ISE 2023 Wrap-Up

EPISODE 108 | Guest: Brian Galante, president and co-founder of Dimension PR

Trade shows are one of the most important ways that vendors can introduce new products, check in on technology trends and form lasting partnerships. For the first time in years, crowds are returning to the show floor in full force to see what’s new in the AV/IT industry.

In this episode, we get a quick wrap-up of the major themes and products on show at this year’s Integrated Systems Europe event from Brian Galante.

  • Get the skinny on show attendance and vendor partnerships
  • Explore the growing crossover between residential and commercial markets
  • Delve into the main themes of the event: immersion, collaboration and sustainability
  • Look at hot products on the show floor: holograms, audio innovations and powerless displays
  • Hear about new space booking tech and trends for the modern workplace

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Learn more about Integrated Systems Europe here.


Derek DeWitt: For many people in different aspects of the business world, it’s important to stay on top of things. What’s going on? What are the trends? What’s coming down the pipeline? Whether it’s design trends, whether it’s hardware, software, tech, ways of organization, what have you. Trade shows are often where a lot of people see what the future of their particular industry or industry sector holds.

One of those is the Integrated Systems Europe, also known as ISE. It’s the leading AV and systems integration exhibition in Europe, occurring every year. This year in 2023, it was in Barcelona. Now, I myself didn’t manage to go, but I know someone who did. And that is my guest today, Brian Galante, founder and president of Dimension PR, who’s here to give us the skinny on what was going on at ISE 2023. Hi, Brian.

Brian Galante: Hello, Derek. How are you, sir?

Derek DeWitt: Excellent, excellent. Thanks for talking to me today. I’m jealous. Barcelona’s one of my favorite cities, and so how fun to get to go and spend time there.

Brian Galante: Yes, I can give you the skinny on it, although I did gain some weight while I was out there, given all the outstanding food that I ate that week.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, for sure. I’d like to thank everybody for listening to this episode of Digital Signage Done Right. Don’t forget, you can subscribe, he says again. And you can follow along to our conversation with a full transcript on the Visix website. Just go to the webpage for this podcast episode.

All right. ISE. I went many, many years ago to when it was in Amsterdam, and back then it was quite crowded. I’m wondering, of course, I think the first question we all have on our minds is what was attendance like? Has Covid, like it has so many other things, just knocked this down, or was it back in full swing?

Brian Galante: Well, I’d like to actually start by looking back about a year. So, my first trade show after the Covid shutdown was NAB, which is the US-based broadcast industry conference. That was last April. It was fairly well attended, but it was, it still felt sparse overall and tentative in nature. Everyone was clearly happy to see each other, yet you could almost see the coating of rust on everyone walking the floor and trying to get their sea legs back. We had to start somewhere, and that felt like a good start.

If you fast forward to InfoComm two months later, the energy was better. Yet there was still that feeling of trying to return to form. Product introductions felt scant, and then there was that post-show reality that the event itself was something of a superspreader. But we’ve come a long way in eight months, and ISE really proved that trade shows are back. We all feel safer around each other and having conversations on the stand.

What really reinforced the necessity of trade shows to me at ISE was watching people on my client stands. Even though we all continue to communicate product availability through company partners, sales teams, in the media, I watch people coming onto the stands asking about products they missed, that were introduced during the heart of the Covid era, yet were being seen in person for the first time.

That, to me, really demonstrated the value of people being able to see and touch products, and study their functions. It’s something that a Zoom or Teams call just cannot do. And I think that that really drove the desire for this return to trade show attendance. ISE was pumping, start to finish, day one through day three. I honestly jetted out of town for day four, as I typically do. But I can tell you that there was an energy on this floor that I have not seen since prior to the Covid era.

Derek DeWitt: Wow. That’s pretty exciting. So like you think day four, ’cause day four is often kind of dead; it’s a short day, and a lot of people, as you say, jet out, but you think anybody who stuck around, probably there was still stuff going on.

Brian Galante: Yeah, well, I think that day four is an important day actually for exhibitors to meet with each other. Companies that are partnering with each other, high-level management meetings. There’s still a need for that day four, where the general population, as I would call it, starts to thin out. And executives, people from different companies can meet with each other and really dial into what their future opportunities look like.

Derek DeWitt: I think that’s just fantastic. And I think maybe, do you think part of the reason that it was so pumping and so like you said, everybody felt comfortable, do you think it’s just the time that’s passed? Do you think it’s because the Europeans really are taking the measures that were implemented still quite seriously? And so my feeling here in Europe is that there’s a more of a sense of “us”. And I’m not saying that in America there isn’t, but America seems to be somewhat fractured on a number of issues and topics and subjects, and of course Covid is one of those. Do you think that’s partly what it was? Is the difference between the way that the Americans and the Europeans have approached Covid or it’s just, hey, look, enough time has passed and we’re back?

Brian Galante: You know, I think it actually has more to do with the latter. Your points are certainly on point, no question. But I felt like, ISE felt like a period of moving on. Where I felt like, let’s just say I had a few clients that were at InfoComm that were very protective and following very strict protocols; that seemed to really loosen at ISE. I don’t know if it was just the dawn of a new year or the feeling that enough time has passed since the last major global outbreak, but it really felt like a return to normalcy that I have not seen since 2019.

Derek DeWitt: Wow, that’s very exciting. So here, fingers crossed, let’s hope that this continues on into InfoComm 2023 and beyond.

Brian Galante: I agree.

Derek DeWitt: Speaking of the differences between Europe and US, how are the shows different? I mean, is it all the same, really, or I mean, do you get a lot of the same vendors and products? Do you see different stuff? Is the whole approach different? Does it feel different? Or does it feel like when you’re inside that, that space I could be anywhere?

Brian Galante: Well, I do think the difference is fairly negligible. If we look at ISE and InfoComm, they both cater to the integrator, the contractor and the reseller. Exhibitors are there to meet with partners as much as they introduce new products to end users.

A key difference between ISE and InfoComm is that ISE has a residential AV element to it that InfoComm lacks. That brings in a fairly broader crowd, including custom home installers. And that also attracts companies that, that are more focused on light commercial applications. And what I mean by that are restaurants, sports bars, hotels.

There is increasingly a lot of crossover with residential and commercial AV solutions in these verticals. And increasingly we’re seeing custom home installers move into the commercial AV space and vice versa. So I think that ISE offers a broader platform and attraction to bring those two crowds together, whereas InfoComm is more exclusively focused on the commercial AV element of business.

Derek DeWitt: That’s interesting that some of the residential people are going commercial, commercial going residential. What are we talking about here? We’re not talking about, like digital signage; no one’s gonna have digital signage or a menu board or something in their home. Are we talking about like control systems, heating elements, things like that?

Brian Galante: Well, I think you’re really talking about content distribution and control. So, in a sports bar for example, where you might see a bank of displays, you know, showing different games, you’ll have distribution amplifiers, you’ll have AV-over-IP platforms, you know, that are moving different signals, different channels of content to different screens. You’ll have user-selectable panels. And I think that a lot of these platforms are really downsized from your typical commercial, education, government, kind of heavy commercial AV application to, and I don’t love this term, but to rightsize it for these smaller businesses in the restaurant and hospitality space.

Derek DeWitt: Right. I get it. It’s like a scaled down version of, you know, some kind of a signal deployment that’s, you know, was built to be much bigger, you know, over multiple buildings, maybe even in multiple cities. And it’s like, no, no, we’re just doing it for our sports bar.

Brian Galante: Absolutely. So, you’re still moving content over the network to multiple destinations, but you know, in these much smaller spaces than moving them over larger local area networks or even wide area networks as you suggest to multiple buildings and campuses across different cities, states, countries.

And I think, on the integration side of it, the installation side is, custom installers are finding more opportunities now because of these products in these like commercial applications. So, custom installers that were previously just focused on the luxury home or the luxury yacht, for example, are finding business with these solutions coming out from vendors that they can pitch business to, to win these projects in these smaller hospitality and retail spaces.

Derek DeWitt: Sure. So, of course, you know, when I went to ISE many years ago, it was in Amsterdam and the hot thing was touchscreens. That’s how long ago this was. Not many places had touchscreens, but enough did that people very quickly got used to it, and pretty soon they were touching everything. Everything had little greasy fingerprints on it, and people were disappointed when they encountered a display that was not a touchscreen. That was very much the hot product back then. What was the chatter about, what was the buzz for 2023?

Brian Galante: Well, if, in terms of interactive technologies, to be honest, I didn’t notice much development on the touchscreen side. I do know that, I mean, if we’re talking generally in terms of trends, touchscreen kiosks in QSRs and retail spaces for curbside ordering, those continue to grow in popularity.

I would say that immersion was a big theme on the floor that I noticed. Hypervsn had an exceptionally cool display of interactive 3D holograms, including a vodka bottle that would form and deform as visual elements right in front of your eyes. There were other 3D holograms they showed as well, but naturally I only recall the vodka bottle.

Derek DeWitt: Ha!

Brian Galante: But that was really what I noticed in terms of digital signage. The theme of immersion was something that resonated throughout Hall 6 where most of the digital signage and out-of-home media providers were exhibiting.

Derek DeWitt: Okay. Any other like hot things? It doesn’t matter. Any other hot products – digital signage, not digital signage, doesn’t matter?

Brian Galante: Yeah, well, collaboration is really the hot ticket item in AV right now. Everyone’s talking about the meeting space and the learning space. Hybrid meetings and hybrid learning is here to stay. Companies are focused on ensuring that people inside the room and those contributing remotely are equal participants. So, that means providing video and audio solutions that interoperate with UC systems to support remote participation.

The audio side has, interestingly, proved an especially challenging side of the equation, as spaces of different shapes and sizes have varying acoustical challenges. That makes elements like noise reduction, echo cancellation very important. If you think about it, audio is essentially moving air, and as voice reverberates off of glass surfaces and tables throughout the meeting and learning space, it will cause issues for participants, whether they’re in the room or remote. Companies like Xilica and Sennheiser are partnering to solve these kind of problems, bringing beamforming ceiling microphone technologies, as they call it, together with audio DSPs, to really tune the room, target the speaker and improve overall voice intelligibility. In general, I think the partnerships are more important than they’ve ever been.

That was something else that I noticed on the floor. Companies aren’t trying to solve every problem themselves anymore. They’re embracing working with experts in product areas that help them offer more complete solutions to integrators and end users. And I think that’s something that we’re gonna see more often on the digital signage side.

I think there is room for digital signage in the meeting space and other forms of collaboration systems. You’re seeing that with wireless presentation switchers, where you’ll have a presenter come into the room, fire up a presentation wirelessly, turn it off and it’ll revert to digital signage content on the screen, so you don’t have those black rectangles in your display room all day. So I think collaboration is really the hot ticket item in the AV space right now, as I said. And I think the digital signage and how it’ll play a role is really just at the beginning point there.

Derek DeWitt: It’s interesting you mentioned that there’s this kind of 3D quasi-hologram kind of a push going on, and we see this every couple of years, this desperate desire to create 3D content from 2D displays. And first I just have to say, I don’t get it. I don’t know why so many companies are focused on this. I don’t know how much value it really adds. But I mean, I think it’s gonna keep happening, right? They’re gonna just keep trying to do this until they can, until we have the chess game from Star Wars.

Brian Galante: You know, that’s a really interesting point. And if you think about it, immersion is always a point of emphasis on the trade show floor. I mean, ever since I started attending trade shows in the late 1990s, there are those exhibitors that are really trying to make a big splash through immersion and pull people into their booths. And I think the technology is there. It’s just a question of, how do you use it in a real-world environment? I think with digital signage, you see it in different ways, you know, with, you know, businesses that have the money and the funding to support those kind of exhibits. So, you know, whether it’s through touchless movement, you know, where, you know, a user is, just through a series of hand movements, sort of manipulating the visual elements in the room.

Derek DeWitt: Right. That’s, that’s Minority Report.

Brian Galante: There you go, there you go. That’s more, I think, the level of immersion you see right now, yeah. Here’s an interesting point though, in terms of digital signage-related technology that I do believe is emerging quite fast. And it’s a topic I noticed throughout the floor, and that would be sustainability.

AVs and sustainability was a common theme in just about every hall. Many companies were out front with their messages of sustainability, including net zero carbon initiatives. There was a specific stand focused on sustainability issues in the Discovery Zone, which served as gathering space for people and companies with a special interest in the topic. There’s no question that companies are thinking green as a way to reduce carbon footprint, reduce power and energy costs for their clients. Phillips, who are, as they’re known in the AV industry now, PPDS, they introduced a new series of eco-friendly displays that can show content entirely without power. I thought that was very cool.

Derek DeWitt: Whaaaaat?!

Brian Galante: Yup. It’s aimed at really helping businesses that use digital signage reduce operating costs with more efficient energy usage and extending life cycles of the displays. I thought that was really interesting and tied in well with the general sustainability conversation that I saw taking place across the floor. So, you know, if you take something like sustainability, that is a real-world concept that almost everyone can grab onto versus a really cool looking 3D hologram.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, exactly. So that’s very interesting, both in this sustainability thing and in collaboration, it’s so interesting to see that it’s not just products that help companies, organizations, individuals, even groups of individuals, accomplish these things. But it’s somehow, like, wicked into the actual business itself. Like the business of people supplying this stuff is also becoming more sustainable, more collaborative, and so on, which is, is very interesting to see that interplay between the business side of things and the real-world side of things.

Brian Galante: Yeah, I think that’s an excellent point. And you know, it goes back to my point about partnerships. You’re just seeing more and more companies come together and collaborate, you know, on developing solutions where, you know, they didn’t necessarily have the answer for part of the full solution before. So, one company that might be strong in, let’s say room booking technology, but doesn’t have, you know, a strong digital signage solution, you’re seeing companies come together to join forces to solve problems for the clients. Of course, then you have a company like Visix who can do both, so…

Derek DeWitt: Well, oh yes, as a matter of fact. How good of you to notice!

Brian Galante: My point may cancel itself out there, but it is a common theme that I’m seeing, you know. There’s both the collaboration side for the AV end user that’s taking place inside these meeting and learning spaces all around the world, and then there’s the collaboration that we’re seeing among vendors to really bring more fully-formed solutions to their customer base.

Derek DeWitt: Oh, that’s very cool. Speaking of room booking, any new stuff in the room booking space?

Brian Galante: Well, I think room booking is something that you’re beginning to see really take shape across the floor. A few years ago, I can’t recall seeing anything related to room booking. I think in a post-Covid environment, as businesses are grappling with hybrid schedules, and workers are trying to understand who’s coming into the office on what days and what meeting spaces are available and not, they’re finding it harder to find spaces to gather and to schedule meetings that also include the right people.

So, I can’t say that I saw anything specific product-wise that really stood out for me, but as a common theme, I’m seeing a lot of companies emerging that are really focused on the modern workplace. And room booking, room scheduling systems, whether they’re standalone or they’re built into larger control platforms, are really becoming important to especially the corporate vertical. And, I think that, you know, these companies are really trying to help companies or businesses navigate the modern workplace and learn how to use their spaces more efficiently.

Derek DeWitt: Right. It’s funny because some years ago, we started talking about office hoteling, and then it became quite the thing in the media. You know, Business Insider and Harvard Business Review and all these publications would write this stuff about it. And then they, someone finally sat down and did a study. You would think, oh, office hoteling has become the thing. And then someone did an actual study, it was a short-term study, but a study, and they were like, uh, yeah, nobody’s doing it. Nobody likes it. Nobody wants to do it. You cannot get people to come in and sit at desk six on Monday and then sit at desk twelve on Tuesday. They won’t do it. They want desk six all the time, even though they randomly chose it on that very first day. And that’s just how people are, and they’re weird and they’re territorial and that’s it, and office hoteling will never happen. And then came Covid, and it turned out actually maybe office hoteling will become a thing. ‘Cause I think it’s a good idea.

Brian Galante: It’s a new reality. You know, the five-day work week, I don’t wanna say the five-day work week is dead, but the five-day office week is dead.

Derek DeWitt: Good. Thank God!

Brian Galante: Oh, yeah. I haven’t been in an office since 1999 and I never will again. But for those that are, you know, trying to navigate this new landscape, yeah, I mean you bring up a great point. It’s not only room booking solutions for meeting spaces, you know, it’s desk booking solutions. So you know, someone who wants to come in on a Tuesday and needs to find a place to work, I saw some solutions that mount right under the desktop.

You walk right up, you can, you know, punch in your credentials and book the desk right on the spot. Or you can do it remotely from your phone at home. So that you know that you have a spot to work when you come in on Tuesday. Sure, pre-Covid people didn’t want these solutions. People maybe didn’t need these solutions. And now I think they both need and, to a degree, want these solutions. ‘Cause it’s a new world out there.

Derek DeWitt: We humans are sort of inherently conservative in many ways. And it really just takes a little bit of exposure to it. Here was a situation where you had to do it and then you get used to it pretty quickly and you go, actually, you know, that was, that was pretty cool. And maybe that’s what’ll happen with this, you know, this weird push for 3D and, and, ultimately for hologram technology.

As a friend of mine said, you know, some cinemas now have, you still have to wear glasses, but it’s pretty decent 3D. It’s a lot better than in the 80s when I was growing up where it was comically bad. And a friend of mine who’s a designer, he said, the interesting thing is right now we’re seeing films being made with a 3D option for screening, but they’re still being made by people who think like 2D filmmakers. And what we need are people who grew up with 3D as commonplace, who think in terms of 3D, so that the 3D effects aren’t just, hey, look, the arrow came towards the viewer, whoa, everybody ducked! That’s 2D thinking. 3D thinking is something totally different and we haven’t seen it yet. And maybe we’ll see the same thing with this, with collaboration capabilities, with office hoteling, with all of this stuff. Once it becomes normal, then you’ll have people who innovate out of that new normal into something else.

Brian Galante: That’s an outstanding point. And to your point about 3D, or poorly done 3D, it takes you back to 1982 sitting in a movie theater watching Jaws 3 and that shark just coming through the glass, and even thinking back then, is this supposed to be an experience?

Derek DeWitt: Yeah!

Brian Galante: Yeah, I don’t think we’ve really fully learned how to grasp 3D in production as well as in terms of presentation to consumers in different ways. But I think we’ll always be trying to get there.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, for sure. I mean, you know, the people who do it best are theme parks, specifically Disney. You know, I don’t know if you’ve been to Disney World and you’ve gone to that Star Wars section of the park, but you’re like, oh, okay, so this is what we’re going for, this is the gold standard, this is what we’re aiming for, is this kind of almost wholly immersive experience. We get it with video games but it’s not completely around us. Some of us, when we wear VR outfits, like I can only do it for about 40 minutes and then I go, I feel a little bit sick and I have to sit down, you know.

Brian Galante: Ha.

Derek DeWitt: So, the goal, and Grandma’s never gonna put on the VR thing. She’s just not gonna put on the headset. So, you know, if we do want to have something like that, yeah, I guess it is gonna have to somehow project into space.

Brian Galante: Excellent point, my friend.

Derek DeWitt: And then we’ll find a way to use holograms to better collaborate and book physical spaces.

Brian Galante: There you go. I like it.

Derek DeWitt: So, it sounds like, as always, the tech moves forward, the industry moves forward and the sub-sectors are starting to notice one another, and we’re starting to learn that we can be competitors in the same space and still also work together. Because the fact is it’s a big pie and there’s enough for everybody, which I think is lovely. ISE happened in Barcelona this year. I think it’s in Barcelona, isn’t it kind of semi-permanent there now?

Brian Galante: Yes. My understanding is that this is a permanent relocation from Amsterdam to Barcelona. And while I will miss Amsterdam for so many reasons, I do have the opportunity to go back for the IBC broadcast show in September. So, I’m looking forward to returning to Barcelona moving forward for many years to come. And it’s very clear to me that the health of the ISE show is strong, and the size and scale of the show will only continue to grow. And I think that Barcelona is a good home for that.

Derek DeWitt: Excellent, excellent. And for people who haven’t been there, it is a rockin’ city. It’s just fantastic. I love it.

Well, I’d like to thank Brian Galante, founder and president of Dimension PR, for talking to me today and kind of being my eyes and ears on the ground at the ISE conference that occurred in Barcelona and will occur again next year. Thanks for talking to me, man. It sounds like it was a good time.

Brian Galante: It absolutely was a great time, as was this conversation. I really appreciate you inviting me back. Thank you so much, Derek.

Derek DeWitt: Thank you. And of course, you can find links to ISE and, of course, to Brian’s company, Dimension PR, which is a PR company, just in case you didn’t catch that from the name, and several of the other things that we talked about in the transcript, which is on the Visix website, on the webpage for this particular episode.

Thank you again, everybody out there for listening to this episode of Digital Signage Done Right.