
specific location and time useful to achieving product selection,
public safety or other objectives. ESNs compel product selection,
powerfully augment emergency broadcast systems, can respond
to RFID (radio frequency identification), biometric, hazardous
materials and other triggers, all in a way that gets the
attention of the intended audience. “Killer Apps”
are defined as technologies that move productivity to a
newly imaginable plateau for businesses, government and
people through electronic devices and software.
typically have involved dramatic cost reductions through
time savings in creating, storing and communicating words
and numbers. Increased processing, storage and bandwidth
capabilities have enabled still and motion images to emerge
as a core presentation of data and communications medium.
The ability to see data and images “as you need it,
where you need it and when you need it” underpins
the growth of laptop, PDA (personal digital assistant),
messaging devices, cellular, internet, datacast and many
other markets. ESN represents the next plateau of digital
Killer Apps such as word processing,
VisiCalc (which spawned Lotus 1-2-3 and Excel), barcoding
(which is spawning RFID, Radio Frequency Identification)
and ePC (electronic product codes), electronic mail and
other technologies that combine electronic hardware devices
and software, cause and result in economic change. Significant
revenues and market positioning are available to firms in
the supply chain of such technologies, while at the same
time, better market positioning, operational savings and
organizational improvements are afforded those who use the
Changing cost structures,
improving communications and generating new revenue opportunities
have defined the emergence of the information technology
and telecommunications sectors within this generation as
the engine of global economic, social and national development.
These three elements will continue to drive the uptake of
technology and therewith, technology development. Killer
Apps change cost structures and create new revenue opportunities
proportionate to their enabling effect.
Killer Apps energize an economy
and in other now-predictable ways (consider email as a Killer
App in considering the magnitude of these changes and economic
impacts). In particular;
• New, different and
higher value-added jobs are created.
• Increased scale of
production results in the commoditization of manufactured
elements. This is reflected as an exponential revenue growth
curve and a stabilized, predictable profit curve during
broad adoption of the innovation.
• Software-related revenue
and profit growth increase during adoption and use.
• Service-related organizations
em- erge and grow related to installing, sustaining, providing,
training and usability of the application.
A new area of significant,
beneficial economic impact is available in the rapid growth
of image communications. Significant new revenues are available
through the creation of images. Electronic signage offers
new opportunities to communicate features, benefits and
information, while motivating consumer selection that can
support improved communications.
Local markets offer local image-creation opportunities,
inspiring local economic development and service supply
to others. Image creation and display revenues continue
to grow after an initial capital outlay for installation
of the signage network.
Emergency exit signs.
Screens in retail environments
can play a large role in the networking of electronic
An electronic signage network
is comprised of multiple electronic displays, such as LED,
LCD, plasma, CRT, etc., which display images and text that
is transported to the device using data communications such
as wire, wireless, WiFi, satellite, internet, etc., from
a storage device, all of which are controlled by software
that schedules, formats, transports and audits the display.
The unique feature of an ESN is in displaying multiple,
compelling images of television quality or much sharper
at the place and time when a decision is needed, made or
motivated. The core benefit is that the message is noted,
compels an intended decision and does so in a cost-effective
and brand-building manner.
ESNs can range from several
displays in a retail location to hundreds of displays within
a commercial, campus, stadium or government complex, to
several thousand displays across a transit system, city,
retail chain or nation. Many ESNs of 10 to 100 displays
have and are being implemented as are a number of ESNs comprised
of several thousand displays.
ESNs satisfy a commercial
imperative: They make money. Revenues and profit are generated
for the organizations that choose to display on the devices,
for all parties in hardware, telecom and software supply
for the ESN, for the firms that create, sell or place ads
and other display materials, for those who finance the elements
of the networks and for those who own or manage the locations
of each display.
ESN moneymaking potential
is the greatest argument for proceeding with ESN deployments,
in particular for location “owners.” Property
managers, city officials and transit authorities are particularly
inclined toward championing ESN installation for the revenue
that could be enjoyed through these displays. That they
can improve the safety of people on premises is an added
bonus in these cases.
ESN leverages and exploits
a range of proven enabling technologies and infrastructure,
as well as existing or planned images and information. Enabled
primarily by electronic display and communications advances,
ESNs offer the powerful impact of animated and motion images
with flexibility to present more images in more formats
at a particular location.
Elements of the ESN are tied
together and controlled by a new class of software, Dynamic
Image Provisioning Applications (DIPA), which offers the
missing ingredient to enable available technology to be
combined to be an electronic signage network. Although each
technology has merit on its own, the combinations of display,
connectivity and media management form a powerful tool for
commerce and public safety. DIPA tools are designed for
large networks with dynamic display, in a dual-use (commerce
and public safety) ESN.
A wide range of electronic
displays can be used, including CRT (computer screen), LED,
LCD, plasma, touch-less screens, etc. Displays are being
made vandal-proof and ruggedized to survive harsh conditions.
Some new networks include circular LEDs (DynaScan Technology
Corp.) and holographic 3D aerial imaging (McDonald’s
restaurants are using 3D from Provision Interactive Technologies).
Digital communications methods
ranging from telephone line to WiFi to satellite are applicable.
The increasing capacity and proliferation of WiFi, including
obstruction-penetrating WiFi enabled by multi-polarized
antennas (WiFi-Plus, Inc.) allow lower installation costs
and greater flexibility to move displays.
Being digital also means that
individual displays can be triggered by electronic identifiers
such as RFID, ePC, proximity detectors, atmospheric “sniffers”
(such as smoke, light, temperature, hazardous materials
detectors) or biometrics such as facial recognition. (Advanced
Interfaces, Inc. has made particular progress in facial
ESNs are emerging as the next
generation of broadcasting, narrowcasting and standalone
signage. And improved display provisioning offers the opportunity
for signage add-on to kiosk and self-service devices. The
narrowing of the usage gap between kiosks being a private
interaction and signage effectively attracting attention,
improves kiosk/self-serve revenue potential.
Firms that bring expertise
in technology supply, integration and installation, along
with an understanding of retailing, advertising, public
information, etc., are invaluable in planning and implementing
an ESN. By coordinating supply elements and working with
organizations to plan and implement the ESN, the critical
issue of ESN success—that of technology integration—is
achieved. ESN Integrators such as 2Bros Technologies, Inc.
of California and In-Store Merchandising Solutions, Inc.,
Chicago (www.windowadvantages.com) offer the necessary experience,
expertise and relationships for large ESN deployments.
The dynamic nature of electronic
display allows a single display or group of displays to
serve multiple purposes, even simultaneously. Generally,
these purposes fit within two categories: commercial and
Commercial uses of electronic
display include advertising, branding, product or service
information, usage demonstrations, traffic building or retention,
and point-of-decision influence.
Various studies point to the
effectiveness of electronic display as a communications
medium. Measures such as attention capture, recall rate
and decision influence have proven significantly better
than static signage. As we mentioned in our July feature,
a Las Vegas study of 400 mall visitors found 37% better
recall from dynamic vs. static signs; 51% more respondents
stated that they might visit one of the advertised businesses,
and 103% more people patronized one or more of the stores
or restaurants involved.
Public safety uses of electronic
display include warnings (weather, safety improvements,
etc.), alerts (Amber alerts, schedule delays, presence of
danger, etc.), public information (schedules, etc.), directives
(exit, routing, detours, “what to do,” etc.),
public education, news and infotainment. Surveillance devices
such as camera, audio or infrared can feed directly into
a staffed security or response center as already exists
in many transit systems, retail locations and secure areas,
for example. Warning and alert messages based on detection
of a threat situation can be conveyed as a normal part of
a security system.
Although there is strong commercial
motivation for ESN, these same displays can be used for
public safety as needed.
In releasing the final report
of the National Commission on Terrorist Attack upon the
United States on July 22, 2004, Thomas H. Kean, chair of
the 9/11 Commission said, “We expect future attacks.”
The 9/11 Commission report
included recommendations to implement alerts and public
direction mechanisms, and on page 415 of the report, further
recommended that an organization’s use of this technology
be considered in assessing insurability and creditworthiness.
ESN offers immediate and straightforward action for public
This action is also cost-effective
in the case of dual-use ESN. Displays can serve both a commercial
purpose and a public safety need.
An illustration of how a screen can be split into
Although few projections are
published for ESN deployments or revenues, statistics related
to narrowcast could be applied as ESN displaces this technology.
Let’s recap what we reported about North American
revenue growth projections:
There are currently 900 firms
in North America with 100 or more separate business locations
for signage (i.e., retail and service outlets). These large
chains will account for the majority of revenue growth in
the next five years.
By 2006 more than 26,000 firms
will use narrowcast systems, nearly 92,000 sites (i.e.,
locations or discreet premises) with at least one networked
display, and an installed base of more than 387,000 displays.
These 26,000 firms represent
only 1.6% of the 1.6 million retail and service firms that
have more than one business location that might implement
narrowcast systems. This suggests a conservative projection
and high growth potential for turnkey and all elements of
narrowcast system beyond the 2006 projection horizon.
reported that the worldwide retail signage market was $501
million in 2003 with a growth projection of 29% CAGR to
$2.35 billion in 2009. 2003 display revenues were comprised
of plasma at $310 million with LED video at $156 million,
rear projection at $19 million and LCD at $16 million.
By 2009, plasma displays are
expected to generate $1.14 billion in revenues, followed
closely by LCDs at $996 million. LED and rear projection
are expected to be $220 million and $30 million respectively.
Dynamic Image Provision Application
(DIPA), a new category of software now available provides
full control of image and information presentation in an
Electronic Signage Network.
The accompanying box lists
elements of the DIPA. Importantly, these accommodate display
screen splitting that allows advertisers and information
providers to reduce or spread their message display investment.
Further, these operational elements inherent in the DIPA
must meet the “RAS-able” requirements inherent
in a technology based system, specifically Reliable, Available
and Scalable. The DIPA application also operates across
a wide range of image and information file formats, database
formats and tools, file transport approaches (WiFi, internet,
satellite, etc.), media players, display products, and interactivity
formats and products (ePC, RFID, etc.).
Tools are required within
the application that enable the arrangement and segmentation
of display area for simultaneous presentation of multiple
images in multiple electronic file formats and schedule
these accounting for split screen, picture-in-picture and
The ability to override display
messages with an Amber alert, warning or public announcement
is an inherently required characteristic if the ESN is to
serve public-safety needs. Neither standalone displays that
play media from a storage medium (CD, DVD, etc.), nor displays
with widely spaced content download can serve this need.
Real-time or short-period
message override can work in concert with triggers for smoke,
heat, hazmat or other harmful agent detection to alert and
direct people for safety.
Further, the ESN that aims
for public safety improvement must inter-operate with emergency-service
organizations for premises monitoring and communications.
The 9/11 Com- mission’s recommendation for ANSI and
Signal Corp standard urges this need.
Back office control of the
ESN through DIPA must include or scale to various input
triggers. For public safety, these triggers might include
atmospheric sensors, proximity indicators, progress markers,
cameras and a real-time or controlled message override.
For commercial advantage and
to accommodate advances in technology and business practices,
these triggers might include proximity indication, radio
frequency emission, biometric identification, low stock
level indicators, etc.
Key Trends, Outlook
Various trends are suggested
based on recent experience and activities in relation to
the commercial and public value of ESN.
ESN introduces a new revenue
stream, an additional face of the enterprise either housing
signage units or displaying on them, and represents an outlay
of capital and organizational resources to plan and implement.
This assessment and planning takes time no doubt, and it
has been proceeding. An acceleration of ESN deployments
could be expected for the following reasons;
• ESNs make money for
all parties involved.
• ESNs offer high value
as a public-safety communications tool.
• The dual-use of ESN
(commerce and public safety) affords greater motivation
• ESNs offer an alternate
or extension to narrowcasting systems that are good candidates
or ready for re-fit or implementation.
• All technology elements
are now available for successful, scalable ESN.
• Wireless communication
allows for easier placement and movement of ESN displays.
• ESN is being advanced
or supported by some key decision-makers seeking non-core
revenues (i.e., property managers, city officials, government
departments, transit systems, etc.).
• Public-safety officials
and emergency response organizations are advancing ESN to
support their objectives. The 9/11 Commission made specific
• ESN is being “sold”
by many contributors in the ESN supply chain, such as display,
telecom and software providers, ad-creation and placement
agencies, ESN integrators, etc.
The 9/11 Commission final
report noted the critical importance of public alert and
safety information, indicating the legitimacy of linking
such communications to insurability and creditworthiness.
In its stance for implementation of these recommendations,
the following could reasonably be expected:
• All buildings housing
government operations, in which public-sector employees
work or that are open to visit by the American public, would
be equipped with dynamic exit and alert signage capable
of providing accurate, timely, clear evacuation and safety
• Infrastructure receiving
federal government funding, such as subway, bus and rail
transit systems, airports, memorials, parks, highways, stadiums,
attractions, etc., would beequipped with public-safety signage.
• Credit and insurance
underwriters will establish and implement measures to encourage
improved safety of employees and patrons.
• Commercial and public
organizations leveraging using ESN for public-safety purposes
will enjoy selection preference by government operations,
reduced insurance rates and improved creditworthiness.
Although “multiple use”
might describe the way in which electronic signage will
be used, “dual use” in a commercial and public-safety
context could be expected. Just as workplace and patron
safety messaging, as well as warnings and alerts, serve
to improve the quality of a visit experience, it is possible
that commercial organizations, such as retailers, property
managers, etc., might enjoy government funding based on
Measures that help reduce
loss of life or injury can be expected to result in lower
Conversely, it could be expected
that ESN primarily for public safety and information could
generate revenue through commercial advertising.
Participants in the ESN supply
chain include hardware, software and technology service
providers, installation, image/content creation, display
contract management and ESN operations. It could be expected
that the earlier mentioned ESN integrators will grow rapidly
through ESN deployment opportunities, while existing system
integrators along with existing signage, kiosk, electronic
display and telecom suppliers will seek to supply needed
services for ESN.
Because an electronic display
offers a platform (i.e., safe, serviced real es- tate) to
house sensors, cameras and communications equipment, ESN
offers an “event-point” link to safety and surveillance
systems. Emergency response personnel can use these on-location
devices for pre-entry information.
Given its value in providing
information in public, urban and commercial environments,
and the value of message override with current DIPA, the
ESN can be expected to integrate with the Emergency Broadcast
Systems for real-time public alert.
As the “Killer App”
for revenue generation, ESN could be expected to be integrated
with supply-chain and marketing-related tools and approaches.
Loyalty cards and RFID offer display triggers to serve consumer
Although ESN display has commercial
advantage over existing display alternatives, budgeting
cycles and approaches to media buying are retarding ESN
growth. Display-space buyers want more and better options
for electronic display. What could be expected are
• the directing of some
media buys toward ESN pilot and initial installations
• “notional allocations”
of display spending in order to take advantage of new ESN
• suppliers to retail
supporting in-store ESN display with advertising or product
• more ESN display spending
proportionate to revenue generation and branding impact.
Importantly, ad agencies and
media buyers will respond to the desire for better ad performance
by re-proportioning display budgets away from long-term,
single-image media buys in favor of more “point-of-decision”
and multiple media buy targeting.
In the nearest term, given
the value of ESN to public safety, funding agreements that
assure ESN installation advancements and ongoing network
planning and access could reasonably be expected from the
public sector and publicly funded organizations.
Electronic Signage Networks
represent the integration of now available technologies,
at a time when public-safety needs are higher than ever
before. These needs, along with the need for commercial
success are ongoing. ESN has value in meeting each of these
needs with the same infrastructure. These, in conjunction
with the “win-win” money-making capacities of
ESN, suggest that ESN is moving to the “Killer App”
category that has served companies, people and the economy
so well in the past.
Revenue Growth Projection
|Advert. Net Operations
|TOTAL ($US millions)
|Elements of DIPA
Content Management Tools
Content Ingest, Encoding and Translation
Content Storage and Backup
Operations Management Systems
Quality of Service (QoS) Assurance
Proximity Content Display
Reliable Content Distribution/Transport
Network Monitoring (SNMP)