In terms of innovation in projection, the biggest strides taken in recent years have been the move to 4K resolution and the proliferation of laser illumination. Now that all the major players offer both of these, one could argue that there is very little separating the leading manufacturers’ product sets.
Additionally, despite the relative commoditisation of the market, there have been few new entrants, aside from a number of brands from China that have been unable to establish themselves in EMEA. In a market such as this, with a dearth of new companies shaking up the established order, innovation or evolution from within becomes even more important.
This uncertainty sits against a backdrop of some fairly dire predictions about what the projection market will look like in the next few years. How does the current health of the market stack up against these predictions and what are the next steps?
“For years there have been people professing that projection will be killed, and for years the market has proven this to not be the case,” says Joe Ahmed, Optoma head of marketing, EMEA.
And in terms of how the projection market has evolved in recent years, Ahmed continues: “There are some interesting shifts in the adoption of projection technology. The market has primarily changed due to technology disruptors (both internal and external of projection) both limiting projection and creating new opportunities for projection.”
Thomas Walter, section manager strategic product marketing at NEC Display Solutions Europe, comments: “The demand for installation projectors is growing continuously and significantly. There are two major reasons for this – the development of laser as a superior light technology with long-lasting and reliable performance and the general need for higher brightness levels and huge visual surfaces.
“Installation projectors, compared to other visual technologies such as LFDs or LED, are still providing the lowest cost per square metre when it comes to large screen visualisation and come at the lowest initial and operational cost. Laser light sources extend the lifetime compared to traditional UHP lamps tremendously, allowing more reliable and maintenance-friendly operation.”
"It isn't all about a race to the highest resolution and brightness"
Nick Loftus, business development executive at Acer, states: “Besides the technology moving forward, the projector market has become more user-centric recently.”
Back to Ahmed, who says projection mapping software has opened up more sectors and possible applications: “Coupled with laser technology, this has allowed projection to be used in many new sectors and environments that previously were not viable, most notably digital signage for retail and leisure and hospitality. This has transformed projection to be an engaging and immersive experience which captures audience imaginations and plays into the augmented reality trend.”
While the death of projection may have been exaggerated, the fact remains that it is a crowded market that has been short of disruptive innovation. Therefore, what can manufacturers do to stand out?
“Increased resolution is one area that manufacturers can differentiate,” states Chris Axford, international sales and marketing director at Digital Projection, which introduced the world’s first 8K DLP laser projector at ISE this year. “However, it isn’t all about a race to the highest resolution and brightness. There are other key features that customers are asking for, such as ultra-high frame rates at native resolution.
“Aside from the technical specifications, customers also demand the best service and support, both pre and post sales. This is an area we have also been pioneering for years, and continue to take seriously by respecting the raison d’être and importance of all stakeholders in the channel, while proactively working with all our partners to ensure that they receive all the support they need on their often mission critical installations.”
Walter also thinks that a consultative, customer-focused approach is desirable. For a company like NEC that offers the majority of the visualisation options, it is less about projection maintaining market share but finding the right solution for the particular situation. “When it comes to large screen visualisation, different technologies such as LFDs, direct view LED and projection are all valid options with pros and cons which need to be considered according to the individual needs of the end user. The environmental situation regarding light, space, installation restrictions and the target outcomes of the visualisation all need to be considered. Since NEC uniquely supplies all three technologies, we put our customer’s needs first, recommending the perfect-fit technology.
“NEC successfully drives laser as a light source technology and just recently added RB laser as a light source to its portfolio. It combines the advantages of traditional technologies (laser phosphor and RGB laser) delivering image excellence with a low total cost of ownership.”
Ahmed adds: “Projector brands have begun to focus more and more on specific vertical markets to ensure a successful value proposition. Optoma has had great success in developing the retail and leisure and hospitality sectors through the promotion of both its DuraCore and Multi Colour Laser technology, in addition to recruiting new innovative partners who share the same drive and vision of how the projection market will change.”