Is the Education Market Bouncing Back?

By Len Scrogan
Display Central

iste-ed-0714Is the education market bouncing back after nearly a half-decade absence? Many existing companies and startups hope so. And if the recent ISTE conference—held this week in Atlanta—is any indicator, then the education market is indeed on the mend.

ISTE 2014 is the largest ed-tech conference in the U.S., organized by the internationally represented International Society for Technology in Education. At a leadership reception on Monday, Brian Lewis, CEO of ISTE announced that all attendance records were broken during this Hotlanta June event. More than 16,000 educators and thousands of additional vendors converged in the halls of the Georgia World Congress Center for a remarkable technology experience.

While past ISTE conferences have always been well-attended, rarely has that attendance spilled over into the exhibit halls. Educators were always there, but they often shunned the expo areas. Some attending vendors likened previous ISTE exhibit hall traffic to working in a bowling alley: “Enough room in the aisles to lay down some bowling lanes and curve a few strikes and spares.” Hashtag, sparse traffic. This year was decidedly different. The exhibit halls were packed with educators, from opening to closing—even in the far remote corners of the expo space. Exhibitors everywhere were quite pleased.

I sampled many. I spoke with some habitual exhibitors in disparate areas of the expo, asking them about the quality and quantity of the traffic. “Best I have seen in years,” was one answer. “Second best I have ever seen,” said two more. “Second best to what?” I asked. “Second best to BETT in England,” they responded. Now you know why so many exhibitors were very pleased. Since the BETT conference is 4x larger than ISTE, the draw to the ISTE floor became that much more remarkable. Most interesting to observe was the wickedly heavy traffic even on the final day of the expo. I have seen nothing like it ever. Last days are for early departure and relaxed strolling down the exhibit hall aisles. Not so at ISTE. From my perspective, the pace was frenetic even on the last day, up to the last two hours. There were still lines to talk to people and slow going in the major arteries. I can’t tell you how many exhibitors were pleasantly surprised.

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Some of the traditional display companies were there (e.g., Panasonic, Samsung, Vivitek, Hitachi, Epson, Boxlight, BenQ, and a Korean pavilion ), but I noticed the absence of five to six major display companies that, for some reason, did not choose to exhibit this year. Boy, did they miss out.

The award for best and boldest revised presence goes to the Panasonic exhibit, which offered a fresh, open, striking, and accessible new look for their space. It was the most improved because past efforts simply weren’t as inviting.

On another note, the 3D market space was the most vibrant and populous I have seen in five years at ISTE. I will cover that story in a Display Central article next month. You will be quite surprised.

Perhaps all this was nothing more than pent-up demand, spontaneously released with loosening of our recent economic straight jacket. Or maybe it was because wireless was working reliably for the first time at an ISTE conference, so attendees had more spare time to spend in the exhibit halls. Or just maybe… we are witnessing the education market bouncing back to life. Cross your fingers.