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Company Profile – ScreenReach

I recently did a little teaser about ScreenReach, which generated a few comments. Well here’s a fuller profile following my conversation with Paul Rawlings, the CEO.

The Company
ScreenReach talks about itself as a ‘Screen 2.0’ company, which means that it offers an interactive display system that can deliver personalised content to screens – both big plasma display screens as well as mobiles.

Primarily this personalised content can be external information configured however the screen owner chooses. That could be news, stock market updates or the local weather. In this respect it is a bit like iGoogle for plasmas. The really clever stuff however is the fact that the content can be personalised based on the people near the screen.

The founders of the company come from a signage background and were looking for a way to provide hi-tech, quality display systems for all.

The Technology
In my first piece I talked about ScreenReach bringing the film Minority Report to life. I was referring to the scene in which Tom Cruise walks into a shop and all the screens recognise him and display personal messages just for him. ScreenReach offers something similar, or as Paul puts it, they “utilise location-based data to deliver something useful” to the consumer.

That location based data can be recognising that you as an individual are near the screen, maybe by using Cell-ID, GPS, or if you are close enough Bluetooth. Or it could be data that predicts the make-up of the ‘group’ of people nearby e.g. by accessing the till systems of the retailer to understand who has recently purchased. This information is then used to personalise the content on the screen.

For example, if the system recognised Ewan it might display a notice that said that Irn Bru was on offer, whereas if it recognised me it might display the advert for Custard Creams.

The Business Model
The audience for this technology is as Paul sees it ‘anyone who wants to deliver a message’, but that is mainly retailers or possibly corporate receptions and other similar places.

What ScreenReach is looking to do is to offer this technology to as many people as possible and not keep it in the hands of an exclusive group that can afford to pay big money for traditional quality signage. For that reason the initial costs have been set low (£99 for the software, plus a monthly fee based on the content delivered). On top of that, ScreenReach hopes to generate additional advertising revenues – with a percentage going to the retailer.

The idea behind all of this is that both the consumer and the retailer can configure the system to deliver the ads / information that they want.

For retailers, this means not running ads that are competitive with their offering and obviously running ads that actively promote their products.

For consumers it will be about setting their own personal preferences. One of the ways that ScreenReach is hoping to entice consumers to do that is through the mobile vouchers scheme that it offers. Consumers can set their preferences and then receive discount vouchers to their phone. These vouchers can be based on both their preferences and the additional information gathered (e.g. location) to make them more relevant.

In many ways this is a location based version of what Shop, Scan, Save offers.

What ScreenReach is hoping is that following launch they will be able to grow rapidly and steal ‘first mover advantage’ becoming the de facto solution for retailers.

Next Steps
So far ScreenReach has been self-funded and is currently talking to VCs so that funding can be provided to launch to the market and grow the service. At present they are trialling the service in a few select places and are hoping that a full launch will see their presence grow.

When I spoke to Paul he was confident about achieving funding and thought that the launch would be in only about 2-3 months.

My View
There were a number of people commenting about this after my teaser. Many pointing out that consumers would not want to be recognised and have ads displayed based on their preferences.

Yet, people already have their preferences played back to them on websites they visit and through any decent example of direct mail. As I said at the time, it’s all about how it is deployed and I see no immeidate problem with this, if it is done well.

However, what this does highlight is that ScreenReach is at the mercy of other people getting it ‘right’ – whether it’s the people they sell the system too, or the people who advertise on the screens. As Mike42 said, it won’t take many mistakes for this to affect trade in the retail stores and therefore affect ScreenReach.

My other potential problem with this is the ad-funded model. Don’t get me wrong, I love the concept of ad-funded, but it’s just that the world and his dog is now using this as a method to launch new services and advertisers still only have a finite budget. I’m not sure how much Coke (or whoever) would value advertising to the people who sit in a small coffee shop in Warrington (or insert your own provincial town here).

Overall though, I hope it does work. It sounds really interesting, although I’ve not seen it in practice (I’d love to though sometime, if you’re listening Paul!!); it’s good that people from outside the mobile industry are choosing to innovate in this sector; and Paul was really enthusiastic and excited about it all. Now I know that they aren’t necessarily good enough reasons for a company to survive, but they’re good enough for me to want it to.

I guess we’ll all have to watch this space …


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