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