Daktronics started in 1968 as a small company that manufactured electronic voting systems for state legislatures. Today, having been on the market for almost fifty years, it is one of the world leaders in the display industry. According to iSuppli Corp., Daktronics has been holding 30 percent of the entire worldwide LED video display market share since 2001. With an extensive portfolio including electronic scoreboards, programmable display systems, large screen video displays, and audio systems, the company provides a full range of services for its type of business.
At ISE 2017 we met Jason Melby, International Marketing at Daktronics, to discuss the products on display and find out more about one of the oldest companies on the market.
Jason, the first thing that caught my eye upon entering the RAI hall 8 was Daktronics video system displaying forced-perspective content. What is special about the technique?
Jason Melby: Forced-perspective content creates the illusion of a 3D element by utilizing 2D screens. Last year we had it displayed on two LED planes. This year we had a third horizontal plane stuck underneath the main displays. So, we kind of took it a step further. The same technique was used in the SLS casino in Las Vegas for the Center Bar display. And we worked with them to develop the concept in designing the content that they put on it to really make it stand out.
What is the company’s flagship product now?
Jason Melby: Probably would be the UHD displays that we showcase here. The displays are available in 1.2, 1.5, 1.9, and 2.5mm pixel layout. This is an updated version featuring both front-end and rear serviceable models. The big difference in our product though is that we use what we call Precision Current Control which helps us reduce the number of resistors and capacitors inside the display. This significantly lowers the heat, which gives our product much longer lifetime than a standard product. They run on about 50% of the power then industry leader does right now and can run up twice the brightness.
Do you think it is necessary to patent innovative technologies?
Jason Melby: I think it is necessary to patent them. Without that protection, it’s very easy for companies to come after the fact and use those technologies in much lower development because it’s significantly easier to reverse engineer than to come up with those developments upfront. We also have other companies that we partner with, that we share intellectual property with to help drive the innovation for both companies. Sometimes it helps to push old framework as well. So really in those partnerships protecting innovations through patents is very important.
Daktronics has made the Forbes list of "America's Most Trustworthy Companies" in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. What is the company’s key to success?
Jason Melby: Our success I believe is really based on our approach to our customers. As a culture, we come from a middle part of the US, we work hard, we really try to focus on our customers, and that really led to success. We don’t look at a customer as just another display that goes up, we really look at each customer individually and try to find the solution that’s the best solution for them. And that has driven a lot of innovation in our products over the years. Our focus is always on the customer. Taking care of them, standing behind their product and their product’s longevity is really what our company has been built on.
It is believed that successful companies sustain the right balance between exploitation and exploration. How would you define the proportion in Daktronics?
Jason Melby: We are really doing a lot of refining of our products. We try to do revisions and clearing things up to make things incrementally better as we go along. But the industry is changing so quickly that you really also need to be consistently dedicated to exploring the new opportunities. And if you don’t start those processes early that window of opportunity closes before you ever get a chance to really play in the field.
What is Daktronics strategy to set apart from the competition?
Jason Melby: I think always looking for the next step has been something that Daktronics has done well and that really helped us stay relevant to the market. For example, let’s take the UHD product, which is very popular right now. Our first sub 3 mm product came out in 2003, so we’ve been in there for quite a long time. But we had to step back for a while because the market just wasn’t ready in the prize point competitive. Now we are back in the market with those products because the market is finally ready for it. So always looking for that next step is something that is definitely important.
The new technologies are coming very soon, like COB technology. Are there any plans to integrate COB into manufacturing?
Jason Melby: We are currently working on its development. I don’t have the timeline of when that might be available but we are looking at COB. It is a much more durable way to produce UHD displays. UHD technology is inherently fragile because the compounds are so small and they are soldered on the surface of the board. The COB integrates the technology into the circuit ports, which makes the display robust and durable. We believe it will be a major break-through as the technology comes into its maturity and is able to be really launched to its fullest.
Quite a number of Daktronics projects are for sports. What are the new market sectors for the company to explore?
Jason Melby: Sport is the mainstay with Daktronics, that’s where we were built and grew out of. We also see a lot of explosion in an OOH advertising as well as shopping centers. In that OOH element is really starting to permeate into many different industry sectors that previously weren’t focus on, which includes transportation, airports, train stations. Those customers have started to see the value in not only having wayfinding and passenger information systems but adding elements of the advertising of OOH revenue generation to help to support their business models as well. And by combining passenger information with advertising at the same time the viewers of that information are more receptive to those advertising.