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updated 7:58 PM PST, Feb 12, 2016

Innovation on Display

BY JON SHADEL

The technology industry is always in flux. And this rapid rate of change poses challenges to companies ranging from nimble startups aiming to make their mark to established organizations fighting to remain relevant. This is particularly true in the competitive digital display market, where an Oregon company has been at the forefront of nearly every major breakthrough in the last three decades.

BY JON SHADEL

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Planar’s pioneering efforts in transparent displays find their latest iteration in this transparent OLED technology demonstrator. This 55-inch display looks like see-through glass but can light up with text, imagery and video, making it perfect for museum, retail, and corporate office installations. Planar expects to offer a transparent OLED product in 2016.

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Jennifer Davis discusses the latest
technology trends and business
innovations driving Planar’s success.

The technology industry is always in flux. And this rapid rate of change poses challenges to companies ranging from nimble startups aiming to make their mark to established organizations fighting to remain relevant. This is particularly true in the competitive digital display market, where an Oregon company has been at the forefront of nearly every major breakthrough in the last three decades.

The evolution of Beaverton-based Planar Systems (NASDAQ: PLNR) is a good example of how successful companies must adapt in a fast-changing world by driving innovation across multiple product categories. In recent years, Planar’s product strategy has revolved around cutting-edge digital signage technology. To market these products, Planar has implemented consumer-focused marketing strategies — including online marketing, mobile tools and technology demonstrations — that have driven growth.

When Planar Systems launched in 1983, the founders “envisioned a world of laptop computers and hang-on-the-wall, flat-panel televisions,” says Jennifer Davis, vice president of marketing and product strategy. “They set about creating the core technology that would make that vision possible and pioneering the very first flat-panel products.”

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The University of Oregon’s Hatfield-Dowlin Complex features a variety of Planar products, including video walls and large-format displays that are the cornerstone of Planar’s digital-signage offerings.

Thirty years later, Planar Systems’ products, on display in the world’s leading museums, control rooms, corporations and retail environments, continue to win industry awards for innovation. And the company has seen considerable success in recent years by shifting its emphasis toward digital-signage products.

“Over the past few years, Planar has been transforming to a leader in the digital-signage product marketplace,” says Davis. She highlights a number of high-profile regional installations, including video walls at Nike’s downtown Portland flagship store, interactive donor displays at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and a variety of video-wall displays incorporated throughout the Hatfield-Dowlin Football Complex at the University of Oregon.

This digital-signage product strategy has resulted in significant revenue and profit growth. As of the first half of the 2015 fiscal year, Planar Systems’ gross profit (as a percentage of sales) has increased from 20% to 25% since 2012. In the quarter ending in March 2015, the company’s year-over-year growth in digital-signage products was 32%. Commercial demand has made these products the primary source of revenue growth for the public company, with more than half of its revenue now coming from products like video walls and large-format commercial displays.

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OMSI reimagined their Science Store and donor recognition wall with Planar UltraRes displays, featuring four times the resolution of standard HD displays.

Driving this growth is a marketing strategy that draws inspiration from leaders in other industries, such as high-end car manufacturers. Much like customizing a Corvette to spec on Chevrolet’s website, Planar Systems’ interactive suite of sales tools includes visualization applications and calculators that let customers design and virtually test products. These free online interactive design tools also provide complete technical specifications for the installation in real time, a feature that has proven to be incredibly popular with the company’s partner resellers in more than 75 countries around the world. “By enabling the design of large video walls right from the phones in their pockets, our partners are a more valued, consultative resource for their customers,” Davis asserts.

“The new Planar DirectLight LED Video Wall Calculator helps us to quickly compare video walls and make recommendations to clients, saving us hours in design and analysis,” says Alan Jackson, sales engineer for Pro Sound & Video in Miami, Florida. “Our clients love it because it allows them to see their video wall in advance of their purchase, and we love it because it expedites the design and sale process.”

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The Planar Mosaic demonstrates
the use of video walls for new
artistic installations and Planar’s
leadership in bringing to market
an innovative square display.

Planar Systems has also found that they can build buzz for new technologies and test customer reaction by taking unreleased products out of the lab and displaying them at some of the industry’s leading trade shows, most recently showcasing a transparent OLED technology seemingly pulled right out of science fiction movies. “This is one way we let our customers see what the future holds,” Davis says.

Davis has been encouraged by the reception each new product receives, but she stays laser focused on the future of display technology. She believes, given the company’s pioneering history, that Planar Systems is well positioned to remain a leader in this fast-changing industry. “Our products meet a universal need for visualization,” she observes, noting that companies in every industry are seeking more engaging, more accurate, and simpler ways of displaying and interacting with information about their businesses, their industries, their brands and their customers.

With headquarters in Beaverton and manufacturing in Hillsboro, Planar’s Oregon roots run deep. “Technology is and will remain a major part of Oregon’s economy,” Davis affirms. “As we move forward, I really believe that every company is a technology company, utilizing advancements in electronics, computing and science to achieve their business objectives,” Davis says. “Visualization will always be a big part of making that data actionable, and Planar is constantly innovating to serve these needs better.”

Last modified onMonday, 23 November 2015 17:01

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