4 questions to answer before buying an outdoor display
When you take your display outdoors, you enter into a whole new world of possibilities and problems. Your hardware might have worked fine in a controlled environment, but now it has to brave wind, snow, rain, sunlight and the rest of the elements. Preparing for this can be a major headache, especially if you don't even know what to prepare for. Not to mention you also need to stay in budget.
Digital Signage Today spoke with Chris Miller, marketing director, of LG-MRI, to get his take on issues end users need to address before they purchase a display.
Q. What are some often-ignored aspects for customers to look when choosing outdoor hardware?
A. The number one thing I see ignored is the conversation around how the display will actually look in a sunny, outdoor environment and for how long it will maintain that performance.
There's so much noise out there around building a display solution to survive the challenges of the outdoor environment — adverse weather, vandalism, dirt/dust etc. — that the discussion around actual visual quality of the display goes neglected.
You can spend tens of thousands of dollars to hire an industrial designer to dream up an absolutely beautiful kiosk structure, but if the display itself is barely visible — because it can't provide adequate luminance, because the vandal glass is too reflective, or because overheating electronics are outputting sub-spec performance — it's all for naught.
Even more disheartening is when a display that looks great on day one begins to fail after 12 to 18 months. Surviving should be a minimum requirement. Only when a display looks great and continues looking great can it be called a success.
Q. How can customers protect their displays from rain and bright sunlight?
A. Protect from rain — don't let water vapor make contact with the electronics inside the display. How that's achieved without resulting in other negative consequences is up to the engineers.
Protect from bright sunlight — the sun is the number one enemy of an LCD. Its energy is absorbed by the LCD and results in tremendous heat build-up. This heat has to be quickly evacuated or the liquid crystal fluid will boil and result black blotches on the screen, a phenomenon called solar clearing.
You deal with heat from the sun by either removing heat from the LCD or by reducing the energy absorbed by the LCD, or through some combination of the two.
Finding the right balance is absolutely critical — too much forced cooling and power consumption can be sky high, too much reflection of sunlight and the display will be a mirror — especially when viewed off-center. You can see who has got it figured out by looking at deployments in the real world and judging for yourself.
Q. How can you prevent displays from becoming overheated?
A. Display electronics and digital signage devices all have recommended optimal operating temperatures. Stray much outside of the safe range and problems ensue. Staying squarely within safe operating temperature in an ever-changing outdoor environment requires a wonderful mix of art, design, engineering and highly sophisticated analysis. The more interesting question may be, how do you not prevent displays from overheating? I’m sure there are MANY stories that people can tell.
Q. How can customers stay within budget when looking for outdoor hardware?
A. In determining a budget the starting point is not how much money can I allot for an outdoor digital sign. Rather, it should be what is the value of solving the particular business need that I have? What are your objectives? Are you capitalizing on new revenue opportunities? Are you reducing costs? If so, what is the value of achieving these goals? What value would you lose if you select a solution that fails to perform?
Are you looking to buy the Lowest Cost, Technically Acceptable (LCTA) solution? Or do you require an enterprise solution that has a performance guarantee? If the signage for your business is just a "nice-to-have," then spend whatever you feel comfortable with and make sure you try to account for some hidden costs (unplanned downtime, recurring maintenance, hardware refresh). If the signage is critical to your business (revenue generating, cost reducing), you have to ask yourself if you are willing to compromise and risk a point of failure.
Image via Istock.com.
Bradley Cooper is a Technology Editor for DigitalSignageToday.com. His background is in information technology, advertising, and writing.www