Want to be able to totally-customize a room sign for your clients in higher ed, corporate or UCC spaces? Well, according to Visix founder Sean Matthews — in booth 2321 at InfoComm 2019 — they’ll show you the most customizable room sign lineup in the digital signage industry — all Windows 10-based. You can literally edit anything and everything including customized graphics, panel layout and branding. Oh, and Visix just launched voice-controlled wayfinding too. Listen to this podcast with rAVe Publications and make plans to go by the Visix booth at InfoComm!
Gary Kayye: Hey everybody, this is Gary Kayye, and thanks for listening to another edition (InfoComm addition) of my Rants and Raves podcast. And I’m excited to be joined with an old friend of mine, Sean Matthews. We’ve known each other for about 30 years in the AV industry here. Hey Sean, how are you?
Sean Matthews: Very good. Gary, how about you?
Gary Kayye: I’m doing great. Sean is of course, as you may know, founder of Visix – V I S I X – which is a company that’s really got a really neat niche in the digital signage space. And one of the things I always remember Visix for Sean is, in the early days, you’re the first digital signage company to truly embrace the AV integration market.
Sean Matthews: Yeah, we’ve been doing that since day one, Gary. You know, the predecessor to Visix was an electronics manufacturing firm. So, we were fully entrenched in the channel back really in 1980 when we first got started. And so, that’s something that we’re proud of and we’re excited about, because the AV channel brings us probably 50% of our opportunities, and we in turn deliver another 50% back to the channel and pull that opportunity, those opportunities, back through them. And it’s been a successful relationship between the two entities.
Gary Kayye: Well, one of the coolest product lines you have is your room sign line. And, you’re one of the first manufacturers I ever saw conceptualize these as both scheduling devices but also miniature digital signs. And since – I mean, you kind of pioneered that market, let’s be honest – and since that market has gotten pretty crowded. But I understand, at InfoComm you’re going to show something that’ll differentiate yourself quite well.
Sean Matthews: Yeah, we’re actually very excited about this because, as you noted, it’s become very crowded, and it’s been a crowded market space for several years. But what we’re going to show this year is the most complete room sign line that’s available in the market. You know, we’ve had the electronic paper stuff – the E Ink product – out there for a while. We have an Android solution, which is a turnkey package, prepackaged software design, which you can’t really customize that that much.
But, with the second generation of our signage platform, which is Signage Suite, we extended all of the playback capability down to the room sign itself. So, we have this electronic room sign manufactured by third party, but the user interface, Gary, will be the most customizable room sign interface in the market. And when I say that, I’m not kidding. It’s an easy thing to say, but you can brand or edit any software element in the sign. So, if you think like a Crestron panel or an AMX panel back in the day, and you could customize it with backgrounds and colors and whatever button styles you want wanted, you can basically do the same thing to this room sign.
So, when you look at corporate branding, and even the way you want to schedule. If you want to schedule – limit it to two hours out, four hours out. If you want circular keyboards, or you want square keys on your keyboard. I mean you can edit all of it. There are 1,367 properties that you can edit in this room sign, do you can create this very customizable experience that’s designed specifically for your environment. So, we’re completely fired up about this.
Gary Kayye: So, the entire room sign line will use this interface, or it will be limited to certain products?
Sean Matthews: So, in the beginning it’s going to be limited to certain products, which is the Windows product that we currently have, what currently referred to as our Touch10 product line. So, we’ll have the Touch10 product offering, the prepackaged Connect offering, and then the cost-effective E Ink, offering. And all of them can be customizable in some way because, even on the E Ink stuff you can do the customized faceplates. On our Android product, you can add a logo and manipulate a background color. But, this new offering is just going to be like crazy customizable. We’ve done some stuff for Alaska Airlines, for example, and L’Oréal that just completely embodied their brand in the sign. And it’s really cool.
Gary Kayye: It’s interesting because – and if you make this simple to do, people are going to want it – because that customization and the differentiation for each company to use these. And also, even when you’re using the same signs in the same building, you’re putting them outside of different rooms, and you might want a different style for each room, so that’s easily recognizable. That’ll be a great feature, and also a value-add that an integrator can give the ability to manage that process for a customer.
Let me ask you some questions about the signage market in general. Obviously you’re pretty, you’ve been historically pretty heavily-focused on education, but you’ve also branched out of the education market quite a bit, higher education market quite a bit. Kind of tell me where Visix is right now.
And, by the way, Visix will be at InfoComm booth 2321. And they perennially, are a company that I believe that everyone should go see at InfoComm. And I know it’s a crowded market – 1200 exhibitors out there, why would you take the time? And even if you don’t do digital signage, Sean and his team have a really interesting way of breaking it down and simplifying signage in a way that it helps you get into the market, and they’ll sort of hold your hand.
But kind of give me an overview of where signage is right now with regard to where Visix stands.
Sean Matthews: Where we stand is, we’re primarily focused on what we’ve normally referred to as institutional communications. So, higher ed, corporate campus, hospitals and governments – those types of markets where AV integrators are already having success. And as you noted, the higher ed space has become quite saturated. In fact, it’s almost unheard of to go on a college campus and they don’t have some kind of digital signage.
In fact, they probably have two or three, maybe even four different vendors on campus. And it is uncommon to find a single campus that has a unified digital signage system. And part of that is, Gary, the bureaucracy of the silos on college campuses. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bigger school like UNC or Virginia Commonwealth – an inner-city type school – all the way down to a smaller school like the College of Charleston. Typically, the business schools have a different bucket of money, the law schools, etc.
So, corporate campus for us has taken off more than any other sector. And we attribute a lot of that to our AV integration partners. A lot of them are in these organizations putting in large video walls in lobbies, which are big attractors for visitors. It’s a great opportunity to show off an entity’s brand and its style and its desire to embody technology. And so, we’ve been able to ride the wave there in that corporate space. So, right now that is the biggest or the fastest growing sector for us.
You know, we could branch out into other sectors like hospitality or gaming, but those are markets that our AV partners don’t really participate in. And so, we’d be kind of going on our own, and we would in fact be going against our traditional model, and we’d have to have a more direct model in those segments. So, we’ve chosen to stay away from them and just focus and expand really in our corporate space. Government is certainly a growing sector. And we’re even having some success in K-12, which is unusual because historically these types of technologies were out of reach for the K-12 space.
Gary Kayye: E Ink, I would think, would be really attractive to them because the battery operation, the inexpensive opportunities that are there. So, I’d highly recommend that if you’re in the K-12 market, [look at that] product line there. But, the other thing I want to ask you about specifically is… (Hold on just one second here. Sorry about that.)
The other thing I want to ask you about is, you just recently came out with a voice activated version of your wayfinding system, which I think would be kind of interesting in hospitals where you hate to touch everything that’s in a hospital. Like, are you getting… That voice activation function is really popular in all levels of corporate, but in signage it’s a little unusual. So, congratulations and kudos for sort of usurping the market there on that.
Sean Matthews: Yeah, it’s a brand-new approach for us. We have a bit of a learning curve with the whole voice user interface technologies that are out there. Of course, there’s all the big names like Alexa and the Google product and everything else. So, right now we’re homing in on the technology. What we’ll be showing at InfoComm this year is we’re using the Google API, and instead of referring to any of the other popular names right now, we’re still understanding and picking our way through what we can and can’t do in a wayfinding application.
Because really it becomes a mix, Gary, of some HTML5 programming plus the voice recognition piece and the right microphone arrays. So, you know, we’re still putting it all together. And it’s fully functional, but we’re trying to understand how to more efficiently process human language through the Google API. And we’re excited about it because we’ve had some hospitals make comments about this type of technology in the past and we’re, we’re really anxious to see if it’s something that can really take off, in particular, as you noted in the hospital space.
Gary Kayye: Yeah. I’m excited to hear about how that goes, how it comes across because I love this voice activation sort of revolution – not because I’m lazy, but because I think it’s interesting how it gets to know you over time, and it can actually make you more efficient. So, I’m kind of excited about that. Of course, you can see all this stuff we’ve talked about at Visix.com. I’ll link the products we’ve talked about in the description of the podcast, but of course, make plans to go by booth 2321 at InfoComm in Orlando in a couple of weeks. Sean, thank you very much for your time today. I appreciate it.
Sean Matthews: All right. Thank you, Gary.
Gary Kayye: Thank you. And thanks for listening. All of our InfoComm coverage is at ravepubs.com/infocomm2019.