LFDs and Mobiles

Phew… Another busy week for the team. Chris was writing up Cedia, Tom was at a Lang event in Germany and I was in Dubai for Gitex, so there has been a lot of editing and frantic activity as we tried to get the reports done for this week’s issue.

I was at Gitex, an IT show that is the main regional event for the Middle East and Africa (MEA) and runs alongside the Infocomm MEA show, at least for the last several years. It’s disappointing that the organisers of Infocomm are pulling away from Gitex and there is more on this in my report.

I saw a pattern with some of the large displays at Gitex relating to their use of mobile devices. For the last couple of years, I have been talking to clients of our Large Format Display (LFD) market research service about an occasion when I was on a railway platform. There were several large and attractive big digital displays around, but nobody on the platform was looking at them. They were all looking at their own displays. That’s a real challenge for LFD makers, owners and network operators.

At Gitex, I saw three developments that are intended to address this issue, two from LG and one from Panasonic.

Panasonic was showing its Light ID technology which uses the LED backlight in an LCD, or an LED lamp, to transmit data to the camera on a mobile phone. There is more on this in our Gitex report, but an interesting application is to allow tourists to point a camera at a display and receive a translation into their own language on their mobile device. Panasonic hopes to use this idea during the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.

I think this is a great idea and have been looking for developments of the concept since I first saw it shown by Samsung as a concept a couple of years ago. However, the user has to know that the display supports this feature, and also the user has to have an app installed. It would seem to be a very good idea to have some kind of logo on the display or the image on the display. Unfortunately, Panasonic has a long history of using its own marketing terms, even when it supports industry standards. That’s a shame and it would be better for the market if everybody taking this approach shared a name or identification.

The second development was by LG who told us that it is adding beacon support to its mid-end and high-end LFDs. Again, I have been talking about this for some time. I don’t have space here to go through the concept of beacons, but they are a way to trigger an app on a mobile device, using Bluetooth Low Energy radio. The beacons can be very low cost and this seems a good idea (although the use of beacons needs careful support – I got very irritated by a beacon near the press office at MWC that kept alerting me, multiple times per day!)

LG also said that is has seen demand to add some audio facilities to its digital signage displays so that music or alerts can be broadcast at low level to those that might be close to the display. Now, that might not seem relevant to mobiles, but there are companies such as Signal360 which has apps and SDKs that can support the use of audio (which can also be inaudible) to trigger mobile apps.

The key to this technology will be to deliver real value to the consumer and not just become another irritant in our oft interrupted lives!