By Lowri Williams
“Like father, like son” is a well-known phrase. In most cases, young men across the world aspire to be like their fathers and to follow in their footsteps. While the same could be assumed for Simon Sugar – son of Amstrad founder Lord Alan Sugar – it would be the wrong assumption to make.
With his own identity, ideas and ambitions, Simon has plugged his passion for technology into starting his own business, Amscreen – Europe’s largest, fastest-growing digital outdoor network – and has proven that success is down to drive and passion, not blood.
“I’ve always been interested in technology and new products,” he says, reminiscing on a youth packed with adventure. “Back in the Amstrad days, we used to visit the Far East a lot. Places like Akihabara, Japan’s technology district, were fantastic with their technology – just incredible. I vividly remember from a young age I always had an eye for something that turned out to be very exciting.”
Adopting his father’s infamous AMS branding, Simon used his business and technology skillset and focussed his attentions on the birth of his own company, Amscreen, in 2008. Embracing the rapid advances in our ever-evolving digital world, Amscreen has grown with the market to develop a new product that promises to transform modern-day advertising.
You’ll be aware of the digital billboards seen inside retail stores up and down the country, but you’re probably unaware that Simon was the intellect behind them. Granted, they look interesting and are certainly eye-catching, but it turns out it’s what’s inside them that really matters. Facial detection technology is the latest creation at Amscreen and their OptimEyes product is used to continually tailor adverts to the right audience.
Simon explains: “All of our screens have integrated cameras which use our technology to recognise if a person is male or female; it then places them in an age bracket and tags them to the advert they’ve looked at. It sends an algorithm back to our servers and at the end of an advertising campaign we can say ‘x million females or males looked at that specific advert’, and can accurately say how old they were.
“Historically, it has been impossible for advertisers to have a clear idea of exactly how many people are actually viewing their billboard or poster ad, who they are or whether they’re even interested. This obviously poses a problem, as it’s hard for them to justify their marketing spend if they can’t ascertain what they’re actually getting. We tackled this industry issue head-on and incorporated new real-time audience measurement tech that now enables us to deliver far more transparency for our advertisers. This technology has enabled a completely new form of advertising.”
If you’re wondering whether Amscreen’s technology will take off amongst the big hitters, wonder no more. It screens in 500 Tesco stores in the UK, reaching over 3m people every week. It teamed up with Ford to create thermal campaigns that determine which adverts to show, dependent solely on weather conditions. It works with clients such as BP, Shell, Esso and WHSmith, and it recently announced a partnership with leading motorway services Welcome Break, to produce improved internal communications through the use of its technology. However, despite the growth and popularity of his latest creation, Simon believes facial detection is merely a taste of what’s to come in the future.
“One of the things about technology is that it is always updateable,” Simon says. “Our screens are smart screens – we update the coding every month when we launch new features. There is so much more to come.”
From the skills of its CEO, to its long-term objective, Amscreen holds an inimitable character that makes the company stand out in such a highly competitive industry. Defined by his passion, Simon is keen to show that nothing tastes as sweet as success.
“A lot of other businesses within the outdoor sector still focus on the ‘paper and paste’ side of their business – as a company purely focussed on digital screen technology, we are able to devote 100 per cent of our resources to developing this area. That’s why we can be both challenging and pioneering, which is evident in some of the recent advances we’ve made for the industry.
“So many companies are now looking to come into the digital age; however, they are coming into it from a different angle. We own every aspect of our solution and the technology to go with it; we’re competitive, we’re flexible. And that’s what sets us apart.
“When it comes to technology you need to have something really unique,” he says. “You always need to think about the end game – what the application actually is, and what you’re going to achieve with it. Keep the goal in your head, and you’ll reach it.
“Honestly, now is the best time to be involved in business and technology.”
To learn more about Amscreen’s products, and its facial detection technology, visit amscreen.eu.