Sports Have Growing Emphasis at Digital Signage Expo

The Digital Signage Expo (DSE) at the Sands Expo in Las Vegas this month had sports on its mind at many of the 100-plus booths on the show floor. The growing presence of sports applications for digital signage, not to mention the increasing size of the signage itself — Planar showed a video wall comprising 170 55-in. LCD displays capable of showing a single image across the entire assembly — suggests that the category is evolving to match up with the lower ends of jumbo sports-venue video displays and scoreboards.

A Planar outdoor display is used as a menu board at Chicago’s Soldier Field.

A Planar outdoor display is used as a menu board at Chicago’s Soldier Field.

Theoretically, the concessions menuboards that have been digital signage’s historical entry into the sports venue will soon be asking patrons, “You want fries with that replay?” while they wait for their orders to be filled.

Pulling Fans Back Into the Seats
Jennifer Davis, VP of marketing at Planar, pointed to the giant signage at the rear wall of the company’s booth at the show and noted that leagues and teams are looking at digital signage as another tool for enhanced fan engagement. “Digital signage is television that can be installed at the fan level, in a sense a replacement for the TV at home that they watch the game on,” she told SVG.

Video walls can be scaled to vast dimensions — “You’ll run out of concourse before we run out of displays,” she quipped, referring to the increased use of weatherproof signage in outdoor areas of venues — yet are able to be divided into multiple segments that bring them down to a human level. Increasingly, these large video walls can also be made interactive, either with touchscreen overlays or by using smaller touchscreen displays as user interfaces for the largest video walls.

Davis cited installations of video walls at professional sports stadiums, like those at Soldier Field in Chicago and Moda Center in Portland, OR, but added that video walls are becoming more common in collegiate venues, such as the Planar video walls installed at the University of Oregon’s new Autzen Stadium football field. Colleges are also using them for halls of fame and alumni centers and for team recruitment installations. College installations are often funded by well-heeled alumni while the signage in professional venues are often financed by the concessions owners, she noted.

The Big Outdoors
As digital signage moves outdoors at sports venues, the hardware is getting physically robust, like the weather- and wind-rated sealed displays that Peerless-AV is marketing to the sports sector. Peerless-AV VP of Business Development Brian McClimans said they were developed with input from the Stadium Managers Association, whose members are also asking for integrated cameras and speakers so that the signage can go from delivering advertising to helping fans with wayfinding. McClimans said that Peerless-AV is also working with software developer MVP Interactive, which is beginning to use digital signage more frequently in conjunction with touchscreens, gesture technology, augmented reality, facial morphing, social-media platforms, and mobile applications to connect fans with teams and brands in the stadium and arena.

Weatherized displays were abundant at DSE. Panasonic’s new TH-47LFX60U 60-in. display, for example, delivers brightness of 2,000 candela per square meter even under direct sunlight. The display got its IP55-level dust- and water-resistance ratings and durability testing outdoors in Cheyenne, WY, where it was subjected to temperature changes ranging from – 4F to 122F.

In a related development, more digital signage moving into sports bars, both in the venues themselves and on the outside, according to Karl DeManss, product manager at Panasonic System Communications. “Some AV integrators are starting to prefer video walls to conventional single-screen displays for their robustness and their ability to scale big,” he told SVG.

Sports bars and outdoor installations are also beginning to test ultra-short-throw video projectors. Panasonic’s new PT-RZ670U one-chip, lamp-free DLP laser projector offers 6,000 lumens of brightness, a solution for large, very bright signage applications where flat-panel displays are simply not large enough. With its laser light source and filter-free design, the projector can run without maintenance for up to 20,000 hours, reducing total cost of ownership and minimizing maintenance. The PT-RZ670U is also equipped with Digital Link, a feature that, when connected to a compatible switcher, makes it possible to transmit AV content and control signals via a single Cat 5e or Cat 6 cable from a distance of up to 328 ft.

What sports fans who make it out to the stadiums, arenas, and parks have to look forward to in the future may be what also appeared at a number of booths at the DSE show. At the Wegener booth, a camera mounted in a display was able to “read” visitors’ faces and determine gender and age and whether they were happy or sad, the latter capability presumably to determine whether they might be amenable to a product pitch.

A camera mounted in the Wegener booth “reads” the author’s face to determine his gender, age and mood.

A camera mounted in the Wegener booth “reads” the author’s face to determine his gender, age and mood.

Thomas Bush, director of business development for Wegener, said that analytics-data gathering is the new frontier in digital signage, sort of the precursor to establishing Minority Report-style advertising. It would be a boon for sports venues, the ultimate in captive-audience locations, but it also brings up what some at the show referred to as the “creep factor”: the sense that you are not only being constantly watched but also incessantly evaluated for your consumer potential.

Bush acknowledged that concern but noted that this is the way the trends are pointing, a position buttressed by the other, less graphically interesting but nonetheless relentless data-mining products peppering the show floor. They will provide the raw information that companies like Nielsen, ComScore, and Rentrak will use to validate digital-advertising costs in the future.

“It all comes down to ROI for every sign in every location,” Bush said. “Everyone wants to know who’s seeing their message. Sports is at the center of that.”

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