Guest Contributor, Pierre Richer
Digital signage is a very big and important part of what NEC Display Solutions of America does as a company. The VUKUNET platform is at the heart of our efforts in this promising sector.We launched VUKUNET last fall as a full and universal platform that puts digital out of home ad buyers and sellers together with simple tools, and makes starting and operating digital signage networks easy. It was unique, and it has generated a lot of attention, activity and feedback since that launch.
At NEC, we take industry leadership very seriously, and the resources and dollars we’ve put into VUKUNET over the past two years are reflections of that. VUKUNET was a platform designed to help our customers and channel partners grow and succeed. But it has grown clear to us that VUKUNET could play a bigger role in helping the industry, as a whole, succeed.
As we announced on Tuesday, NEC has decided it can help the broader industry by assuming some of the biggest ongoing operating expenses for digital signage networks – the software and back-end IT requirements.
The VUKUNET Content Management System (CMS) that network operators use to manage their screen networks has been free from the start, but there was a small catch. It was available only to our flat panel customers, and to companies that registered for our VUKUNET ad management platform.
Starting now, that free service is available to any network operator, regardless of whether they do any other business with NEC, or run our VUKUNET ad manager. We assume all the costs of a hosted SaaS solution, from the server farm and storage through bandwidth and support. It’s a very significant investment on the part of NEC that will benefit the entire digital signage industry.
Here’s why we’ve gone down this path.
- There is and always will be a place in the digital signage eco-system for the enterprise-level and specialized software solutions that many of our longtime business partners provide to customers. They do great work, and what we’re doing should not divert any real business. But what’s happened in much of the software industry will inevitably happen in this one. Tough competition among existing companies and new, sometimes very big and powerful players, will force prices down to zero or near-zero. Most of what you do on the Internet is free today, with the leaders in their vertical categories making their money through things like upgraded capabilities or additional complementary services.
- It’s also now conventional wisdom that there are too many software companies – by most counts more than 300 – competing for business in a still emerging marketplace. We’re starting to see companies drop off, and others get bought and rolled into larger companies. There are already free or near-free software services on the market that have been driving prices down and disrupting activities.
- We decided to get ahead of that, and help get the sector better organized to spur growth not only in sheer numbers of operating screens, but also in the investment into this sector from venue operators like retailers, as well as the advertising community.
- Anyone who has sold Software as a Service knows there is always a critical mass point when customers – existing or prospective – do their calculations and realize that small, site-by-site monthly subscription fees add up to very large, unwieldy monthly and annual figures. For network operators who have special requirements that many software companies address, that’s money well-spent on specialized, focused solutions. But for many network operators requiring a normal digital signage platform, paying for overkill makes no sense and strains their operating budgets.
- For those companies doing what I’ll call mainstream digital signage – our VUKUNET CMS takes that cost off of their books and lets them put that investment into things that really make a difference. We all know the quality of programming and creative on most networks could be better. By going on VUKUNET, those network operators suddenly have available budget. With the VUKUNET CMS, they get a fully hosted and managed SaaS platform that includes all the important scheduling, security, EMS (emergency notification services) and device management capabilities networks need, along with free syndicate content feeds and content templates.
We also strongly believe the industry needs to be streamlined to help build advertising activity. The VUKUNET Platform’s core is a universal ad planning and playback system that introduces and enforces tight audience metrics and quality controls, lets media planners target precisely or broadly across many networks, and takes a lot of the execution problems like interoperability out of the equation. It is enabling technology, designed to put ad buyers together more easily with the sellers – the network operators.
My team now has about two years of time and substantial resources into VUKUNET, going back to the seeds of an idea, a lot of planning, and then the development work we had commissioned. Opening up VUKUNET to all networks is a big move for us, and a big investment. But we believe it will help lift the industry as a whole.
It’s a demonstration, we think, of leadership that has won NEC numerous awards and led our customers and channel partners to truly appreciate NEC Display is a leader in this sector.
InfoComm is the largest and most important show of the year for us, and we’ll be there in force. If you are going next week, please take the time to come by booth #N903 and learn more. We’d love to show you what VUKUNET is all about.
If you can’t make it, we’re part of the social mix. We liked how Adrian and DailyDOOH have pushed for and seen some great results from having Blogger Lounges at recent trade shows. This year, InfoComm’s very first Blogger Lounge is sponsored by VUKUNET. Watch for posts from the show from the industry’s great writers, and Tweets using hashtag #infocomm10 from our own social experts, and all the AV and digital signage people at the event.
Pierre Richer is the President and COO of NEC Display Solutions of America
June 4th, 2010 at 10:15 @469
Gifts from the Tooth Fairy and Father Christmas are free at the point of delivery but someone has to pay for them, and it turns out its you eventually !
June 4th, 2010 at 13:42 @612
Not to mention that every other DS software vendor is now a competitor — guess they collectively weren’t driving much business NEC’s way (I know we weren’t).
Still, I continue to question the efficacy of this move.
June 4th, 2010 at 14:38 @651
Brown nosing Adrian won’t get you that far. Silly billies!
June 4th, 2010 at 14:59 @666
Achingly awful useless spawn from the mouth of a man who should know better but clearly doesn’t. Let’s see how quickly NEC damage their pro panel sales with this bovine leap of blind faith<? Bill is correct. Sure there is nothing as uncommon as common sense. A wager on how long this' fuck u net' theme will last? Same as Panasonic's ITX cast nonsense or as a recent commentator noted of ' Tragicnet' by Samsung. Drivel utter drivel.
June 4th, 2010 at 15:05 @670
Love the eloquence of Peter S. Keep it up man, ‘Fuck u net’ might just stick to this crap move like shit sticks to a blanket!
June 4th, 2010 at 16:14 @718
Poorer for ingesting that ball of cat hair Mr.Richer. Shake yourself and stop talking rubbish. Leadership my ass!
June 4th, 2010 at 16:16 @719
“Tragicnet by Samsung”. That is brilliant… gotta start using that. From what I’ve seen, one could start a nice cottage industry replacing screen manufacturer software with kit that actually works.
June 4th, 2010 at 16:28 @728
It would be fun and easy to pile on here, but sometimes it is best to let something like this waft around in the air like….well, you know. Eventually it dissipates, and we can talk about other more important things without distraction.
June 4th, 2010 at 17:02 @751
Bill, we make a nice living out of replacing not-so-magicNet with signagelive once customers realise you get nothing for in life for free. As I tweeted the other day on hearing the announcement:
Free #digitalsignage = no support : to get support, you need to be a customer, to be a customer you need to have bought something.
All NEC will do is create confusion in the market, leaving you, I and others to pick up the pieces.
With LG launching their own free software, and Sony with Ziris, Phillips now stand out alone as a major LCD manufacturer with no digital signage software to dangle as bate to shift their screens. I hope they clean-up as resellers and integrators refuse to recommend NEC Displays for fear of loosing the revenue and margin they generate from providing digital signage software and supporting services.
June 4th, 2010 at 17:51 @785
It will be interesting to see how this actually unfolds. If this helps a startup network past the initial static friction, then good for them. More likely than not, however, as there are no magic pills in life let alone this industry, this will leave us other vendors with a lot of pieces to pick up as Jason said, and might actually make it easier to demonstrate the value of our paid-for platforms with support and more extensive features.
This move probably will cause confusion in the market, may help some startup networks at the same time, but in time will actually help the rest of us demonstrate the value to be found in the platforms we’ve worked so hard to develop. There is no one size-fits-all for any digital signage project, and this move will probably only further prove that fact.
June 4th, 2010 at 18:21 @806
What I find most interesting about Vukunet is how wide open the system is to fraud. If anyone can sign up and it is free, then what is stopping me from installing 1000 Vukunet players in virtual machines shoved in a closet somewhere. All the location info about those players can be easily faked.
Then I sign up to AdVuku and start collecting ad dollars for my virtual zero-value screens!
This reminds me of 1997 when AdWords didn’t exist and banner ads used to pay you 2-3 cents per click. People made a ton of money with little scripts that clicked on the banners while they were in school or sleeping.
Of course, the companies that offered those programs all went belly up… Without continuous third-party site auditing, the Vukunet screens will have no value for advertisers.
This attempt to democratize digital signage will hurt the industry more than it helps. I just hope it gets taken out behind the barn and shot before it has a chance to spoil advertiser appetite for DOOH.
June 4th, 2010 at 20:01 @875
NEC has shown again that throwing money at a poorly-thought out strategy doesn’t save the day even when you proclaim to be a leader in an industry that was a minor part of your business until a few minutes ago. Credit to him. He looked around at what others were doing and took a piece here and another there and called it his own. There are far better alternatives out there that haven’t had to resort to chest-pounding, big ad budgets, industry cocktail hours and foggy “incentives” that result in lowering the value of the media AND reducing the amount of money networks ultimately receive. Such details are buried, as were the details of ‘free’ in this software offering. There are better models out there for software, for displays, as well as a true ad exchange. Hope he doesn’t ruin it for those honest, hard working folks that aren’t trying to dip so deep into the pockets of the networks or add confusion in the industry. Poor Mr. Richter. He must be getting pretty nervous about now when he sees the consistent way the industry has responded to his offerings. I’ll bet Japan is watching closely.
June 4th, 2010 at 20:28 @894
The rumour in the UK is that FukuNet are hiring Mike Fabian to head the global business development!
June 4th, 2010 at 20:32 @897
Phillips got in the business a good 6 years ago with a disaster branded Adtraxion. It became known in the EMEA market as distraction or subtraction. Subsequently it was withdrawn and quietly put to sleep. Millions wasted and no wonder Phillips don’t dare waste shareholder funds. FukuNet is the brand to die over in the short term. Boycott FukuNet and NEC!
June 5th, 2010 at 04:36 @233
Wow! When I read the article, I had to take a deep breath. I asked myself if I was lossing it or the NEC senior leadership had gone mad. After reading all the comments, I feel much better. The only clear assumption that can be made is that senior leaders of NEC America are asleep or real dull. In addition, their Japanese senior leaders must be in a coma. How could any reasonable business person in the DS industry ever use another NEC display? If you own NEC stock, sell quick, becasue writeoffs, layoffs, and sales declines are just around the corner!
June 5th, 2010 at 20:24 @892
I think Pierre’s shirt just about sum’s up fukunet and NEC as a whole.
June 7th, 2010 at 05:19 @263
As long as they keep throwin parties, I’m okay with it! LOL!
June 7th, 2010 at 18:33 @815
FWIW Scala has a ‘Samsung blessed’ re-imager for all their MagicNet /Magic Info based products.
June 25th, 2010 at 12:55 @579
In response to the wide availability of industrial monitors with integrated PC, Adtraxion Systems has developed its Adtraxion Player software. This software converts a variety of displays (Samsung, NEC) and regular PC’s into Adtraxion Players.
August 21st, 2010 at 10:06 @462
I am very curious:
Has anyone actually seen or heard of:
– a single network that has signed up to VUKUNET?
– a single advertiser that has signed up to ADVUKU?
– a single ad campaign that ran through ADVUKU?
Also: has anyone actually downloaded VUKU or ADVUKU and played with it?
I think answers to the above questions will clarify a lot…