Cisco enters digital signage market

Cisco enters digital signage market

Cisco unveils new system to enable stores to display and update product marketing at checkouts

Cisco Systems has announced a system for digital signage that would enable stores to display and update product marketing at checkout lines with the use of digital video display terminals.

Other companies might use the digital signs to provide employee training as well, general manager of digital management at Cisco, Thomas Wyatt, said. A bank might use the technology to update customers on services as they waited in line.

President at Fantasia Coffee and Tea in Cupertino in California, Michael Chang, started using the Cisco Digital Signage system recently at the checkout counter at one of the company's Milpitas stores to display still pictures of store products.

"Today, it is pictures, and later we could put on video and maybe provide information about the health benefits of tea," Chang said. "So we kind of entertain people while they are in line."

The digital video format allowed quicker changes to the information than printing the signs the store needed, Chang said.

Data is sent from a Wi-Fi router in the store to the display. Eventually, Chang could send the video data from a central location to five stores. In the future, Chang also wants to allow nearby stores to advertise on his display, to bring in a small revenue stream to pay for the technology.

The system included Cisco's Digital Media Manager, a Web-based software application, and its Digital Media Player, a small hardware device that controlled playback of video, graphics and text on video displays, Wyatt said. The player is $US1495, while the Manager was based on a customer's configuration, he said. In September, Cisco announced two Digital Media Encoders to help create the type of media that could be distributed over the digital signage network.

Cisco expects the global market for digital signage products would be more than $2 billion in 2010, Wyatt said.

An analyst at IDC, Melissa Webster, said there were already a tremendous number of digital signage providers, perhaps hundreds, that worked in a highly fragmented market. Almost all the vendors were small, but larger ones tended to focus on building advertising networks or deploying outdoor signs.

Sony sold displays but also began to sell a digital signage system in Europe last year, she said.

The systems so far had been customised, and Cisco's new product represented the first major effort to offer a standards-based, plug-and-play system, Webster said.

"I think we will see very rapid uptake once there are large, standards-oriented vendors in the market [such as Cisco]," she said.

A customer would benefit from the flexibility of the technology, Webster said. Retailers could deploy a new promotion across hundreds of stores in a nationwide chain literally at the push of a button, she said. But local customisation of the content would be possible to allow a store that's experiencing mild weather to push merchandise different from a store in an area enduring snowstorms.

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