A few weeks ago, Matt and I sat down for a podcast episode with Jim Vasgaard, National Sales Manager of Spectacular Projects for Daktronics, to hear more about our company’s efforts in the military niche. We learned a lot about how we’re providing high-resolution displays for their needs, including command centers and briefing rooms. Read on to hear what Jim had to say during our conversation.
Justin: What are the needs we’re seeing from the military niche right now?
Jim: The big market demand we’re seeing right now is in the command or control center. That’s a highly secure facility where you have several groups of officers that are working and looking at what’s happening at a specific site in the field. We are seeing that the military has a big need for high-resolution graphics in those areas as well as some of their conference rooms and briefing centers. They have been using projection systems or LCD video walls for years with a lot of frustration because in those video walls, you get those bezels. LCDs are stacked together and there are lines between them that show up through the middle of the overall image. And so, it seems like they always have information that falls right on a bezel they are trying to look at. Or, some of the products maybe don’t last as long as they’d like.
In the projection systems, even though these are sometimes in dark rooms, the graphics and images still aren’t quite as vibrant. Especially today, when you get so many video inputs, whether it’s from drones or soldier cams or in-field cameras, it can be in really low light conditions. So, it’s really important for them to get some products that have a very strong and deep color pallet but also offer tremendous shades of gray depth. So, even if you are in a low-light condition, you can make out the image of a soldier, car or building without having to guess or zoom in because your screen doesn’t give you that depth of image.
Matt: What helped Daktronics move into this niche?
Jim: The emergence of our narrow pixel pitch product line. In these locations, you’ve got low ceilings so it’s really important for screens to have a lot of pixels and a lot of resolution within a pretty small area. Then, when you combine the fact that we are a company based in the United States, we align well with TAA (Trade Agreements Act) or BAA (Buy American Act) compliance. That means that the product has to be substantially transformed here in the US. We are one of the few companies that truly complies with that. Military sites also find us attractive because we have a US-based training capability that if they want to, or their integrator wants to, get training on how to install or get service, we do those every month. They like the fact that we do all the repair and return for components here in the United States and that doesn’t have to go off to some other venue somewhere else.
Justin: Is there anything else that sets Daktronics apart from other LED providers?
Jim: One part that makes us unique is the display interface, which is something that Daktronics has developed and built for years. We design it. We develop it. We own the source code. We manufacture and support it all here in Brookings, SD. That’s, again, something they cannot get from most other manufacturers. With all the cyber-security codes today, we really bring them a high level of cyber-security both with the products and how we can provide them to the military base, but we also have a very selective, defined supply chain management structure. When we can show buyers that we are working with 2-3 levels of support and that we are managing that supply chain, that is a very attractive differentiator for us today because security is a big challenge.
Matt: Usually, when people talk about the difference in LCD and LED technology, they mention brightness and image detail. Is lifetime also a concern? And is that impacted by how often these displays would be running?
Jim: They run pretty much 24/7 at these military applications. The idea is that the technology needs to be up and operational so that if something occurs, they can quickly gather the appropriate staff, view an event and discuss that event. So, they are running 24/7. That is one of the benefits that LED brings. LCD might run for 4-5 years and then you are going to see a lot of maintenance costs and failures. With our LED product, we are giving them 10 years of life and performance while reducing operating costs. So, it’s a good fit.
Justin: I know demos are always important. You can see pictures or videos on our website, but when you actually see it in person it’s very different. So, when you get in front of these people, are they pretty impressed when they see the product?
Jim: They really are. And the demos are really important for a couple of reasons. For them to really see the differences that we offer in our displays including shades of gray and being able to see images in low light conditions as well as our vibrant colors. Seeing it in person, it’s amazing the number of folks that will look at it and go, “I didn’t realize it was going to be that clear.” Or, “I didn’t realize I could see that much of an image in that situation.” So, that’s really been an important part. Our demo crew here, we have challenged them. We’ve gone to a lot of events; we’ve gone to a lot of demos. They have been a great group to work with. We wear them out, but it’s really been a huge asset for us. You’re asking about the shows. We did around 18 or 19 of those military shows last fall just to get our name out. So, we have a lot of brand awareness that we are trying to build.
Justin: Do you have any final thoughts that you’d like to share about what Daktronics is doing in that area?
Jim: We are really excited about the possibilities. The response has been very good and we have really only been promoting to this group for less than a year. We have a lot of interest, a lot of requests for quotes and we’re just finishing up our first installations here at a military base. They have three locations that we are doing displays for and their response has been really positive. They are asking for more information to look at doing other sites and that’s led to several other opportunities out there. I’m really excited about it. I think we have a great opportunity to become THE provider for these military bases.
Listen to the full podcast “Breaking into the Military Market with Jim Vasgaard” by clicking here.