ScreenScape seeking partners for radical digital signage technology

P.E.I.-based ScreenScape offers digital media outlets an offering which is much less expensive than traditional digital signage technology, and while some in the channel may see this as a threat to their business, others will see it as an opportunity.

Prince Edward Island is not known as a tech powerhouse, but a Charlottetown-based company is looking to change that.

Mark_Hemphill ScreenScape

Mark Hemphill, ScreenScape Networks’ founder and CEO

“We make it easy for businesses to connect and control screens over the internet,” said Mark Hemphill, ScreenScape Networks’ founder and CEO. “You would think today that’s something that would be easy, but it’s not.”

Hemphill said the problem was that even in today’s age of dramatic technological innovation on almost every front, digital signage was a laggard.

“Digital signage was really stuck in the 80s, using old complex technology which was not built to scale in the way that Internet technology is,” he said. Hemphill, who first studied this while teaching at the University of Prince Edward Island, saw an opportunity in a world which could cost thousands of dollars to get a digital signage platform set up.

“Windows-based systems were expensive to license,” Hemphill stated. “They were designed as workstations, not to configure screens to the internet. In contrast, a solution like ours is highly engineered to be simple, and it’s not easy to be simple. It’s so simple that you can just mail it out to a retail partner. You don’t need a professional services guy to do all the work.”

ScreenScape uses a simple plug and play device, which can turn any screen into a connected digital sign on HDMI-enabled display screens. Once a screen is connected it can be updated, monitored and managed over the Internet using ScreenScape uses Dell Wyse Cloud Connect in conjunction with their own cloud-based software platform.

Place-based media – screens in commercial venues which run targeted media content – are not new, but they have traditionally been fairly expensive.

“Hyundai was spending $3000 to get each screen connected in automotive showrooms and service centers,” Hemphill said. “We cut their costs so drastically that they wound up putting them in parts centres and used car centres as well. It’s opening up the industry, creating a new Internet of Screens.”

Other customers include Expedia CruiseShipCenters, who uses ScreenScape to power intelligent displays in their retail stores, Medicine Shoppe Canada, which has over 170 pharmacy outlets across Canada, Proctor & Gamble Salon Professional’s Canada-wide beauty salons. and Richardson, a large Canadian agribusiness with business centres across western Canada.

ScreenScape has worked with the channel for years, and signed its first distribution agreement with Tech Data Canada in 2012.

“We work with channel partners because we only have a small direct sales force, and we can’t rely on that to conquer the world,” Hemphill said.

He also emphasized that they are actively looking for more quality channel partners, which obviously includes Pro AV specialists, but also includes resellers who work in verticals which makes extensive use of digital signage, like, retail, healthcare, food and beverage, hospitality and recreation.

“We fit in nicely with what they are already doing, and we offer them a piece of the action as well,” he said. ScreenScape’s model provides a consistent flow of recurring revenue.

Dell Canada President Kevin Peesker, who appeared with Dell customer Hemphill in an afternoon session at Dell’s Canadian Power to Do More event in Toronto on Thursday, noted that some traditional digital signage partners might see ScreenScape and its technology as a threat, but that there will be other partners who see this as an opportunity.

“This is no different from other areas,” Hemphill said. “It’s all about IT democratization, the democratization of media. Partners can wonder if they are going to get disintermediated, or they can take advantage of new technology.”