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Opinion: opportunities in outdoor

All-weather displays conquer the elements as barriers to outdoor deployment are overcome says Gordon Dutch, managing director of Peerless-AV Europe.

From the beginning, a major barrier to outdoor display integration has been the inability to use a conventional flatpanel display anywhere outside a climate-controlled environment. Not only do they lack the ability to survive extreme temperatures but they are unable to withstand rain, humidity, snow, dirt, insects or anything else nature might throw at it.

Bulky and expensive sealed metal enclosures were subsequently introduced but, as these needed additional heaters and aircon units, they were difficult to install and maintain and they suffered from condensation issues. Placing a display behind enclosure glass also impacted picture quality, enabling clear viewing only when standing directly in front of the screen. Aesthetics, size and weight were big drawbacks in an industry working towards thinner, lighter, brighter displays and the enclosures were generally too large for many locations.

Today’s outdoor enclosures have much improved since these early offerings, particularly in their ability to safeguard against the elements in any climate. Ingress protection ratings, vandalism protection and corrosion resistance have all increased, and some offer fan-cooled or heated options with thermostat-controlled fans to ensure sufficient air circulation and heat ventilation. Peerless-AV’s environmental enclosures are not only IP56 rated with climate control but they look neat and include universal display mounts that accommodate a variety of mounting patterns.

The choice of display for these enclosures is the responsibility of integration and OEM partners. To avoid any issues resulting from a display that performs inadequately in an enclosure exposed to direct sunlight, site surveys and careful installation planning are required to ensure the right technology is utilised in the best possible location.

Pushing the boundaries

Enclosures still have their place but, most recently, the digital signage market has witnessed the emergence of a new generation of slim, sealed, all-weatherproof displays that are changing the face of outdoor AV integration by making all the traditional limitations a thing of the past. Peerless-AV is pioneering this technology trend with its range of fully sealed outdoor displays. Earning a coveted IP68 rating, these displays offer the highest particle and liquid protection in the industry, provide the widest operating temperature range and their NEMA 6 rating means they function without any issues under hose-directed water and temporary submersion. All this, combined with a ventless design, without filters or exhaust fans, means digital signage can now go anywhere.

A fundamental feature of these weather-proof displays is optical bonding, a process used in the manufacturing of outdoor displays that accomplishes multiple feats. Firstly, it reduces glare and reflection through the UV absorptive gel inserted between the protective glass and the screen. Secondly, optical bonding eliminates the air gap between the panel and the safety glass to prevent entry of moisture and formation of condensation. Thirdly, the technique essentially creates a level of sharpness and perceived brightness from a 700cd/sqm (nit) LCD compared to a 1,500-2000 nit high-brightness panel but, most importantly, it does this without any extra investment or additional HVAC requirements necessary for the heat generated by these high-bright screens.

Outdoor displays are now completely viable for any business wishing to update and modernise the look of their establishment. The placement opportunities are endless, but certain sectors such as amusement parks, zoos, train stations and quick-service restaurants are taking the lead. Stadiums and arenas, ski resorts, cruise liners, golf courses, marinas and restaurant patios are also showing great potential. But where next and what can be improved? Outdoor digital menu board kiosks are already available. Slimmer, thinner-bezel models and touch-enabled interactive capabilities are in production. The barriers are down. Plan for outdoor and reap the benefits.