Digital signage is becoming ubiquitous technology. You see signage screens everywhere - in major retailers, on advertising hoardings, providing information in airports and in offices. Behind each screen there is usually a Windows-based PC running commercial signage software to generate the content that the consumer sees.
Our team has been in digital signage software development for over 15 years. We have developed a novel graphics engine called Aperture that enables the top-end signage software packages to run on a very small and low-cost Raspberry Pi-based computer (effectively a mobile phone chip) with the same or better quality of performance as a PC.
This saves significantly on unit and energy cost. In total, we estimate the whole-life saving per screen could be as much as £700. For a retail store deployment of 2,000 screens, that means the whole-life saving could be as much as £1.4m.
By choosing Aperture we think a customer could enjoy a whole-life saving of as much as £700 per screen. A major UK retailer is currently installing a large number of screens across their store portfolio and has already expressed interest in the Aperture solution for future use.
An Aperture powered computer built around the tiny Raspberry Pi board would enable an end user to run the highest quality signage systems at a significantly lower cost than running them on a PC, but with the same or better quality of visual output. We think this is likely to accelerate the transition from paper to digital solutions and may also stimulate a new generation of applications for digital information at low cost. As well as having a lower capital cost, an Aperture powered system will use only 3 watts of power, compared with typically 70 watts for a standard PC based signage player.
This should provide significant savings in energy cost over the life of a signage system.
The Aperture system enables the signage player to be much smaller than a PC solution and it does not require ventilation. Several leading screen manufacturers are thought to be interested in incorporating an Aperture powered Raspberry Pi device within the design of their next generation of screens, thus eliminating the need for a separate player unit. Such combined screens could significantly reduce the physical footprint for a digital information system as well as reducing the cost of installation.
Taken on a worldwide scale the demand for Aperture powered devices could well be very substantial. We have existing relationships with distribution partners with global customer relationships.
Substantial accomplishments to date
We have completed development of Aperture and demonstrated it at trade shows to considerable acclaim. We view it as a significant step forward in signage technology. We have attracted the backing of a seasoned and successful Private Equity investor and chairman with deep experience of the AV industry, Sandy MacPherson, who will chair Silver Curve through its next phase of growth.
Negotiations for the supply of Aperture powered solutions are now taking place with a number of resellers and end users. These include a major high street retail chain where Silver Curve already provides digital signage consultancy and systems integration support, as well as a worldwide street furniture project that we believe could deliver many thousands of licence sales. An Italian reseller has several clients wishing to purchase solutions powered by Aperture and has agreed to part fund integration work, which is nearing completion.
Silver Curve will sell Aperture primarily on a licence-based B2B2C model. We aim to sell licences through a range of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) who will in turn sell Aperture powered signage systems to resellers or end users. This is similar to the business model used by Microsoft in selling Windows pre-installed on PCs.
There will initially be 2 main versions of Aperture;
• a “lite” version that will enable a user to display a simple loop of images or video, and
• a full version adding in dynamic text and animation features. Other variants would be developed to suit particular market requirements.
The licence price is planned to vary according to quantity, at a similar order of magnitude to a Windows licence. We have already tested this price point in the market with no concerns.
Silver Curve is already established as a leading software integration, consultancy and product development business focused on the digital signage industry. The company was formed by Bryan Crotaz, one of the leading experts in digital signage software development and implementation. Bryan has spent the last 15 years building digital signage software and helping customers create projects with it. These include Heathrow T5, St Pancras International, scoreboards at Lord's, UK O2 retail stores and many others. Bryan and Barry Crotaz founded Inspiration Matters in 2002 and sold it to US-based AMX in 2007. Bryan worked as AMX's UK R&D Director until 2010.
These projects have given Bryan substantial credibility and a valuable network of contacts both within the signage industry and among potential end users.
The company expects to be able to leverage this credibility and network of client contacts in order to influence the rapid growth of sales of Aperture powered devices on a worldwide scale.
Use of proceeds
The majority of the funds will be utilised on software integration work relating to specific customer orders, and as such will fund software engineer salaries and other costs.
Sales of Aperture powered devices are expected to commence within the next 2 months. These are planned to be based on the Open Splash open source signage software system, used widely in the market. However, in order to generate volume sales it will be necessary to integrate with the other leading signage software brands. This will involve the creation of drivers for each system, which will take between a few weeks and a few months each depending on complexity.
We also plan to recruit a dedicated and experienced business development director, who will expand our international network of OEM partners and will evangelise the benefits of Aperture to resellers and end users.
The directors have raised funds to date from personal loans and remortgaging their primary residences. These funds have then been made available to the company as directors loans. The company pays the service cost of the loans each month but does not repay the capital. The Seedrs funding will not be used to pay back the loan principal.
Bryan Crotaz, the CEO, is the only director currently taking a salary of £40,000 per year. £20,000 of the funds raised on Seedrs will go towards his 2013 salary. We plan on paying the two non-exec directors salaries of £6,000 each per year, in addition to an increase to Bryan's salary, once the company becomes profitable, but not before. None of the funds raised on Seedrs will be used for this.
Silver Curve’s direct customers are signage OEMs, who sell on to resellers or end-customers. In terms of end-customers, our OEM partners are primarily targeting major corporations in the retail, transportation and advertising sectors, where they already have significant relationships. We are in active discussions with a number of end-customers about multi-site projects.
Screens in Retail: Retailers are progressively moving from paper to in-store digital signage. We see a clear trend towards digital signage as a core component of the physical retail environment and Aperture powered solutions would be ideally placed to benefit from this trend. Its small footprint and low capital cost combined with very low power consumption make Aperture a highly attractive solution.
Outdoor advertising: Digital signage in outdoor advertising has been limited because reflective glare makes plasma or LCD screens largely unusable. LED screen technology is used on high value sites but is very expensive. The cost of screen technology is reducing and new technologies could soon be coming on stream enabling more easily viewable digital outdoor advertising at an affordable price. Again Aperture is expected to be ideally placed to benefit as the low power consumption of the Raspberry Pi chip would allow the player to be solar powered, enabling screens to be placed away from external power sources. Silver Curve is in advanced negotiations with a client that is likely to deliver substantial business in this area. This project is the subject of an NDA.
Screen manufacture: The Raspberry Pi board generates very little heat so does not require external ventilation. This makes for a very small unit which we think is ideal to be built into a display screen. We understand manufacturers have been experimenting with such devices but with limited success due to the perceived need to run the Windows operating system. Aperture eliminates this restriction. We are in early stage discussions with screen manufacturers.
Characteristics of target market
The digital signage market has become established over the past 10-15 years and is now becoming ubiquitous. For major retailers digital signage is an integral aspect of a future-focused, omnichannel retail strategy, as evidenced by a walk down Oxford Street or through Westfield London. Advertising is also now a heavy user of digital signage, with flagship installations including London Underground escalators, Piccadilly Circus etc. Based on our knowledge of the market, we estimate that over the next five years, UK retailers will install many thousands of screens in their store portfolio. With one player per screen, the potential revenue opportunity from this sector alone is highly significant.
Our current OEM partner network has international reach and we anticipate projects across the world. The Silver Curve team has an excellent understanding of end user requirements in the target markets as well as the management and procurement processes.
Silver Curve’s direct customers are signage OEMs, who sell on to resellers or end-customers. We have existing relationships with a number of major OEMs.
Bryan Crotaz is a recognised expert in the digital signage space and presented at conferences in Europe and America.
Our OEM partners have existing relationships with clients who buy PC-based solutions and an active network of resellers who are building new relationships. Silver Curve does not plan to sell Aperture licences directly to the end user but rather through a variety of player hardware and screen manufacturers. Those manufacturers would be selected on the basis that they will already have established links directly with end users or with a network of resellers. The company is already actively working with such companies in the UK, in the USA and in Europe.
Expanding this model: Bryan Crotaz together with the business development personnel to be recruited will promote the benefits of Aperture to resellers and end users as well as intermediaries such as signage software suppliers, advertising management companies and system and network management companies, encouraging them to upsell the benefits to end clients as they bid for projects.
Product promotion will be achieved through a combination of direct contact, magazine advertising, exhibitions and speaking engagements at conferences and events.
We believe Aperture is unique in being able to facilitate top-end signage software on a Raspberry Pi based player. It is this USP that delivers the cost, size and convenience benefits. We have been able to do this due to Bryan’s long experience in leading-edge digital signage software development. Many of our competitors were dismissing the product as “can’t be done”, until they saw it being demonstrated earlier this year. It is our objective that, while we have a technology lead, we will sign up as many of the leading signage software providers as possible. This will make it difficult for any competitor coming late to the market to gain a foothold. There are companies that could compete with Aperture at a price level.
These ‘appliance’ products are thought only to be able to offer a low visual quality and limited functionality. We understand they are only able to operate on their own hardware platform which would need to be entirely redesigned to utilise Raspberry Pi technology. In the event the market becomes aware of a high demand for Aperture powered products it is arguable that these low end companies could invest substantial sums in an attempt to upgrade their offering in order to compete. Based on the 2 man years investment made by Silver Curve, on the back of at least 10 man years of previous experience, we estimate from the position they are presently in they would need to invest at least 4 to 8 man years of work in order to start to compete. As all of these products would be capable of running under the Aperture engine we think it is more likely that the companies would simply opt to purchase Aperture licences.
Silver Curve is a supplier, not a competitor. At the high visual quality end of the scale we believe that the leading companies have no active program to develop a low cost, high quality player. We expect to see their larger clients pushing them in the Aperture direction in order that they can benefit from the likely cost savings.