Message centers making in-roads indoors

No Limits with LEDs

We’ve explored the versatility of the light-emitting diode (LED) quite a bit in past issues, particularly as an alternative light source or as a means to draw outdoor traffic indoors to those selling their wares. But when it comes to indoor electronic signage, all the buzz these days seems to center around flat-screen TV panels, commonly referred to as electronic digital signage (EDS).

But focusing on flat screen EDS indoors is limiting. It can be a good answer for the end-use client, depending on the situation, but so can static signage of all kinds. Another less-explored alternative in the market is the use of LEDs for dynamic messaging indoors.

This 18’ x 13’ double-faced full-color LED digital banner at the Westfield Valley Fair mall in Santa Clara, Calif., is one of several indoor P.O.P. applications that Daktronics created for Westfield Media Group at locations across the country. (Image courtesy Daktronics)

Just as the LED is versatile and almost limitless in its uses outdoors, so are its uses for indoor applications, from retail to corporate and government spaces. Whether it’s a simple, single-color message that’s bright and attracts attention or a dynamic electronic sign with literally billions of colors, LEDs have got you covered. But, it all depends on context, the goal of the messaging and, of course, the client’s budget.

Big and Bold

“For dynamic messaging, anything past the size of a flat screen—which is usually up to 100 inches wide—requires an LED display,” says Ed Wasserman, who handles special projects for Daktronics. “You have to think about the business sector and venue. For a smaller business you can use LED a number of different ways, whether it’s tickers or smaller displays. If it comes down to price on a smaller display, you may want to consider LCD, but where we’re succeeding is in creating unique custom designs, providing an alternative to an LCD and what it can’t do. An LCD is a standard, traditional box, whereas we’re creating unique designs with LEDs outside of that.”

Indeed, LEDs can be configured in a variety of different ways outside of a flat panel to give a wavy, three-dimensional kick to the display. For a recent large-scale, multi-location project at Westfield Media Group’s mall properties around the country—including Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Jersey and Chicago—Daktronics created 18' x 13' double-faced full-color LED digital banners.

The adjustable brightness available with LED signs makes them adaptable to the environment in which they are installed, such as with this display at the Hollywood Casino in  Perryville, Md. (Image courtesy Daktronics)

The LED banners rotate and play a mix of advertising, branding for the mall, news, sports and weather. They’re also capable of interactivity with text-to-screen, picture-to-screen, video games and 2-D and 3-D movies.

“Westfield has an app where you can take a photo of yourself, choose from 15 different characters and then it goes up on the screen. The consumer gets a photo and gets to see themselves on the big screen—and the people are loving it,” says Wasserman. “It gives people a reason to stay in that space, to watch and get the information they need.”

The displays are controlled with Daktronics’ Visiconn software, which can also integrate flat screen EDS displays and allows end-use clients to run the displays remotely. Basically, you can have same dynamic control with LEDs as you can with flat screen displays.

Other Considerations

This is a rather extreme example of the use of LEDs for a retail, indoor application. However, it also illustrates the scalability of LEDs; they can be configured from the simple to the complex. As Wasserman points out, if a customer wants full-color dynamic messaging with all the whistles in the general range of 20 inches to 80 inches wide, flat screen is likely the way to go. For dynamic messaging, LED works better in a larger format.

Depending on the size of the space available, even large full-color LED boards can be used effectively in interior spaces. (Image courtesy LED Sign Authority)

Beyond scalability from simple to complex, the brightness of LEDs is also scalable to conform to virtually any lighting situation. This is a big plus in spaces that have variable lighting, especially corporate, government and school and university facilities.

“One of our primary concerns is where it’s going as far as lighting is concerned. If it’s going in a well-lit hallway, you want to look at using something brighter; in a window, ultra bright; and in a darker area, a tri-color will work,” says Matthew Severson of LED Sign Authority in Stockbridge, Mich. “Basically, the intensity of the LED can be set to match the placement in various lighting situations.”

Severson says an emerging and growing market is for schools and universities where LEDs can be placed in common areas to display alerts and other important information. This application has been driven by the tragic school shootings at Virginia Tech and Columbine, where instant, eye-catching messaging can provide direction and help save lives in the event of any type of emergency.

Even a simple, single-color LED message, such as this holiday storefront message, can really attract attention in a retail setting. (Image courtesy LED Sign Authority)

“A flat screen is meant to entertain, while the LED light strip is made to grab your attention, and it’s very successful at that. I tell my customers that I equate LED to shoes… You don’t want hiking boots to go dancing and you won’t wear a pair of heels to go mountain climbing,” says Severson. “It’s mind boggling how diverse and how wide the market is. You can use LEDs for coffee shops, retail, fitness centers, tickers with news and financials at banks and other financial institutions, restaurants, specials and promotions… It provides an opportunity for multiple impressions and a variety of ads and messages.”