Control Panels in Digital Signage?

Will touch panels come to digital signage?

I’m not talking about big LCD or plasma panels that are touch panels too, for wayfinding, etc. Those are here, and have been for a while.

But is there a role for programmable Crestron or AMX style small touch control panels that are part and parcel of high end AV installations in the boardroom and classroom?

Why would these ever be useful in the digital signage world? Isn’t all content just pushed onto the screen from some server somewhere, without an operator needing to control it on the fly? Yes, that is true, but the market may evolve to a place where just canned content pushed out to viewers with no one in the middle controlling things, is not enough. Let’s face it, in many venues, this kind of pushing content to passive viewers is boring, and will go nowhere. OK, you say, but there are already touch panel interfaces for digital signage, where, say, a shopper passing a storefront, can select different things in the menu, pick out on the touch-sensitive LCD screen, shirt colors, etc. Or wayfinding applications, that are basically an interactive map on the screen. But what I mean is touch panel control for scheduling of content, by an intermediary who wants to control content easily, without using a web browser interface, with a control system that is programmed to recognize both external hardware, and software triggers. In other words, putting more robust infrastructure into environmental-cued and operator controlled digital signage.

If the digital signage market does adapt more robust touch control, one of three companies will pioneer it: Crestron, AMX, or Extron. The first two, a no brainer to be on the list, because they have been in the space for a while (in the control panel space, but not in digital signage at all). But Extron?

News sent out (somewhat surreptitiously) late last week:

“Vice President of AMX Corporation Sentenced To Three Years Probation For Leveraging Inside Information on Chief Competitor"

David A. Goldenberg was convicted of corporate espionage by Judge Harry G. Carroll at the Bergen County Courthouse for intercepting proprietary e-mails from his company’s chief competitor while working as a vice president for Richardson, TX, based AMX Corporation, a subsidiary of Duchossis Industries. On June 26, Goldenberg was sentenced to three years probation, including psychological counseling, and will have to pay fines following his conviction and sentencing for felony wiretapping (Case Number- 822-08 Indictment Number- S412-09)

Sapphire Marketing notified the authorities in February of 2008, Goldenberg was arrested following a six week investigation by the Paramus Police Department (a member of the Computer Crimes Task Force). He was charged with Unlawful Access of a Computer System / Network- (2C:20-25b), Unlawful Access of Computer Data / Theft of Data- (2C:20-25c) and Conducting an Illegal Wiretap- (2A:156A-27) and was released on $50,000 bail. On May 11, 2009, Goldenberg entered a plea of guilty to felony wiretapping.

The investigation revealed that, while an employee of AMX Corporation, Goldenberg had infiltrated Sapphire’s e-mail accounts. He was intercepting emails related to potential contracts, which afforded him advanced knowledge of Sapphire’s customers and bid prices affording him an opportunity to underbid them. He then established a free email account and created an automatic forward of the victim’s email to that address.

“One of our employees was going to be away and needed to establish an ‘out of office reply’ for her email and that is when she noticed her email was being forwarded to an unfamiliar external address,” said owner of Sapphire Marketing, a sales representative for Crestron Electronics, Marla Suttenberg. “We had been suspicious of a leak for some time but this seemed to confirm our suspicions and we quickly brought this information to the authorities’ attention.”

The estimated losses for Sapphire and Crestron can not be quantified as sensitive material has been compromised.

“Mr. Goldenberg is paying the price, but it is hard to believe that his employer and our chief competitor, AMX Corporation, has not benefited from this illegally acquired information,” said executive vice president of Crestron Electronics Randy Klein. “The full damage caused by the compromising of this information is immeasurable and has seriously impacted our past, present, and future business.

Prior to being hired by AMX, he had been a customer of both Sapphire Marketing and Crestron Electronics. Goldenberg approached Crestron for employment in May of 2007 and was not hired. He was hired by AMX in June 2007 as general manager of their east coast office and was promoted to vice president before his arrest.

Why that sidebar? To make a point: both Crestron and AMX have bigger worries:

Extron debuted its new touch panel control at InfoComm, and it really was the talk of the show. And Extron is better positioned than the Big 2, to use cross-marketing to penetrate the digital signage market. Extron has for years,been the company that succeeds in making disparate display devices, servers, content sources, etc, work together. They are behind the scenes in classrooms and boardrooms everywhere, and this move in to “control” could be the start of a push to delve deeper into that gray area between “digital signage” and “commercial AV”, an area that is still confusing to both content suppliers and integrators.

See the full press release on this very interesting new touch panel from Extron at:

David Keene is a publishing executive and editorial leader with extensive business development and content marketing experience for top industry players on all sides of the media divide: publishers, brands, and service providers. Keene is the former content director of Digital Signage Magazine.