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Outdoor Digital Signage: The Unique Challenges

Posted by Jason Ault on Jul 30, 2015 9:00:00 AM

Outdoor Digital Signage: The Unique ChallengesIn order to withstand the different elements found outdoors, digital signage must typically be bright, as well as rugged. Whether a scrolling marquee sign, or a full motion graphic, outdoor digital displays can make a huge impact on an audience in cars, on foot or sitting still. In fact, outdoor digital media signage is an imperative part of any comprehensive communications plan at financial institutions, event centers, schools, stadiums, and much more. 

When deploying a digital LCD display in an outdoor environment, it presents unique challenges quite different from those of indoor displays. One must learn how to overcome fluctuating temperatures and direct sun load, as well as combatting elements such as wind, rain and snow. If digital displays are to be deployed in outdoor areas, they will be in an uncontrolled, harsh environment that is constantly changing. Throughout the year, temperatures will vary significantly. Winds will blow, rain will fall, humidity levels will change, cloudy days will occur, vandalism may increase and direct/indirect sunlight will affect the ability to view the outdoor digital display. Things change dramatically when you go outside. 

Below are only some of the factors that are vital for you to consider, and how they will affect your digital display initiative, before choosing and deploying outdoor digital LCD signage: 

  • Brightness Level
  • Serviceability
  • Environmental Considerations
  • Do Your Homework

One of the first major technical issues that must be addressed in selecting an effective outdoor digital display, is how viewable the content will be when it is exposed to direct sunlight. Ask anyone who has ever tried to use a laptop or smart phone outdoors. They all know that the brightness of the screen always impacts visibility, whether the screen is in the shade or direct sunlight. If a screen has poor anti-reflective treatment and inadequate brightness, then the image will be difficult to see. When the image cannot be seen well, then a business’ capital investment in an outdoor digital display solution has been wasted. However, remember that while brightness is important, increasing it beyond a certain level may actually wash out the image. 

Unfortunately, even the best designed, top-of-the-line systems will require service from time to time. Remember, since outdoor signage is required to run 24/7/365, the screen has more work to do; making it more likely that individual parts may malfunction. Outdoor digital signage maintenance presents unique challenges. Often the display is so big and the electronics so intricate that it can be close to impossible to fix it on-site. When a sign is offline, the message does not reach customers. Therefore it is imperative that digital displays be fixed both quickly and efficiently. 

Be sure that you have properly researched the area you are going to deploy your signage into before you even begin the process of pricing. You might have state-of-the-art signage at affordable costs ready to go, but you can still run into major obstacles if you haven’t properly researched the area beforehand. If you intend to deploy your signage on or near public property, it’s important to study that city’s rules and regulations. Most cities require permits, and many may have different rules about nighttime operation. If the signage is near streets, there may be restrictions on full-motion video content or static transitions. There are legal issues that are frequently overlooked, like governmental regulations. Practical matters, like connectivity and power consumption often get missed as well. There are other issues, so again be sure to do your research. 

Something that may seem like a small consideration at the time can turn into a major problem down the road. If you are afraid that you might miss something, here is a list of helpful questions to ask before proceeding, although there may be additional questions you have: 

• Are the replacement components modular?

• Is the digital display able to be serviced in the “installed” position?

• Can the glass be replaced without having to also replace the LCD?

• Is the display intelligent enough to verify that the correct image is being displayed?

• Can the display be diagnosed, controlled and updated remotely?

• Considering the repairman will be outdoors (wind, dust, rain, etc.) is it easy for the display to be serviced?

• Is the unit protected from insects, rodents, etc.?

• What does the glass have that will reduce reflections?

• Is there a paint finish provided to protect against harmful UV rays over time?

• What is the projected life cycle of the display? 3 years, 5 years, 10 years?

• What about significant wind loads? Is the display AND the mounting structure able to withstand gale force winds? Hurricane winds?

 The more homework a business does before installing the signage outdoors, the less potential for costly headaches later on. As long as you have detail-oriented research, you can maximize the potential of an outdoor digital display unit.

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Topics: Digital Signage Basics

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