A broader market is sought as prices fall for the technology With the profit margins on plasma televisions thinning as prices for the technology tumble, Philips Electronics is emerging as the latest consumer electronics company to push its high-end screens for use as public information displays. Adtraxion is a new Philips solution that uses plasma screens as part of an electronic signage system, although what sets it apart from being just plain signage is the software, which offers centralised content management. Kung Sing-cheng, Philips Electronics Hong Kong's senior business manager for multimedia displays, said that with prices of plasma screens falling, the technology had suddenly become affordable for use as signage in public areas. 'Plasma prices are dropping,' he said. 'You can now get up to 50-inch plasmas at quite reasonable prices.' The average price of a 50-inch plasma television set is about $52,000. The Adtraxion solution is based on a series of networked black boxes, each connected to a plasma television. Each black box has its own hard drive on which the content is stored. The content can be videos, still pictures or graphics files, all of which are controlled from a central desktop personal computer. The boxes can also be wired to receive live data from an external feed. The black boxes are connected using TCP/IP. Spanish telephone company Telefonica has connected plasmas in 50 locations on a wide area network. Hong Kong is the only market in Asia where Adtraxion is being released, because of the high installed base of plasma televisions here. 'The beauty is you can sit in your office and change the content in all 50 locations at the same time,' Mr Cheng said. The content management software also allows the operator to program the network to display certain images at specific locations at a desired time. It is also possible to add interactivity to the plasmas, which can be done through touch screens, mobile phone text messaging and Radio Frequency ID. The addition of an input device requires only a slight rewriting of the black box source code. Mr Cheng said this was a fairly simple procedure. In Hong Kong, Philips hopes customisation will be provided through value-added resellers, the first of which is R&B Computer, a local systems integrator. In the past year, Philips has seen about 30 per cent volume growth in sales of plasma screens in Hong Kong, largely fuelled by falling prices. The cost of a 42-inch plasma has fallen by more than 50 per cent in the past two years, from about $60,000 to between $25,000 and $30,000. According to a report released last week by NDP Intelect, a United States-based market research firm that tracks consumer electronics shipments, prices for plasma screens have fallen more than US$1,000 since January last year.