Despite the Best efforts of the Queen and the RMT to frustrate our attendance on the first day of the NEC Display Solutions Showcase 2016, we persevered and we were glad that we endured the two-hour taxi ride from St Pancras and the altercation between the taxi driver and an overzealous policeman charged with keeping the roundabout at the end of Lambeth Bridge “clear of traffic” – some hope. When we finally reached Millbank Tower we were rewarded with some really well thought-out experiences from NEC and its partners.
Millbank Tower is the sixties looking high-rise jus along from the Houses of Parliament on the North Bank of the Thames. From the outside it didn’t look all that appealing in comparison with previous venues for the NEC event, but news imparted on registration that the bulk of the vent was housed on the 28th and 29th floors held some promise of spectacular views over Westminster and the rest of central London.
But before we even took the lift up to the top of the building, the tone for the Showcase was set by the projection mapping experience staged in the Milbank Tower’s ground floor theatre. Reminiscent of NEC’s 2015 ISE booth – which we particularly liked – the Millbank experience developed the ISE theme featuring a model of a cityscape, provided along with the content by NEC partner Made Up, as the canvas for the projection warping mapping. The stage set was illuminated with 2 x NEC PH1202HL projectors and 3 x NEC PX602UL laser projectors with NP-35ZL lenses.
The projectors were supported by side wall displays using NEC’s range of LFDs, including: 3 x NEC 55” X554UNS video wall modules; an NEC 98” X981UHD 4K UHD display; an NEC 84” X841UHD 4K UHD display; and an NEC 75” X754HB High Bright display. Other partners contributing to the Experience included: Green Hippo’s Hippotizer video processing technology; Harman’s 5.1 surround sound system; Peerless-AV’s SR598 wall mounts; and an Atlona switching and distribution system.
Taking the lift up to the two main exhibition floors revealed the core strengths of the Showcase event. The first is NEC’s partnership approach which mirrors real-world by integrating products from a number of different vendors into the solution that meets end-user customer demands. The second is the zonal approach which, unlike most commercial exhibitions, brings related products together to enable visitors to make comparisons – not just of products, but also different ways of achieving their technical objectives.
We would add a third element to the Showcase mix that was more apparent this this year than perhaps was true in the past – fun. While the venue determined that visitors were led. IKEA-style, through a succession of room and corridors, each turn revealed something interesting and / or entertaining. The use of digital signage was appropriate and supported by Bipzone beacon technology. This was our first experience of using this in an exhibition context and, having tried it, it’s hard to imagine future technology exhibitions running without it.
With real-time information and alerts sent wirelessly to our iPhones, Bipzone has the potential to make the usual exhibition catalogue redundant. Who wants to carry around a book when you can have a tool on your phone that tells you, dynamically, not only where you are in the show but also what’s to see nearby?
The combination of digital signage, beacons and mobile apps, to us, is a winner. On the top (29th) floor of the Tower, the digital signage network comprised: 5 x NEC 46” P463 displays; 5 x NEC 46” X462S displays; installed with Peerless SR560M wall mounts; integrated with a Cabletime MediaStar IPTV, streaming and signage system.
Cabletime, developer of the powerful MediaStar range of IPTV and digital media distribution solutions is enjoying some success in the digital signage arena at present. The company announced a significant growth in sales of 25.6% year-on-year following significant new product announcements last year and a major expansion of its international sales and management teams.
The introduction of synchronized live video streaming, support for 4K, LDAP security, a new MPEG encoder and the recent launch of the Mac OS X version for the MediaStar Media Portal have contributed to a sustained increase in sales across the year. The company also restructured its sales channel in the UK last year, and has announced a new programme of support for Approved Partner.
On the floor below, the network was made up of: 6 x NEC 40” P403 displays; an NEC 40” X401S display integrated with Core i5 slot-in PC installed with Peerless SR560M wall mounts.
In the zone
The Showcase was organised into seven zones: Corporate; Transport; Broadcast and Media; Retail; Education; Command and Control; plus an LED Gallery. The Corporate Zone showed the rapid migration of AV / IT into the corporate workspace, featuring remote conferencing and collaboration; room management tools and productivity aids to assist corporations in maintaining a competitive edge.
Digital solutions are available for every step in the communications process for customers, suppliers and staff. Welcoming reception signage should present the company image and ethos, with a more recent trend seeing interactive video walls and large format displays showing corporate branding messages and information.
The technology on display included: 4 x NEC 46” X464UNV video wall modules in landscape orientation with integrated Skylake OPS modules; a TriplePlay modular head end server; supported by Peerless DS-VW765-LAN video wall mounts.
NEC’s modular interactive video wall solution invites multiple users to engage, share and have fun with the content. Using patented ShadowSense technology, providing high performance multitouch capabilities with integrated protective glass, the revolutionary Modular Touch System can be configured to virtually any size. The Showcase display featured 6 x NEC 55” X555UNS-PG displays with interactive ShadowSense touch overlay frame.
Beyond the reception, NEC systems designed to keep employees informed, motivated and focused with multi-screen desking configurations. An IP-based switching platform enables individual or shared access to all data sources from all desks by linking local and remote users. NEC’s new 24” bezeless displays deliver an uninterrupted multi-screen estate.
Products on show included: the NEC 80” V801 display; 3 x NEC 24” X241UN bezeless desktop displays; 3 x NEC 24” E243WMi desktop displays; 2 x NEC 30” EA304WMi desktop displays; the DAS Optima back-to-back trade desk; the Wey Technology distribution platform, multi-functional keyboards and KVM Also new to the Huddle Space area was the recently introduced NEC touch table.
Allowing multiple users to engage and share simultaneously, NEC’s new Reactive STAGE interactive software supports workgroup collaboration in huddle spaces and meeting rooms, transforming how teams work together to manage, edit and share documents. As well as the NEC 65” X651UHD-2 IGT 4K UHD InGlass Touch Table, hardware options included the NEC 65” X651UHD 4K UHD Corporate Whiteboard display with an SMS stand and the Sennheiser TeamConnect wireless audio conference solution
Visual collaboration solutions integrate video conferencing with screen sharing from multiple devices and locations simultaneously. By uniting teams, data and content in a shared visual workspace, the solution transforms meeting rooms into immersive and engaging digital workplaces. The hardware solutions on show included: 3 x NEC 55” X554UNS displays in landscape orientation; 3 x NEC 55” X554UNS displays in portrait orientation; and the NEC 55” X552S display. These were powered by the Oblong Mezzanine visual collaboration solution
For those corporate clients integrating around Microsoft applications, a cloud-based dual screen video conferencing room was shown running the Skype for Business unified communications platform. This meeting room solution is said to deliver a seamless secure video conferencing and calling experience that delivers simple to operate connectivity from any video system to any other video system.
The board room scenario on display featured a four screen video wall linked to a 4K IP based distribution system. The centralised networked AV solution shown allows communications to be shared between multiple rooms without the inconvenience of bespoke cabling. The ultra slim, 1.8mm narrow bezel video wall of the NEC 55” UN551S video wall modules in a 2×2 landscape configuration creates an impactful UHD digital presentation space.
For a completely seamless display, the Showcase featured an SSL projection option. In the board room scenario, a 4K control and distribution system with HDBaseT for long distance signal transmission to project ultra-high resolution content via the NEC PX803UL laser projector laser projector. An Atlona matrix switching solution provided the HDBaseT transmission.
A further option for the boardroom is that of fine pitch LED modules. These provide bright, crystal clear, extra sharp image quality but are likely to be limited to the most well-heeled customers and applications for at least the short-term Of its type, NEC#s LiFT L015Si 1.5mm Fine Pitch LED modules arranged as a 3 x 2m digital surface is sure to appear on the wish lists of those than can afford it.
Moving from the work environment to the communal parts of the built environment, the Showcase revealed how the operators of transport infrastructure are investing in digital technologies to achieve the level of customer service needed to transform the passenger experience, making it a smooth and intuitive visual journey, helping to reduce passenger anxiety with quick access to information, way-finding and entertaining retail signage.
Replicating a small airport installation, the control room operators uses numerous management systems across multiple screens to interact and switch content between them. Passenger anxiety is reduced with clear visual access to the latest flight information and messaging.
Another potential application for fine pitch LED modules. The Showcase display showed how the 1.9mm version of the technology can be used to create impressive high bright, high resolution signage to deliver readable messaging even in light flooded terminal buildings.
Aside from timetable information, semi-outdoor displays were shown in wayfinding, retail and entertainment applications within transport hubs. NEC displays housed within totems can be strategically located advertising media to attract, entertain and influence passengers whilst in the retail areas of the terminal building helping airport operators to gain from additional revenue sources. 46” and 55” displays were shown in the Peerless KIPC546 and KIP555 totems respectively.
Nowhere is the advance of digital signage technology more apparent than in the retail space. Delivering an exciting retail experience using visual stimulation helps to attract, direct and focus the revenue-generating potential of consumers. An effective in-store digital signage campaign will support cross-channel communications delivering inspirational content to enhance the customer journey and promote brand loyalty.
Using the example of a car showroom, the Showcase showed how utilising a combination of innovative interactive hardware with advanced multi-touch software, customers respond to an easier, more intuitive way of browsing and shopping with instant digital access to the full product range. The benefits of e-commerce together with the in-store shopping experience will engage customers, create more opportunities and increase revenue.
This example featured: 4 x NEC 55” X555UNS video wall modules; NEC 46” P463 display; a Displaylite zero bezel 4K touch table integrated with NEC 55” X551UHD display and a Core i7 OPS slot-in PC, featuring Touchtech Lima software; a Displaylite wall mounted interactive touch screen integrated with NEC 42” V423 display, with a Core i7 OPS slot-in PC and featuring Touchtech Vendo software: a Displaylite interactive mirror combined with NEC 32” V323 display and featuring Touchtech Vendo software; installed with Peerless DS-VW765-LAN video wall mounts and SF640P wall mounts.
A Department Store scenario, featured an array of immersive digital signage solutions, including: a lift and learn solution using Adidas products; interactive touch screen applications; an educational shopping experience integrated with RFID and a mobile information solution, using ibeacon technology. These innovations are designed to enhance the customer journey and support the retailers’ ambition to achieve a cohesive omni-channel strategy.
A Scala solution presented at the Showcase automatically optimised messaging and content on the basis of fact-based consumer insights, using beacon technology. This showed how retailers can further improve their sales and revenue goals by personalising the shopping experience. When a customer enters the fitting room, RFID tags detect product details to display compelling images and suggest matching items to boost cross-selling opportunities.
It’s fun to travel
At the beginning of this piece we alluded to the fun element of Showcase this year. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the Travel Store segment. You could book an appointment, choose your destination then head to the cocktail bar to start to experience the holiday vibe.
With an NFC based customer identification process and fun digital photo booth (including a dressing-up box) you could enjoy a personalised experience demonstrating how in-store digital media can be linked to online channels to create an engaging customer journey.
The hardware element of the segment included: an NEC 47” X474HB High Bright display; 4 x NEC 40” P403SST ShadowSense interactive touch display in portrait orientation; a NEC 70” P703 display; an NEC 80” E805 display; an NEC 42” V423 display; a variety of Peerless-AV mounts; with software and content based on Pixel Inspiration’s retail digital signage solution.
What this showed, along with the rest of the NEC Display Solutions Showcase is that is you can make something experiential, the content is both understood and retained. Oh, and the views over London enabled us to see when the traffic had cleared.