Systems Innovation Is Born When Engineering And Marketing Combine
I’ve spent a number of column inches eulogizing about the ability of the Asian AV marketplace to delight and inspire us with its courage, scale, and diversity. On the eve of the InfoComm Asia show in Hong Kong, however, it seems appropriate to reflect not on the talents of Asia’s
integrators, contractors, dealers and resellers— impressive though they are— but on those of its manufacturers.
What gave me cause to do this was the conversation I had with NEC’s Pierre Richer (see Digital Signage feature, starting page 28) while putting this issue together. Richer was explaining NEC’s decision to turn its back on plasma display panel (PDP) technology, in favor of LCD screens. The decision itself is neither surprising nor remarkable. LCD is widely favored by the market for its ability to deal with data-based imaging with more integrity than plasma, which seems more at home with video. There are still plenty of plasmas being used in digital signage projects, and NEC will continue to support dealers who have bought its PDPs with warranty and service back-up. But LCD is clearly the flavor of the month among the signage community. NEC is simply being sensible by focusing its R&D endeavors on tailoring its LCDs more closely to the needs of that community.
Neither plasma nor LCD technology was originally developed with digital signage in mind. Indeed, when I first saw the phrase ‘digital signage’ on an exhibitor banner (I think it was Hitachi’s) at an InfoComm show in Las Vegas at the start of this decade, neither I nor any other industry watcher could have imagined that the market would become the force it is today. Plasma has its roots firmly in the consumer world, where it was intended to supplant CRT TV. LCD, meanwhile, was the choice among makers of computer monitors—hence the time it has taken for LCD to ‘catch up’ with plasma in the availability
NEC is tailoring to the needs of the digital signage community by focusing on LCD screens. of larger-size screens.
This is the point I want to make about Asian hi-tech manufacturing. The ‘can-do’ approach that characterizes R&D here means that technologies are not just refined and extended as the years and product seasons go by. They are, as often as not, completely re-invented to serve the needs of new markets. While other sectors of the global economy tend to be led by engineering or by marketing, Asia has the happy knack of being able to reconcile the two—and to bring the happy couple down the aisle in double-quick time.
At a time of worrying financial and economic headlines, the need for systems contractors to meet the needs of their end customers as closely as possible has never been more acute. Half-cocked or compromised solutions, involving products hastily adapted from the consumer electronics, IT, or telecoms world, simply won’t do. Ours is a specialized industry that requires specialized tools to do its job.
InfoComm Asia will act as a showcase for large numbers of those tools, and I can’t think of a better place to celebrate Asian R&D ingenuity than a convention center on the shores of Hong Kong Harbor. Times may be tough, but we still have plenty to celebrate.