New developments in electronic digital signage (EDS) technology are forever changing the landscape of the sign industry. Today digital display technology is being used to communicate, engage and entertain. With the explosive growth of applications, EDS displays can connect on a whole new level with consumers for wayfinding, travel information, dynamic advertising, message boards and corporate communications. The EDS market was projected by InfoTrends to grow to more than $4 billion by the end of 2010. Many industry analysts feel that this will be the future of the sign market.
Flat panel technologies for dynamic digital displays continue to develop, with refinements and innovations being introduced every few months. Many of the major players in this area come right out of the consumer electronics space. That notable list includes companies such as NEC, LG Electronics, Mitsubishi, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, Toshiba and Panasonic. Let’s examine some of the technologies used for digital display screens and how they are used.
- LCD Screens—A liquid crystal display (LCD) is a thin, flat electronic visual display that uses the light modulating properties of liquid crystals. This popular technology is widely used in products including computer monitors, televisions, instrument panels and of course EDS displays. LCD technology is utilized in most small to mid-sized electronic digital signs in use today, and LCD screen for EDS applications are available from a number of manufacturers.
- Plasma Screens—The plasma type flat-panel display excels at producing sharp color, high resolution, and good contrast on a large display. Because a plasma display utilize each and every pixel on the screen, color information is reproduced very accurately. They are ideal for electronic digital signage setups in brightly lit rooms and areas receiving indirect sunlight. However plasma screens are more expensive and consume more AC power than LCD technology.
- LED Screen Technology—Light Emitting Diode (LED) screen technology typically is applied in very large EDS systems, such as electronic billboard displays and stadium scoreboards. With these screens, the LEDs are arranged in clusters, with each cluster containing red, green and blue LEDs. One such cluster forms a pixel with a full color range. Thousands of these pixels are then joined in strips to build a huge electronic display. The brightness for LED screens is measured in a unit referred to as a NIT. One NIT is equivalent to one candela per square meter. An indoor sporting arena LED display is typically in the 1,500-2,000 NIT range.
- Projectors—Both front or rear LCD/DLP (Digital Light Processing) projection display systems are available. These systems are portable and can be transported, set up, and taken down quickly.
- Touch Screens—The interactivity of a touch screen is most commonly made possible through resistive surface technology. The technology is commonly used in smart phones and cash registers and kiosks, but is increasingly being utilized for larger EDS displays such as wayfinding displays in malls and department stores.
- 3D Screen Technology—Still new to the EDS market, 3D screens are not yet widely used. Industry observers say the key to the future success of 3D EDS screens will the technology that allows viewing digital signs in 3D without using 3D glasses. Auto-stereoscopic EDS displays (3D displays that do not require 3D eyewear) are currently being exhibited in trade show exhibits, but most are not commercially available. Industry observers say the option will become more popular as auto-stereoscopic displays are perfected.
- OLED Technology—Organic light-emitting devices (OLEDs) are one of the newest screen technologies. They operate on the principle of converting electrical energy into light, a phenomenon known as electroluminescence. OLED pixels used in flat panel displays have advantages including greater viewing angle, lighter weight, quicker response times and less power consumption. At the moment, OLED technology is used mostly for indoor signs.