11 Considerations for Taking Digital Signage Outdoors (Part I)

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Digital signage is not just limited to indoor use. There are special displays made specifically to be used for outdoor and window solutions. Outdoor signage can be located at storefront entrances, in storefront windows, mounted on the outside of buildings, courtyards, drive-thru lanes, patios, outside pickup areas, etc.

Outdoor displays have special features for use specifically for outdoor environments. They are more expensive than indoor displays, mainly due to weatherproofing and screen protection and the high-brightness screens.

When using digital signage for an outdoor application, there are some issues to be concerned with:

Sunlight Issues

Using digital signage for outdoor and window applications requires special ultra-high-bright, flat-panel displays. LCD or LED outdoor panels need at least 1,500-2,500 Nits or more brightness to be seen in direct sunlight conditions. But use LED over LCD high-bright displays, because direct sunlight can cause black blotches on the LCD screen over time—also called “solar clearing.” LEDs are much more reliable to use for outdoor and window displays.

Many outdoor displays have an auto-ambient light-sensor feature to adjust to lighting conditions automatically. As the sun sets and rises, the sensors automatically lower or raise the brightness levels as required. This also saves energy and the life of the display. Most high-bright displays also have a special anti-glare coating.

Window Displays

Many retailers use window signage for digital billboards, showing specials, announcements, branding, etc. At night, displays in storefront windows can really stand out and attract attention. But these displays also need to be seen in daylight hours in direct sunlight.

Window displays face the same sunlight issues as outdoor displays. Many store windows have direct sunlight for many hours during the day. For that reason, you need to purchase a high-bright display that works in direct sunlight. The big difference in placing a display inside a window vs. outdoors is that there is no expensive weatherproof housing required. The display is mounted inside and protected from the elements. Another advantage is that most signage codes don’t usually apply to inside window displays.

Hanging Window Signage

Hanging window displays can be challenging. Generally, you want the display mounted close to the window. You also want the display to be at a good height and angle for your intended viewers to see clearly. The larger the display, the more attention you will attract to your signage.

There are several ways to mount displays in windows:

  • Ceiling-mount the display in front of the window. With ceiling mounts, you can easily have the mounting pole at the correct height and position in front of a window.
  • Free-standing floor pedestals, which can be mounted in front of a window. The disadvantage is that you’re limited by the height of the pedestal from the manufacturer. The pedestal-mount height is either fixed or slightly adjustable. You can also custom-make your own pedestal and attach a VESA mount to it.
  • Rolling stand. This is a good choice for non-permanent window signage. Display heights are limited by manufacturers’ specs.
11 Considerations for Taking Digital Signage Outdoors

Photo from LG-MRI

Outdoor Concerns

Let’s address the various elements you need to be concerned about when using flat-panel displays outdoors. Make sure to address each one to have a successful outdoor-signage deployment.

Weather Issues

Rain, snow, wind, temperature, humidity, and ice are some of the challenges using digital signage outdoors. Most outdoor digital signs need to be mounted in a special weatherproof enclosure. Although most outdoor enclosures are custom made, there are some stock enclosures offered by a few vendors, but they are limited to specific display sizes and models.

Outdoor enclosures offer air-cooling and heating capability to protect the display against the elements. The heater and air-cooling run automatically with temperature sensors. With these types of components, outdoor displays can be operated in sub-zero temperatures, and up to 120+ degrees F. Some housings contain an air-conditioning unit. Be aware that the air-conditioning units drip water and can cause a problem with the electrical components inside the housing. Look for housings that use alternative air-cooling. Make sure the housing is sealed to prevent condensation inside the housing glass.

Wind can also be an issue when using outdoor displays.  Peerless-AV makes a wind-rated wall mount and display pedestals, which can withstand wind of 100+ mph. This should be considered for outdoor displays in hurricane-prone and high-wind-terrain areas.

Several outdoor commercial-display manufacturers, e.g. SunBright TV and Peerless-AV Xtreme, offer stand-alone weatherproof displays. These weatherproof displays eliminate the need for special enclosures, and don’t have vents, filters or exhaust fans. The displays are fully-sealed to provide protection against weather, water and dust. This technology provides environmental protection, which can be fully immersed in water, and has a wide outdoor operating temperature range.

These displays also offer a special screen protection to prevent vandalism and other screen damage. Both these companies offer displays that can be mounted in landscape or portrait.

Another outdoor display company, DynaScan, offers one of the highest brightness displays available. DynaScan offers a variety of display sizes—ranging from 32 inches to 84 inches, in brightness levels from 1,500 to 7,000 Nits. Some DynaScan displays need to be placed in outdoor enclosures, and some are also available in stand-alone and video-wall configurations. 

When installing outdoor signage, you need to think about security and these other issues to ensure that your signage is safe and remains working in optimum condition. Check back with Digital Signage Connection for Part II and more issues to be concerned with when installing outdoor digital signage.

About Author

David Bawarsky, DSCE, is the author of Digital Signage Made Simple for Retailers. He has more than 35 years of experience in helping thousands of companies use technology to effectively communicate their unique marketing messages. He is currently the CEO of mySignageNow, a leading provider of digital signage solutions. He has been a technology entrepreneur throughout his career, creating and managing successful media companies. His companies have won many awards, including an “OBIE” (outdoor advertising’s Oscar) and has been featured in more than 1,900 newspapers, magazines and TV shows worldwide, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, CNN, BBC, NBC’s “Today Show,” and ABC’s “World News Tonight.” For more information, visit www.DigitalSignageMadeSimple.com

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