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LAS VEGAS: Worth $3.9 billion in 2009, the digital signage market is hot, so Ingram Micro is launching what it calls the first of its kind digital signage certification in distribution.

Available Wednesday as a SKUed offering in the U.S., the Ingram Micro Digital Signage Certified Expert certification (IM-DSCE) consists of online, instructor-led training courses, as well as several face-to-face trainings by the creators of the DSCE certification program.

The launch is taking place officially at the 2010 Digital Signage Expo (DSE) in Las Vegas, Feb. 23-25, the world’s largest international trade show and conference dedicated to digital signage, interactive technology, and Out-of-Home networks. Ingram is also announcing that it has signed up video wall technology specialist Hiperwall, Inc. to a new U.S. distribution agreement.

The distributor has tied the certification sessions, which can be completed in one day, to a number of digital signage-related events like SDE, says Kevin Prewett, vice president, vendor management for the Ingram Micro Digital Signage Division.

"This is something our customers have been asking for for a long time." Unlike the typical training Ingram does, which tends to be focused on individual vendors, this is an opportunity to bring all the pieces together, he says.

"This flexible, new solutions-oriented certification will not only help us to grow our digital signage practice faster than we could on our own, but it will also enable us to build stronger, more successful working relationships with the IT vendors supported by the Ingram Micro Digital Signage Division, says Dave Sallander, president, Sherlock Systems, in a prepared statement.  "We’ve been an Ingram Micro partner for nearly 20 years and continue to see tremendous value in the new vendor relationships, as well as the training, education and resources Ingram Micro brings to the table – especially when it comes to digital signage."

The distributor’s Digital Signage Division started off with the DSCE certification from its alliance partner, Digital Signage Experts Group, a subsidiary of Brawn Consulting, and "pulled it apart and put it together with an Ingram twist," says Prewett. The certifications will focus on areas such as digital signage market and segments, the value chain for vendors, business models and ROI as well as differentiation and selling value.

Initially, Ingram will focus on getting its approximately 300 digital signage customers certified. The company is in the process of putting together special offers and rewards for the partners who step up and get certified. "It really demonstrates not just an interest in signage, but a commitment," says Prewett. He believes the certification from Ingram adds a lot of value. Certainly, there’s been a lot of vendor excitement about the initiative, he says.

According to new data from IMS Research, the digital signage market is forecast to grow strongly in the next few years. Growth from 2009 to 2013 is forecast to be around 20% each year including larger format LED arrays. If LEDs arrays are excluded, growth rates are forecast to be even higher. The market size of $3.9 billion is based on the total revenue to manufacturers of the individual components (primarily displays, media players, set top boxes, computers, networks and software).

Prewett sees phenomenal growth continuing through the next several years in what he calls a very young market, very fragmented market. Part of the value proposition the distributor brings is the ability to offer all of the pieces, including certification.

He adds that the Hiperwall announcement will enable his customers to deliver large scale display solutions to a broad range of users that previously considered video walls to be out of reach and out of budget. Their software solution is hardware agnostic, requiring only ordinary PCs, monitors and an Ethernet network to display still images up to 1GB resolution or larger, HD videos, Live HD video streams and PC applications. Multiple feeds can be displayed on the wall simultaneously and users can reposition and resize each feed as easily as moving and resizing windows on a PC desktop. Each feed can be scaled up for viewing on several monitors or the entire wall instantly depending upon the user’s discretion.