The LED Sign Design Revolution – Sign Media Canada

The LED Sign Design Revolution - Sign Media Canada

An article written by Cirrus LED System’s Digital Marketing team member Guadalupe Tofalo-Davtchev and entitled “The LED Sign Design Revolution” was featured in the September 2015 issue of Sign Media Canada. The LED Sign Design Revolution1The article discusses the vast changes the light-emitting diode (LED) digital signage industry has seen in the past few years. It explains how fundamental shifts in LED components, software and hardware will force LED sign factories to adapt quickly to survive competition from more innovative LED sign manufacturers and other digital display technologies. Further, the author believes deconstructing and rethinking every part of the LED advertising board is necessary to keep up-to-date with the current technological advances the industry is facing. Click here to read or download the full article or here to read the entire Sign Media Magazine. About Sign Media Canada: Sign Media Canada is the only publication dedicated to serving the entire Canadian sign media community. In addition to an established audience of sign professionals, Sign Media Canada reaches companies in the print graphics, digital imaging and advertising fields – reflecting the growing stature of signs as a hot, new advertising medium. Sign Media Canada’s audited circulation represents the largest audience of active buyers in the Canadian sign industry.

Choosing the Right Sign: Dynamic (LED) vs Static, Size, Color, Pixel Pitch.

Choosing the Right Sign: Dynamic (LED) vs Static, Size, Color, Pixel Pitch.

Your customer knows a sign will help them increase sales and brand recognition. But, most of the time, they refer to you, the sign shop owner, or us, the LED sign manufacturer for advice as to which type of screen is the best for their business. Many will have a preference as to whether they want a dynamic sign, such as an LED display, a static one, or a combination of both. It is part of our job as a LED experts, to take into consideration things such as a customer’s budget, type of business, location, audience, city ordinances, and any other relevant details to give them the best possible advice. With studies proving that as much as 50% of new customers claim to learn about a business due to it’s on-premise sign, it’s clear digital outdoor signs increase sales and create awareness. Still, screens come in many shapes, types and sizes. So, which one should you recommend in each case?

Dynamic, Mixed or Static Signs:

The biggest advantage of a dynamic sign - or a sign that can change it’s content often - such as LED displays, is its flexibility and versatility; the display can be changed easily and one LED sign can display several different pieces of content. LED panel with seasonal textPeople stop noticing every day things if they always remain the same. We stop looking at that stunning house or the wonderful bridge view on our daily commute after we’ve seen them day after day. Likewise, static signs become stagnant after a short period of time. Dynamic signs allow the owner to change the message often, and use current events to keep the content engaging. That way, passersby will always notice them, not only because the content changes often, but also, because it is fresh and relevant to that moment. Self illuminated signs, such as backlit screens, are also usually easier to read at larger distances and from different angles and illumination levels. PA- Lancaster -That pet place-Sign Medix, Inc- BEFOREOn the other hand, static signs are normally cheaper than digital signs since they don’t require any complex technology to run or sophisticated software to manage the content. However, most digital displays can be leased for a small monthly fee and the increase in sales can more than pay for the monthly installments. Another advantage of static signs is that they offer a wider range of design choices. LED signs can display trillions of colors and great imagery and videos, with innumerable shades and gradients, but the screens themselves are normally squares or rectangles. Static signs are made out of more malleable materials and can be made into beautiful pieces of art. That pet place LED Sign A third option, that allows to take advantage of the benefits of both static and dynamic signs is to have a mix of both; an LED sign surrounded or encased within a static screen. It was found that businesses who use an electronic sign display, in addition to traditional signage, typically see an increase from 15 percent to 150 percent in terms of sales. A much bigger, artistic and eye-catching screen can be built in a cost effective way, yet businesses can still take advantage of the flexibility and dynamic aspects of an LED display. This design guide can help you with more ideas on mixed EMC signs to showcase to your clients. Questions to guide your customers to the right decision between dynamic, mixed and static signs: 1.- Customer budget: If the customer has a very low budget, a small, static sign might be the only way to satisfy them. On the other hand, leasing a dynamic sign is always a good option since the increase in revenue brought by the sign can pay for the monthly leasing fee and then some. 2.-Type of business: a) How many products does the business sell? Business that offer wide variety of products, such as retail stores (Pharmacies, restaurants, apparel, hardware stores, etc) can greatly benefit from a dynamic sign since it allows them to advertise many different products one after the other. b)Does the business sell seasonal products? Seasonable products can also benefit from the flexibility of an LED sign since different products can be advertised at different times of the year. c) Does the business keep large stock quantities and sometimes use sales to get rid of excess inventory? A dynamic sign can help the business advertise its products based on their inventory levels. d) Does the business have sales of different products often? Dynamic signs can help promote different sales at different times. 3.- City ordinances: Many times the city regulates the type of signs businesses can use, their size, how often they can change them, their brightness level, etc. It is important to make sure that any purchases a business make is up to code with their city’s regulations and preferably a permit should be acquired beforehand.

Size of the sign

Allow us to wine and dine youSigns came in all shapes and sizes and none is better than the other, they all serve their purpose. The size of the sign will mostly depend on how far away your customers will be when reading it. The farther they are, the bigger you want your sign to be. Still, bigger is not always better, if your business is a coffee shop in a densely populated area with mostly foot traffic, a really big sign hanging fifty feet in the air won’t attract your ideal customers. They won’t even see it because their eyes will be looking front and down. Questions to help your customers decide which is the ideal size for their sign: 1.- Customer’s budget: Most people would be inclined to believe that the smaller the sign, the less expensive. While this is partially accurate, is not exactly true. For exactly the same type of sign, the smaller it is, the less it will cost. But, as we discussed in our previous point, the technology used to create the sign, the complexity of the design and the materials used to build the sign will also play a huge part in the pricing. 2.- Business location: As we mentioned before, businesses with high car traffic in expansive areas will benefit more from a bigger sign. While businesses with a lot of foot traffic and in very dense areas might do better with an on the floor or at an eye-level height smaller sign. 3.- Business audience: Somewhat related to location, but the more the business relies on foot traffic - people walking by the store- the smaller and closer to the door of the establishment the sign should be. The more they rely on car traffic, the bigger the sign should be since the motorists are going to be farther away when reading the sign. 4.- City ordinances: Also sometimes regulate sign sizes.

Pixel Pitch for LED Signs

Similarly to sign sizes, pixel pitch is dependant on the distance of the audience the sign is trying to capture. Pixel pitch is only applicable to dynamic LED signs and it's equivalent to the distance from the center of an LED cluster (or pixel) to the center of the next LED cluster/pixel in millimeters. A lower pitch equals a smaller distance or a higher resolution. However, the farther away the LED sign reader is, the lower the resolution is that is required for the viewer to perceive a crisp image. Why is that? Because the closer the eye is to the display, they more it notices each one of the pixels, but when moving away from the sign, the density of details increases. Pixel-Pitch-and-Viewing-Distance The lax rule of thumb is that if the audience is 30 feet or closer (eg. Foot traffic or aimed mostly drivers that are 5 to 45 feet away and going very slowly) the sign should be high resolution - 12mm pixel pitch or lower. If the main target is drivers travelling more than 50 feet away at slow to medium speed, your LED panel should be medium resolution (around 16mm pixel pitch). If the display will be used to capture viewers that are travelling at higher speed and over 65 feet away (eg. in a highway) the pixel pitch can be 19mm or higher. The other consideration is the type of content the sign will be displaying. If you customer wants to show images with a large number of details or constantly broadcast videos, they should probably choose a higher resolution LED sign to be able to display all the nuances in their content. Questions to help your customers decide which is the pixel pitch for their LED sign: 1.- Customer’s budget: The higher the resolution, the more expensive the sign will be. Yet again, if the client’s best alternative is a higher resolution sign, he could purchase a smaller LED sign or lease it. Sacrificing quality or resolution when installing a screen for a close range audience or when requiring display of detailed images and videos is probably not the best idea. The closer the viewers are and the more intricate the content is, the easier it is to spot inferior products and resolution. 2.- Business audience: What is the average distance and speed your target audience is travelling at when looking at your sign? 3.- How much detail will the sign’s content have? The more detailed, the higher the resolution needed. 4.- Will the sign be displaying a lot of videos? Videos tend to have a lot of detail and will benefit from a lower pixel pitch.

Monochrome, Grayscale or RGB for LED Signs.

In general, monochrome and grayscale in the LED sign industry are both used to refer to single color LED displays. Full color LED signs (also called RGB LED display) have a red, a blue, and a green LED diode in each pixel and can display all possible color combinations. In contrast, single color LED displays, as the name indicates, have one single LED diode per pixel and all of the LED lights on the board are the same color. Solo monochormeIn the most commonly accepted definition of the term, the LED diodes in a monochrome display only have one level of brightness; meaning they are either on or they are off. Let’s imagine we have a red monochrome LED display; If the lights are on, that pixel will be red and every LED diode that is turned on will have exactly the same shade of the color red. On the other hand, if the lights are off, that pixel will be black – the standard background color for an LED sign. The perfect monochrome display examples are the LED signs typically found on the highway and used by municipal agencies. Those signs usually only display very simple text and are mostly aimed to notify drivers of road conditions, give directions, or public service announcements. Solo grayscaleOutdoor grayscale signs also have a single color LED diode, but each light can shine at different levels of brightness, allowing for as many as 65,000 shades of the same color. If we go back to our red LED sign example, if it were gray-scale, each one of the LED lights could be displaying a different intensity – or shade- of the color red. This makes gray scale the preferred choice for LED signs that display pictures or videos, since it allows for more definition and gradients in the images. In practice, all outdoor gray-scale LED signs could also function as monochrome signs if that is what the business owner prefers. In other words, all of the LED diodes on a gray scale LED board can be set at the same brightness level. Blade1Many RGB LED panels can show close to 300 trillion colors. That allows for the sign to display really intricate images and high quality video. If you consider that the average LCD TV can display close to 17 million colors, you can get an idea of the potential image quality of a full color LED sign. That is why, this should be the prefered choice for Electronic Message Centers and Billboards; basically any sign trying to attract customers and create brand recognition with high quality, engaging and original content that will make a lasting impression in the customer’s mind. Read this post for more tips on creating engaging content. So, why would a business want to buy an outdoor monochrome or a gray scale LED display? Outdoor LED signs are a powerful advertising tool, in fact, the Small Business Administration calls them the most-cost effective form of advertising, but they require a significant upfront investment. An outdoor grayscale LED display could provide many of the advantages of an LED sign at a significantly lower cost. If the goal of the business is to advertise with text or simple images or videos, gray-scale LED signs could be a great, more affordable alternative. They are also great starter sign, with some LED Manufacturers, such as Cirrus LED Systems. At Cirrus, full and single color displays use the same frames for RGB as for grayscale signs. Upgrading a sign is as simple as swapping panels in a matter of minutes. A customer can buy an inexpensive grayscale sign now and a few years down the line, when they see the potential of the LED sign and want to further capitalize on the advantages, they can easily swap the grayscale panels for full RBG LED boards without needing to change anything else. BBQ SkyvisionThere are aesthetic considerations too. Depending on the look the business is seeking to convey it will be advisable to recommend one type of sign over the other. For instance, if the customer has a well known Logo that is Red and Black, or White and black and they are well known for those colors, it might make sense to get a grayscale sign in that color. Questions to help your customers decide between full color, grayscale and monochrome: 1.- Customer’s budget: Monochrome and grayscale are cheaper than full color. If color palette is not an issue and messages or simple images are sufficient, a grayscale could be a good option. However, the customer should purchase from a manufacturer that allows for easy upgrades to full color. 2.- What type of content will the sign be displaying? For pictures, videos and images a full color sign will perform significantly better. Once you and your customer have settled on a particular sign, your hard work begins: Searching for the right providers, pulling permits, creating drawings and designs, building and installing the sign to the customer’s satisfaction. Great manufacturing partners can help you make that process easier. That is why Cirrus LED Systems strives to help you every step of the way with information, excellent customer service, end-customer training, and remote troubleshooting and repairing. For more information on our systems and what we have to offer, contact our sales department by email or call 1.877.636.2331. Download this article

Security and Privacy for Wireless LED Signs

wi-fi securityMost modern LED signs obtain their content and are managed wirelessly. The controller - the CPU that controls the LED sign - communicates via wi-fi with a computer or a remote server. This computer or server hosts the software that controls the sign and by communicating with it, the controller can ascertain if there are changes in the playlist, schedule or settings. The ability to communicate with a display wirelessly has many advantages over older forms of connecting with it, some of which, I will mention below. Yet, a question that comes up often, is how is the security and privacy of the sign handled when information travels through radio signals in the air? USBMany LED signs still force their owners to update their content directly from the billboard or electronic message center via a plugged-in USB drive. This is burdensome and inefficient because USB drives usually don’t have a lot of storage capacity and break easily. In many cases, this can even be dangerous since lots of LED signs are high up on a pole and adjacent to really busy streets. Security and privacy are also compromised in these types of signs since anyone with a high enough ladder can access the USB drive and either take it or replace it with their own. A better solution is to have the display hardwired using a phone modem or a serial cable that is connected to a controlling computer. Still, that also poses several problems. For one, if the sign is far from the computer, it will require a considerably lengthy cable; Which is expensive, could be in the way of things, or needs to be placed underground and it’s likely to malfunction. The longer the cable, the more potential places it can break. Moreover, since it is hardwired to one cpu, the sign can only be managed by the computer that most of the time, needs to comply with several hardware and software specifications (for example, have a windows operating system of a certain version) to be able to run the LED sign software and communicate with the controller. These signs are very secure since they can only be accessed by one specific computer. Nevertheless, the lack of flexibility and the high potential for failures makes them slightly unreliable. wi-fi securityMost modern digital displays are controlled wirelessly. The controllers in a wireless LED sign have a wireless radio built within or are connected to one and that wireless radio bridges with an access point connected to the customer’s computer or to the business’ internet connection. That allows for the sign to be placed at a considerable distance without having to deal with a lengthy cable. When the access point is connected directly to a computer, we face the same problem we had before: that computer can manage the sign, and the computer needs to meet several requirements to run the software. When the radio pair is connected to the internet, the controllers connect wirelessly with a remote server that hosts the content management system software. This means the sign can be managed from any device that has an internet connection, be that a computer, a laptop or a tablet or phone. There are no special hardware or software requirements since the software can be accessed from your internet browser from anywhere that is convenient to the LED sign owner. That means macs, android or linux can be used. This option offers the most convenience, flexibility and is not constrained by distance or hardware requirements. Still, despite the unquestionable advances and advantages the internet allowed, one thing that has always been a concern has been its security. If information be accessed from anywhere, how can developers make sure no-one but the sign owner can control the content on the sign? This is essential in the case of government and highly visible projects, but it is also important to any business owner that invested in a digital display. Wifi security has improved significantly over the past few years. Nowadays, several very effective security and privacy methods are in effect to protect wireless communications from unwanted intruders. The most common are: A) Encryption: It’s the most effective way to achieve data security. The file is encrypted, “translated” into a secret code. To read an encrypted file, you must have access to a secret key or password that enables the software to decrypt it or understand the secret code. B) PIN lock security: A pin lock is an authentication measure that requires the entry of a secret personal identification number (PIN) before a device can be “unlocked” and used. C) Password protection: The owner of the software specifies a personal, secure password and the software doesn’t allow access to anyone that can’t input the password correctly. Unlike pins, passwords take alphanumeric and sign characters and usually differentiate between upper and lower case letters. Wireless bridging: The wireless bridge connects two wi-fi pairs to each other and only to each other. Meaning the controller wi-fi pair only communicates with the access point on the other pair. D) Wi-fi protected Access (WPA/WPA2): Wi‑Fi Protected Access encrypts information and makes sure that the network security key has not been modified. Wi‑Fi Protected Access also authenticates users to help ensure that only authorized people can access the network. Wireless Intrusion Prevention and Detection Systems: are network devices that monitor the radio spectrum for the presence of unauthorized access points (intrusion detection), and can automatically take countermeasures (intrusion prevention). Most wireless LED Sign manufacturers, like Cirrus LED Systems, use a combination of several security methods to protect their displays from intrusion. The flexibility of this type of signs added to the several complex security measures taken to protect them makes them the ideal option for most business users. If you want to learn more about the specifics of Cirrus LED systems wireless security contact us by email or phone.