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Helius Partner Summit

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Utah-based Helius, providers of world-class IP broadcasting solutions for business, is increasingly involved in the top digital signage systems being rolled out nationwide. And this was in full evidence last week, as Helius hosted its annual Helius Partner Summit 2007, October 3-4, in Park City, UT. On hand at the Summit were dozens of Helius’ partners, top Helius customers, as well as some of the industry’s top consultants. The Summit offered both an update on Helius’ accomplishments in the past year (the acquisition of Gemini Software, and PointCast; the release of MediaAuthor, an easy-to-use digital signage application that allows the customer to create in PowerPoint; and the launch of new digital signage network services), but more importantly it offered a chance to explore in-depth the challenges and opportunities as digital signage continues to forge ahead in the quest to further take AV out of the boardroom and classroom and into public spaces.

Helius is unique in that its solutions–Digital Signage, Corporate Communications, and Training/Learning– provide customers with a comprehensive enterprise-wide data broadcast infrastructure. This infrastructure delivers corporate broadcasts, business television, interactive distance learning and training programs, distributed digital signage initiatives that support advertising, brand enhancement, and customer satisfaction programs. Helius’ platform supports a host of applications such as content distribution, centralized management, security monitoring, video multicasting, and video conferencing.

And the Helius Partner Summit reflected this. Representatives from companies such as JC Penney, General Motors, and the Mayo Clinic shared with the Summit attendees how the enterprise-wide infrastructure provided by Helius facilitates seamless training, digital signage, and other applications–all working together.

The Helius Summit featured individual presentations–as well as a round-table panel–from four of the country’s top analysts.

Laura Davis-Taylor, one of the top industry consultants in the U.S. who brings extensive ad agency experience to the retail digital signage arena, said that digital signage is “glance media” (as opposed to media that is watched as TV ads are viewed) and should certainly not be “website on a stick”. Davis-Taylor is now working with some of the biggest retailers in the U.S., advising them on what works and what doesn’t work in retail.

Lyle Bunn, who with his company Alchemy is involved in some of world’s top, cutting edge digital signage rollouts (including the spectacular Toronto Life Square), told attendees that there will be one million displays in North America in 2009. Bunn talked about digital signage for retail applications that can be described on a continuum that is either “customer-facing” or “staff-facing”, and is geared toward some combination of cost reduction, merchandising, or branding. Bunn delved into “content that is working” in robust, real-world applications such as the Sears “Postcard” campaign.

June Peoples of DS-IQ spoke about “measurement and guidance” for digital signage. Peoples and DS-IQ are heavily involved in measuring the effectiveness of digital signage. Rather than using traditional methods of extrapolating sales uplift from a multi-store digital campaign based on matched pair analytics (which is not timely, and throws away too much data), Peoples’ approach drills down to the effectiveness of the system at particular locations.
Ad-based digital signage in the retail environment is essentially not about technology, it’s about creating a media network that can be sold like other media. Jeff Dickey of SeeSaw Networks told the Summit attendees how the efforts to create nationwide “media networks” in-store are progressing. Dickey was one of the co-founders of DoubleClick, and his knowledge of the business models behind media networks, old and new, is key to this industry’s success.

“TV was an alternative medium in the 50s,”said Dickey. “DoubleClick was decried as a fad at first. “Dickey went on to explain how companies like SeeSaw Networks are making broad retail network buys a reality, today.

According to Mike Tippets, President and CEO of Helius and the host of the Summit, in 2008 Helius will install 2000+ digital signage remotes. So while the industry plows ahead under blue skies, it’s reassuring that events like this Summit at the base of the Rockies in Utah are allowing us to assess our progress to date, and to provide tools and insight that will allow us turn what is a hot market into a highly structured, robust, and predictable market that will lay the foundation for what is essentially an entirely new industry. An industry forged from the combination of supply (AV and networking technology) and demand (the need to reach consumers and employees where they shop, travel, and circulate) that is coming together in the kind of perfect storm we could have only dreamed about five years back.

- David Keene

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