Trend watch: Display technology

01 Mar 11

Here are some trends from 2010 that have emerged specifically from the commercial grade display market and some predictions for the market in 2011.

The future of LED and 3D in digital signage
There was a lot of movement in the consumer space with LED (backlit displays) and 3D in 2010, but the professional display market is still in a growth phase when it comes to these emerging display technologies.
Keith Yanke, Product Manager at NEC Display Solutions, predicts however that there will be a large push in 2011 to move to LED-backlit displays.
"They have lower power consumption, so they’re definitely greener,” he said. "And then there is the depth of the unit (usually a few centimetres) that allows it to be used more flexibly.”
3D is more of a specialty application. Again, it was the rage in the consumer space this year, but since public digital signage can’t require viewers to wear glasses, the market has taken to autostereoscopic 3D, or "no glasses” technology. The 3D effect gets better with these displays every year, but is far from perfect. Look for display companies to continue partnerships with third party 3D suppliers, while finding applications where 3D makes the most sense.

Touch straight from the manufacturer
Touch capability for digital signage is nothing new; it is typically an aftermarket enhancement to the screen by a third party touch technology provider. Yanke says that going forward we’re likely to see manufacturers continue working with these third party providers, but branding and offering the screens fully integrated from the manufacturer.
"As we migrate from using dumb mobile phones to smartphones and iPads, we’re quickly becoming a society that wants to interact with displays,” Yanke said.

A market need for entry grade screens
NEC, along with several other manufacturers, launched lines of entry-level commercial grade displays this year, telling us something we probably already knew: there are a lot of people out there who want to install digital signage that get sticker shock when quotes roll in. With many SMB-type customers on a limited budget, entry level lines of screens provide the reliability and manufacturer’s warranty of a commercial grade at a price that is better associated with consumer grade products.

Innovative technology being restrained by price
LG has had its Stretch Screen on the market for a couple years now, and just this year NEC released the X431BT, a similar 43-inch wide screen with a 16:4 aspect ratio. The screen size has a lot of promise given its strange size and novelty, especially in the gaming and QSR spaces. But due to the odd size and the custom-type manufacturing involved, the price for these screens is more than their full 16:9 size brethren, leading most buyers to opt for bigger screens for the same price.
We’re out of the recession, but 2010 still remained a year of practicality for most decision-makers, not novelty.
Digital signage bundle solutions
Partnerships were abounding in 2010 between screen manufacturers, software providers and even chip manufacturers. It began with the announcement in January at NRF that Intel partnered with Microsoft and NEC to develop a set of digital signage standards, resulting in a proof-of-concept all-in-one digital signage prototype. While the idea behind the solution is highly innovative, futuristic and wishful, it still remains a concept and likely will for a while.
November presented a more practical bundle offering when LG partnered with BroadSign for the LG SuperSign Premier all-in-one solution, and Panasonic and Haivision/CoolSign announced a bundle in December.
Many screens now are being manufactured with slot options for media players and software, so look for other big names to partner together in order to move more product in 2011.
Product lines expanded to suit market demand
With more companies eyeing digital signage than ever with dramatically different budget needs, manufacturers have had to adjust their product offerings to suit a wider range. NEC, for example, divided its line up into four tiers, the P-, S-, V- and E-series, which respectively decline in price and features.

"We found that not every application needs everything, but not every application can get by on a low-cost screen,” Yanke said. "There was definitely a need for a good, better, best scenario.”

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