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Getting the best view on screen

01 Mar 2010

Selecting the right flat panel display is one of the key factors to a successful digital signage solution. Too often hardware purchasing decisions are made on the initial cost per unit, while ignoring a host of other factors that should be considered. Here are a few things to consider when planning a digital signage network:   Select commercial grade monitors – these screens are designed for constant or prolonged use for up to 15 hours a day and some of the better quality monitors can operate 24 hours, seven days a week. Lower-cost consumer models or TVs are designed to operate for 4-6 hours a day and will start to fail after prolonged use in a signage environment due to the generation of heat. Professional grade monitors designed for commercial use have built-in heat dispersion technology (cooling fans or heat dissipation plates) to manage the heat generated by prolonged use of the monitors, as well as dust in-flow filters and ambient light sensors to adjust the monitors’ brightness based on the environment. Insist on a full three-year warranty from your selected flat panel vendor. This is important, as most residential monitor warranties will be void if it is used in a commercial environment. Ensure that you have full remote control of the monitors on your digital signage network. This enables you to automatically switch the monitors on and off, change the input sources and lock down the menu buttons (for security reasons) to avoid public interference. As you will be using either media players or PCs to drive your digital signage content, it is critical that the selected monitors support standard PC resolutions. Consumer TVs generally do not have the necessary ports to support digital media players or PC resolutions. Depending on your individual requirements, check that the monitor can display both landscape and portrait modes (particularly if you are thinking of replacing posters) and whether it can be integrated as part of a larger video wall. Some monitors also have purpose-designed ultra thin bezels of as little as 2.3mm, which makes them ideal for use in large video walls. The range of display sizes is also important to ensure the right sized panel is used for each particular display area. Large monitors commonly range from 32 through to 70 inches. Further aspects to consider before selecting the right flat panel display are viewing angle and brightness. A number of screens or TVs will specify that they support up to a 178-degree viewing angle. This might be true, but you will find that many flat panels when viewed from the side will lose contrast, and more importantly experience colour shift. Also, to avoid that ‘washed out’ look when monitors are installed in partial or direct sunlight, you’ll need monitors that can display a minimum brightness of 500-700 cd/m2 (candelas per square metre), and for exposed, large public or outdoor areas up to 1500 cd/m2. LCD versus plasma: LCD is much better suited for digital signage purposes as it gives a much crisper image, particularly for information display. There are also technologies that will offer the customer better information and greater interactivity when integrated with a digital signage network. These include: people counting software, or age and gender software, (which detects facial images of potential customers in real-time and changes the content to more accurately target customers with relevant information), augmented reality, proximity detection, femtocell, RFID and multi-touch kiosks. Spending a little more money up front on professional, commercial-grade flat panels will save time, hassle, screen down-time and maintenance over the life of the equipment.