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Company Profile: AVTE talks to Exterity CEO Colin Farquhar

Michael Garwood 18 September 2017

In the first of our ‘Getting to Know You’ series, Colin answers our questions about the business and its role in the AV market

Colin Farquhar co-founded Exterity with CTO Mike Allan in Fife, Scotland back in 2001. Today, the IPTV and digital signage specialist has operations all over the world and boasts a long and impressive line-up of leading organisations as customers.

Hi Colin, thanks for talking to AVTE. Tell us about Exterity and its role in the current AV market?


Exterity was one of the very first companies to offer enterprise IP video solutions. In 2001, many video providers were relying on coaxial cabling to distribute TV content around buildings – something we believed to be an expensive, inflexible and unsustainable solution. We recognised video streaming over internet protocol television (IPTV) as a gateway to the future for how TV and video content would be delivered in an enterprise. At the time, it was radical and about three to five years ahead of the game.

Since then, video over IP, or ‘AV-over-IP’, has become a mainstream delivery method, which is now adopted by a wide variety of companies around the world.

Our core product portfolio focuses on solutions that enable companies to stream video over an existing IP network. Over the years, it has evolved to include the delivery of video over Wi-Fi and mobile networks to any device, anywhere.

In 2016, Exterity launched ArtioSign, our digital signage solution and IPTV solution in one. Since then, we have been deploying it for clients in a variety of industries – including corporate and finance, education, hospitality, stadiums and venues.

For people unfamiliar, can you explain what enterprise IP video technology is?


IP video, or IPTV, traditionally refers to television that is distributed over an IP network — the same kind of network people use to surf the Internet and exchange emails. In reality, IP video technology enables an organisation to use an existing IP network to carry much more than just television. With IP video, organisations can easily distribute live terrestrial and satellite television and radio, video, DVDs, Video on Demand (VoD), digital signage, information boards and web content throughout their facility. This multimedia content can be viewed on standard and Smart TVs, thin clients, large format displays, as well as desktop computers. Recent technology innovations now enable IP video distribution beyond the wired LAN to include WAN, the Internet and mobile devices.

 

What’s your geographic reach?

Exterity has more than 80 staff in offices spanning every continent – from its HQ in Fife, to Australia, South Africa and the US. Through these offices and our StreamForce partner programme, we service 40 countries in Asia Pacific, EMEA and the Americas.

What’s your target market?

Due to the flexible nature of our solutions, our target markets include corporate and finance, education, hospitality, and venues and stadiums. We also have numerous customers in the marine, oil & gas, transport and healthcare industries.

Our customers range from
large investment banks in Asia, such as Bank of China (Hong Kong), through to British universities – including the highly innovative University of Surrey that uses Exterity’s IP video system to live-stream live dissections, thus enabling an intricate procedure to be viewed up-close by a large number of its veterinary students. With growing hospitality markets, Asia Pacific and the Middle East are core regions for Exterity as well.

Exterity’s solutions are also widely used in the stadiums and venues market, with customers such as The Open and four of the ten stadiums that hosted the UEFA Euro 2016, as well as the brand new Elbphilharmonie concert hall in Hamburg.

“Exterity has more than 80 staff in offices spanning every continent”

What are your routes to market?

Exterity primarily operates a traditional channel distribution model, extending our reach via our worldwide StreamForce partner programme. This provides systems integrators, consultants, distributors and resellers with all the technical support, sales and marketing tools needed to successfully sell our products and solutions. They are also supported by 24/7 access to comprehensive technical assistance and in-depth, ongoing training.

How is the business performing?

We grew rapidly in the five years to 2015. Since then, in markets that have all experienced their fair share of economic challenges, we have focused on developing new products and solutions and growing our regional presence to ensure that we maintain the product quality and customer service excellence that are just two of the main reasons our clients choose us.

We have seen particularly strong growth in Asia Pacific recently, with a number of new customers deploying ambitious integrated IP video and digital signage systems in both the corporate & finance and hospitality industries.

Why do you think you’ve achieved this growth?

Over the years, we have built a reputation based on a few core principles that resonate with companies looking to deploy high-quality IP video and digital signage systems. We attribute our growth and success to:

  • Expertise and reputation
  • Stability and reliability
  • Quality assurance
  • Complete end-to-end systems
  • Product excellence
  • Strong channel partnerships
  • Built-in digital signage
  • Being an approved provider with open standards support
  • Customer service excellence

Why are companies turning to digital signage?

As the AV/IT convergence continues apace, digital signage has become a key component in delivering unified communications as a natural companion to an IP video system. This has led to a change in end user requirements for digital signage players, with an increased need to now handle both TV/video and signage together seamlessly.

Today, digital signage is everywhere – from corporations, airports and restaurants, to banks and shopping malls. Widely used to deliver entertainment, information, alerts and advertisements, it combines high-quality video, graphics and text to offer a powerful medium that can reach the right audience in the most compelling way possible.

As the AV/IT convergence continues apace, digital signage has become a key component in delivering unified communications as a natural companion to an IP video system. This has led to a change in end user requirements for digital signage players, with an increased need to now handle both TV/video and signage together seamlessly.

Today, digital signage is everywhere – from corporations, airports and restaurants, to banks and shopping malls. Widely used to deliver entertainment, information, alerts and advertisements, it combines high-quality video, graphics and text to offer a powerful medium that can reach the right audience in the most compelling way. With today’s digital signage solutions, organisations can:

  • Communicate live news, video and tailored information simultaneously within signage screens
  • Reinforce corporate communications with branded, engaging messaging
  • Turn any connected display into a digital signage delivery point, from a stand-alone PC connected to a single flat screen monitor or an interconnected network of screens
  • Modify each screen or portion of the screen by time of day, and by geographic and demographic factors
  • Create and edit screen designs and layouts at any time

Putting aside the retail industry, many organisations need digital signage systems that are easy-to-use and can be easily customised to suit their individual needs. Integration with IP video systems is also becoming increasingly seamless, enabling more information to be shared as relevant to varying audiences. This is particularly applicable to hotels and schools, as well as the corporate & finance industry and venues.

Hotels: Hotels are becoming more creative in the way they’re using this combination of digital signage and IP video. From interactive kiosks to video walls and mobile devices, hotels can convert a wide range of connected devices into a communication medium – while centrally controlling the time, location and target audience to display tailored signage with TV, video and guest-focused content in reception areas, bars, restaurants, lounges and meeting rooms.

Schools: Digital signage can distribute content that effectively enhances communications in schools and colleges – especially when incorporated with video. Live TV channels complemented by school news and information can be displayed on screens in classrooms, cafeterias, libraries, hallways and everywhere in between where it is important – and oftentimes critical – to share information quickly and accurately. This technology is paramount for broadcasting emergency messaging and is equally effective for a wider range of content – including sporting events, student club activities, menu boards, news from the principal’s office, exam timetables and more. Its ability to integrate seamlessly with existing school networks also enables administrators to centrally control the information on display and flexibly change content on the go and in real-time. They can even get the students involved in creating digital signage as part of a media course or club.

 

Corporate & finance: The very nature of the workplace is changing at a tremendous pace: new ways of finding specialised talent, catering to an on-demand workforce, accommodating more flexible work environments and creating enhanced employment experiences are all high on the corporate agenda. These trends have significantly impacted how corporations recruit, retain, train and grow their workforces to achieve future success. A secret to offering an enhanced employee experience involves a two-fold approach: creating a digital environment that is both so efficient and seamless that it goes unnoticed, and one that is personalised and adaptable to employees’ unique preferences.

This is precisely why digital signage – especially when integrated with IP video – is a fundamental ingredient to achieving enterprise-wide unified communications. The combined solutions enable administrators to manage their communications systems seamlessly to ensure the right content is being displayed on the right screens and to the right people within the organisation. For example, a reception screens can show personalised welcome messages alongside a company video, while staff room displays can stream the news alongside upcoming training courses.

Stadiums and Venues: When it comes to the big game, fans hate to miss a second of the action, yet also want to enjoy the facilities and range of merchandising and refreshments on offer. Digital signage enables venues to simultaneously live stream the game while combining footage with advertising or menus – it’s now not unusual to see an entire bank of screens behind the bar in hospitality areas.

 

What products/services are proving popular right now?

The clear winner at the moment is digital signage and for Exterity, this means the latest addition to our portfolio, ArtioSign, which is used to create, manage and dynamically display content in a very user-friendly way. Now equipped with more in depth scheduling and user permissions features, it uses a simple drag-and- drop interface to quickly create engaging signage playlists and better manage content on the go and in real time.

Content protection is also a hot topic as more and more video is freely distributed across global networks. Our AvediaStream Encoders, and more specifically their HDPC v2 and professional content protection features, are popular with industries that need to ensure compliance with the latest security requirements for copyrighted content.

What do you consider to be your USP?

With over 15 years of experience in developing and implementing IP video solutions, we have built our reputation and our extensive list of customers based on having company stability and reliability, quality assurance, product excellence and some very strong channel partnerships.

 

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