Have you ever wondered which fast-food chain had the first ever drive thru window? If you guessed Red’s Giant Hamberg (you were probably thinking McDonald’s) you would be correct. The drive thru experience has evolved quite a bit since 1947—with LCD drive thru signage at the forefront. Digital drive thru signage can display your order with supreme clarity to ensure accuracy while also simultaneously advertising various menu items all at the same time. If you’ve ever wondered what gives digital drive thru signage it’s clarity and outdoor durability, then we’ve got you covered. Listen to industry expert Dave Haynes’ interview with Tru Vue® CEO, Jane Boyce or browse the transcription below. They cover everything from anti-reflective glass coatings to preserve branding to creating a coating that can ensure the glass can withstand harsh weather like salt and fog.
Full podcast transcription below.
Dave Haynes: As I often do, what I’d like to ask first is what is your company Tru Vue all about?
Jane Boyce: Tru Vue is a really interesting company. We coat glass and acrylic products to beautify and protect images, so we are very specialized in what we do. We have two primary coatings that we apply, one is a UV coating that protects art from fading; and the second is an anti-reflective coating which really virtually eliminates reflections and clarifies images. Just makes whatever image you’re trying to show look amazing.
Dave Haynes: Hence your involvement in digital signage, correct?
Jane Boyce: Yeah, digital signage is a new foray for us. We have been in it for the last 3-4 years, but when we started looking around and saying “where can we take our technologies, who wants to really show off an image, show off information, you know where is our product applicable?”, digital signage came right up to the top and we’ve really enjoyed being in this market for the past 3-4 years.
Dave Haynes: So, one of the reasons I was eager to talk and I was intrigued is learning that you guys are like a very big deal in the museum and gallery space. Your reflective glass is in front of the world’s great art treasures, from what I gather.
Jane Boyce: Yeah, we started in custom framing and it’s still our largest business, but about 10 years ago we took our products to the museum community and it has been an unbelievable journey for us. We’re in 90% of the world’s top 400 museums. So any museum that comes to the top of your head, we can name a piece of art that’s glazed with our product — with our anti-reflective products. Again, we do glass and acrylic in this realm and it’s just a — it’s a fascinating market for us. We’re really pleased to be in it and we’ve had a good deal of success in it.
Dave Haynes: So if I see like, a DiVinci, or a Picasso, Rembrandt, Van Gough, whatever, I’m probably seeing it through your glass?
Jane Boyce: Yes. I don’t know the probability of it (laughs) but yeah, I mean, as things come up to be reframed, we’re definitely in the consideration set, and we have, you know, it’s a growing market for us, and people definitely consider our glass and acrylic products to be worthy of such pieces of art.
Actually, our first big glazing job was actually a Picasso. So, it’s kind of how we got credibility in the museum market because when you talk about something you need to protect, you need to be able to trust the vendor. So you know, it was uh, once we started glazing those types of pieces of art, and built up the credibility that our products can be trusted, that our technology can be trusted, and that we deliver a really tight specification for viewing objects as well as art, you know that was a huge vote of confidence for us. It really helped propel our brand into the museum market.
Dave Haynes: So for people who don’t know much about glass, like me, I don’t quite understand, what’s the difference between like a regular sheet of glass and what you guys have?
Jane Boyce: Well, we actually take “regular” sheets of glass and we can take all sorts of different types of substrate, you know all sorts of different glass substrates whether they’re tempered or chemically strengthened and we take that and we put it through a coater that is about the size of a football field. It’s a huge piece of equipment and we put metal oxides — different layers of metal oxides — onto the glass surface and that basically interacts with reflections and makes the product anti-reflective. And we also do it so that it delivers a lot of the benefits of glass: our coatings have a great hardness level, they have great durability in terms of environmentals, you know we really provide a service to anyone who really wants to show off their image.
Dave Haynes: And so the, uh, is this coating completely transparent or does it affect the visual? I wouldn’t imagine it would, if it’s in front of a Picasso…
Jane Boyce: No, it doesn’t. It has great image clarity not only in the fact that it eliminates reflections but it’s also got great transmission.
Dave Haynes: Ok, so how would this differ from — could you instead of using your stuff, could you just put a film on glass?
Jane Boyce: You can, but films generally will get a — the durability of films generally is not as good. You’ll also get some color transference with films. It will create a color scheme on the image.
Dave Haynes: Ok, so if there’s a very minute charcoal tint or something like that, that’s going to be picked up by whatever the visual is.
Jane Boyce: Yes. Yep!
Dave Haynes: Oh, okay. So, in the context of digital signage, you guys are in the market primarily for the anti-reflective qualities of your product?
Jane Boyce: Yes, yeah, the anti-reflective properties are a lot of the application that we’re seeing. We have had several customers in this market for decades. But in terms of making this a strategic focus, it’s really been the last 3-4 years. But most of the application that we are seeing right now is in outdoor digital signage.
Dave Haynes: So drive-thrus, that sort of thing?
Jane Boyce: Yep! Basically, information boards, drive thrus, wherever information or visuals need to get displayed outside.
Dave Haynes: Is this a solution looking for a problem or is this a big problem that you’re resolving?
Jane Boyce: Well, you know what take I’m going to go with (laughs). I actually think it’s a big problem that we’re resolving. I mean, if your whole purpose is to either inform a consumer or to entice a consumer with a visual, and they can’t see it, it’s a problem. I think our product really helps the purpose of the piece itself.
Dave Haynes: Yeah, I mean I’ve direct experience in this. I was in my local bank’s drive thru lane and it was a sunny day. I had to take off my baseball cap and kind of hold it over the screen so I could see the damn thing. It was just ridiculous. So if you’re not thinking about this in terms of your outdoor drive thru for selling hamburgers or milkshakes, or whatever, you’re not selling hamburgers or milkshakes because people can’t see it.
Jane Boyce: It’s true! Just the other day I was at a drive thru and ordering by memory because I was having problems distinguishing some of the menu items.
Dave Haynes: Why would that happen? It seems so obvious that when you are deploying this stuff and outdoor displays are not cheap by any means because they have to be bright anyways. Why wouldn’t they think about that?
Jane Boyce: I think it’s dual- the products that we sell are of premium cost so I think that is a factor, but I don’t think it’s the main factor. I think the main factor is actually- education. We show up to DSC or other trade shows, and it’s surprising how few people have ever heard of anti-reflective glass or are aware of it or even understand the benefits. So I think a lot of it is.. you know we need to do a better job of making people aware and educating them on what our product does and what benefits it really drives.
Dave Haynes: Ya certainly when I’ve seen outdoor displays at trade shows being marketed they don’t really go into that, they just go into the brightness and they talk about how the brightness can cut through the direct sun, midday sun and so on. And therefore it all works, but it doesn’t really matter that much if it’s reflecting everything that is around it.
Jane Boyce: But if you see a visual of something that, first is clarity in general, like you said if you can’t actually see it that’s the tallest order of the problem. But I also think that if you really want something to look amazing, you will see a difference if you have an anti-reflective glass in front of an image and you’re trying to make something look gorgeous or delicious, you will see a difference in image clarity and appeal. That is another reason to think of it. You’re trying to sell something and inform people, even if you can see if with the sun.
We can make it look better
Dave Haynes: Why does it make it look better? I understand that it is stopping the reflection but how does it actually improve the visual?
Jane Boyce: Actually let’s more light in through the glass and therefore you get a crisper image.
Dave Haynes: Oh ok. So in terms of the UV glass that you have… Does that come into play in digital signage at all or it is not really relevant?
Jane Boyce: It really isn’t that relevant. We haven’t seen an interest in it, we’ve talked to a couple of folks about it. But the UV coatings that we have, have not gained/garnered much interest in the digital signage market.
Dave Haynes: Ya, I don’t think it would matter much for a lot of things that might for things like O lead which is organic and I think is affected by ultraviolet light, but you know O lead is still in its very early stages and where it’s being applied it’s usually premium locations and they’re pretty careful about where the place it.
Jane Boyce: Yep and I also like I said we have several customers better in this market that we’ve been servicing for decades, but we are learning a lot and I’m not sure…I think we’ve got to do a better job of understanding the needs of the market, so that we can understand what applications we do have.
Dave Haynes: Do you guys deal with infrared light at all, like rejecting the heat of the sun?
Jane Boyce: We do not have an IR coating. I know that it’s a hot topic in the industry and it’s something that we’re kind of investigating and trying to figure out. I think everyone’s kind of at the same stage of understanding what the specifications are for a product like that. I think that’s one of the biggest challenges is defining what you need so that we can go to work on it.
Dave Haynes: Yeah I’ve I’ve spoken with a couple of companies that do outdoor displays and they’ve described it basically as the holy grail. That if you could figure out a way to reject the heat of the midday sun in like Tucson or Las Vegas or wherever or even in the northern climate in the summer. Because it’s just so punishing on the electronics.
Jane Boyce: Mhmm, we’ve talked to a couple different companies and there’s definitely a lot of passion around that and what we’re trying to do right now as I understand that’s it what you said is like a great headliner umbrella and now we’re trying to figure out—so what does that mean? What does it really have to withstand? How do you test for it? Is it shared? When you develop coding you’d like to not develop 8 or 9 or 10 different versions, you’d like to develop a great version that meets most people’s needs. So I think what we’re in kind of trying to understand the definition right now.
Dave Haynes: Right, going back to AR glass, what’s the biggest enemy? is it overhead lighting or is it direct to ambient light from outside? What worries your users most?
Jane Boyce: I think for digital signage applications it’s actual natural light. It’s the reflection of natural light. In most applications the reflections are mitigated a little bit by backlighting and indoor application. So you still will get some reflection and you still can improve upon that reflection, but the outdoors is where it gets really distracting.
Dave Haynes: I was in Las Vegas last week. I’ll be there again next week I guess by the time this podcast runs. And I I walked by this night club/bar in the Venetian that I’d written about and a friend told me about it sent me a photo of and it’s got this big beautiful video wall, but the finish on the the LCD video wall is kind of a mirror finish and it was reflecting the ceiling the side walls and everything else to the point where you know you could you could see the visuals and everything else, but it definitely wasn’t optimized is that something that your tech would deal with as well?
Jane Boyce: Yes, our technology would definitely deal with that and I mean outside of digital signage we do have applications in outdoor arenas but 3 percent of what the company does, does deal with indoors. I mean you know that’s the issue that people have and for example the museums and museums are incredibly well lit, but still you can have issues and so you can have you know distractions light distractions from different where different windows maybe or different lighting is.
Dave Haynes: Yeah, I would imagine that you were talking earlier about education and I think the same sort of thing applies where, where it’s obvious (like outside) then maybe some people or at least some integrators think we need something to reject reflection here. But maybe they don’t really think in those terms in an indoor environment.
Jane Boyce: I think there is application in the indoor environments. I have had the same experiences myself and it’s funny because once you start seeing things that have anti-reflective coatings on it then you start noticing everything with reflection.
We find that with customers once they start understanding the benefit of the product they may think it’s just specialized for one model or one version and they start seeing that version and then they start looking at their other products and it really becomes objectionable. It becomes an issue.
We have that in people’s homes, people customize a piece with an anti-reflective piece of glass and they start bringing in the rest of their art. It’s awareness, education, and understanding how much better everything looks if an anti-reflective piece of glass is the cover.
Dave Haynes: So I imagine that you probably have this terrible disorder that I have where when I’m walking through airports or malls or whatever I’m looking for screens and kind of judging screens and so on. I bet you’re constantly looking at visuals and assessing whether it needs anti-reflective glass.
Jane Boyce: We have video conferences with a bunch of other business units and there’s one business unit back in their conference room, they have a photograph hanging on the wall that is so unbelievably, like annoying to me. I actually called the business unit and said I’d rather see a blank wall.
It’s bugging me every time I talk to you guys it’s just screaming that you need to be educated and so basically they removed it off their back wall.
Dave Haynes: Well done. So why your stuff versus somebody else’s? I would imagine you, I don’t know your space, but I imagine you have competitors as most industries do.
Jane Boyce: Absolutely and we spend a lot of time differentiating ourselves versus competitors. We diversify and both products and services. In terms of product, if it’s an outdoor application- we have the most durable anti-reflective coating that’s out there. We withstand the wear and tear of elements, we performed incredibly well in durability, salt fog testing, which is obviously you know pretty darn important for outdoor.
And then we also (because we’re used to servicing markets where there are discriminating customers) we also know our product has a tight specification and we really are proud of how our product delivers against a tight specification, so that’s how we differentiate on the product side
On the service side you know…It sounds trite but we really live up to our commitments, we are customer focused and it’s one of the reasons that our facilities are in the U. S..
Is that you know we really believe that we can deliver the quality as well as service, short lead time that type of thing if we’re based in the US. I think this company is a jewel. I’ve had a lot of fun working here and we have a great team and we really try to differentiate our products and our services.
Dave Haynes: So you’re in Chicago, but the manufacturing facilities in Minnesota?
Jane Boyce: We have 2 facilities: one Chicago and that’s where we do the UV coating. And the other one is up in Minnesota, it’s a little bit south of Minneapolis and that’s where we do the anti-reflective coating.
Dave Haynes: How big is the company?
Jane Boyce: Our facilities are highly automated, so we have about 250 people that work here and each facility is about 300,000 square feet. So we’ve got a pretty decent footprint and we’ve been able to grow in several different markets and it’s been, like I said, it’s a fun company. we definitely are niche based, unashamedly niche. We try to be the best of the technologies that were in and take them to different markets
Dave Haynes: Okay so you’re gonna be at digital signage expo showing, is this the first time?
Jane Boyce: Nope, this will be our third year at digital signage expo and we will be in booth 2344, love to see anyone that wants to stop by. We are excited about the DSE show this year and we are excited to talk to folks and try to educate them on what we do.
Dave Haynes: If it’s a big shiny display like a brand new all LED display or something like that…it’s easy to get people to look at it and go ohh? Is it more challenging to sell something that is effectively transparent?
Jane Boyce: It’s a great question. It is really hard to educate people on what we do because we coat glass. We buy the substrate from other people. We coat the glass and put it in a display so people walk by and are really confused.
We try really hard and we get a little bit better every year about trying to educate folks on our value proposition and what we deliver but it is hard it’s really it’s really difficult.
We try to do split screens when we do the shows (regular glass versus our glass) and when you point it out you see the ‘ahhhh’, but most people walking by our booth aren’t sure what were showing
Dave Haynes: Yeah fair enough. So the people who you want to drop in would be primarily integrators, display manufacturers, and to some degree end users who might influence who their integrators use. Is that fairly accurate?
Jane Boyce: That is 100% accurate.
End – Duration 26:28
Recorded on March 20, 2019
About Dave Haynes
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for more than 12 years. Dave Haynes does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia.
SIXTEEN:NINE is an online news and analysis publication focused on the digital signage industry – vendors and end-users. We filter the BS. We ignore most press releases. We celebrate great work. And we point out stupidity. There are 6,600+ articles here, and the count grows daily. Tracing back to early 2006, 16:9 is in many ways a running history of the digital signage industry. Founding Editor Dave Haynes Haynes has built and run companies in this business, and he’s consulted for scores of companies. In other words, he knows his stuff.
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This article is intended for educational purposes only and does not replace independent professional judgment. Statements of fact and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) individually and, unless expressly stated to the contrary, are not the opinion or position of Tru Vue or its employees. Tru Vue does not endorse or approve, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, accuracy or completeness of the information presented.