DSE 2020: Here’s What We Would Have Seen This Year!


As you may have heard, Digital Signage Expo has permanently closed its doors with its host company, Exponation, filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. Experts in the outdoor advertising world commented that this was not at all surprising. Keep in mind the damage COVID-19 has caused to all public events worldwide, including DSE. 

Experts also added that DSE was an event which turned out to be unsustainable in the long run with attendance not as high as it should have been for an event running for that long. COVID-19 was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back. 

Still, it is undeniable that DSE accomplished what it sought out to do and over the years introduced us to some impressive tech developments in the digital signage world. For this reason, let’s take one final look at Digital Signage Expo, some of its highlights from the past, and what we likely would’ve seen had the event taken place in 2020.  

A quick look at last year’s DSE

Before we look at 2020, let’s dig a bit through the past. When last year's DSE wrapped up, we summarized some of the best floor-show products of the event, as well as selected DSE 2019 Apex Awards winners. 

One of these was the ELEVATE interactive solution which triggered content on a display once you picked a product off its sensor stand. 

There were also plenty of examples where digital displays provided a breathtaking experience. For instance, the Indigo Hsinchu Science Park Hotel in Taiwan  was one of last year's winners. This hotel used dozens of displays across the ceiling of a bar solely for the purpose of entertainment. 

Jump over to our highlight article for DSE 2019 to see these products, alongside several others, in more detail. Meanwhile, let’s take a look at what DSE 2020 would’ve brought us. Sadly, this year there are no floor-shows to be covered and products most talked about. But we can still turn to the APEX Awards.

APEX Awards for DSE 2020

2020 would've been the year of the 16th annual APEX Awards celebrating global projects done in the digital signage sector along the past year. DSE and DSF had announced 37 finalists from a pool of 115 entries in 12 major digital signage categories. 

We’ll highlight only some of the developments in certain categories but if you’re interested, you can check out the full list of nominees and seek out specific categories yourself.

Awards Category: Entertainment and Recreation

In the Entertainment and Recreation category of the 2020 APEX Awards there was quite something to see. Firstly we have the Harkins Theatres Dumbo Takeover involving digital animation across 40+ displays. The feature shows the baby elephant Dumbo flying from one corner of the establishment to another via these displays.

In the same category is the interactive Penguin Chill Habitat at the Albuquerque BioPark. This groundbreaking immersion exhibit allows visitors to take a scientific journey to the Antarctic Peninsula. Visitors take on the role of scientists as they learn about sub-Antarctic ecology, climate change, and penguin habitats. This exhibit relies on a combination of interactive technology and cleverly detailed interior design to make the experience truly immersive.

The Penguin Chill exhibition opened on July 23rd, 2019 and instantly was a tremendous success with attendance at the BioPark increasing by 80% year-on-year. The Albuquerque Journal reported that this made BioPark "the state's No. 1 most popular attraction”.

Awards Category: Educational Environments

One of this year's APEX award nominees in the Educational Establishments category was Ideum's Deep Dive into the Brain. Located at the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium, the project took over a year to reach completion. As its name suggests, it is an innovative dive into the human brain. This immersive exhibit allows the visitor to use their fingertips to travel through the brain, down to its microscopic synapses. 

A user interacting with a console, researching the brain

The canvas for this journey is a curved 14' projection wall with a 4k projector to provide 3D imagery. In order to navigate the brain, visitors use a custom console with a display and a joystick.

There is also the Brain Development Wall consisting of 6 displays which show brain development throughout its lifespan. From left to right, users go through the journey of the brain from formation in the womb, across adulthood, and finally to old age. 

Multiple users interacting with a video wall

2020 APEX Awards Category: Healthcare Environments

Given the trajectory of 2020, it's only appropriate to take a closer look at the nominees in the Healthcare Environments category. But even without that reasoning, it’s safe to say that all three of the finalists didn't fail to impress! 

The Wilderverse Connecticut Children’s Medical Center features a solution for the space where children with chronic illnesses receive intravenous infusion therapies. They create their own personalized avatars which then essentially live in the environment established by a collection of interconnected curved displays.

The Sunnybrook Foundation Tap-to-Donate Kiosk features an interactive digital setup for the main lobby of the Sunnybrook Hospital which passively solicits donations. At the same time, the kiosk shares the foundation's impact on the hospital and the community.

The Wall of Heroes, located at the Orlando Regional Medical Health Center, features an interactive display that showcases organ donors. This installation spreads awareness and information on organ donation. It seeks to inspire users to register and highlights the importance and procedures around organ donation. It also acts as a memorial for families.

What does the future hold?

The Digital Signage Federation is the official association of the Digital Signage Expo. DSF has made a statement on the cancellation of DSE. And while they noted they will continue their work to spread digital signage education, we will have to sit patiently and see what comes next. Given the current COVID-19 situation, all public event organizers are holding their breath before they make any solid plans for the future.

Sadly, in this year’s “recap” of DSE, we can’t say we’ll see you next year. But we eagerly look forward to seeing which event will step up to take DSE’s place. The loss of DSE didn’t send a huge shockwave through the industry. Digital signage innovation is still happening every day in all corners of the world, of course. But there will be a need for an event to bring the most innovative solutions the industry has to offer to one place.

For more tech news, check out our article on some of the latest tech developments in the digital signage world.