Visitors walking onto the exhibit hall floor at the Digital Signage Expo in Las Vegas this month will quickly sense that old barriers are lifting on how and where marketers and visual designers can create a display canvas.
Digital signage trends and technology developments mean there are now few restrictions on where signage can go, both indoors and outside, what shape it can take, or what it can do. New high brightness displays can overpower the sun at high noon. Transparent OLED technology can transform the very idea of window glass. Smart signs can mount and hang like framed paintings. And fine pixel direct-view LEDs and ultra-thin LCD frames are turning walls into digital canvases. In many respects, the only remaining barriers are creativity and budget.
Here are five digital signage trends you should watch out for if you’re going to the Digital Signage Expo, or reading about it as the show lights up in mid-March.
1. Transparent OLED
Transparent organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays all but reinvent the idea of flat panel displays. Your parents’ television set had a giant light tube in the back that generated the image. Your flat panel TV at home now uses tiny backlight tubes or LED strips to illuminate the LCD image. OLED doesn’t need either, meaning the displays are impossibly thin and can be embedded in things like window glass.
At last month’s Integrated Systems Europe trade show in Amsterdam, Samsung demonstrated a four-pane interior window that suddenly came alive with full-motion graphics. Transparent OLED technology is expected to transform how we all think about things like glass divider walls in retail and office settings.
2. High-Bright Outdoor Signage
Mother Nature has for many years had the best of technologists trying to put marketing and messaging screens out in the elements, battling heat and cold and trying to overcome the brightness of the midday sun. It’s been possible to do it, but it’s taken a heavy and expensive investment in specialized engineering.
Now, a combination of experience and technology breakthroughs are starting to bring daylight-readable, nature-ready outdoor signage displays to the masses. Samsung has introduced a line of outdoor displays that are weather-sealed, ready to operate in anything from -30 to 50 degrees Celsius, and pushing out 2,500 nit brightness. The panels have the built-in smarts to crank up the brightness or dial it back based on time and ambient lighting conditions. With all the engineering integrated into the display module, outdoor sign and fixture companies to add digital to their capabilities, without having to invest in R&D.
3. Walls as Canvases
Digital Signage Expo visitors will start to see the first ripples of what will be a big wave in the next year or two of fine pixel pitch LED modules for indoor use. The direct-view LED displays of old were blocky, low-resolution units that only started to look good from long distances, like billboards on highways and scoreboards up high in stadiums. Today’s fine pixel pitch displays have the individual LEDs as close as 1.5 mm from each other, creating displays that look spectacular from just a few steps back.
The big attraction is shape, as these units stitch together like wall tiles, unconstrained by specified widths or heights. They can fill a wall, or a support column or a building’s bulkhead. With the combined portfolio of Samsung and our subsidiary PrismView, we’re able to offer direct-view LED modules from 1.5 pixel pitch (for indoor use) right up to 25 mm pixel pitch (for outdoors), with a full spectrum of options in-between.
New indoor LEDs also eliminate perceptible seams, though that’s also happening with more conventional LCD video wall displays. Today’s ultra-thin bezel video wall can be installed with a gap of just 1.4 mm (roughly the depth of a credit card) between upper and lower displays.
Between these two technologies, visual designers for everything from flagship retail stores to building lobbies and mass transport hubs are no longer constrained by the dimensions of the space, lighting conditions or worries about the unsightly grid lines of video walls of the past.
4. System on a Chip
Three years ago at the Digital Signage Expo, we debuted our Smart Signage Platform, a line of professional displays that featured system-on-a-chip (SoC) embedded computers built into the units, removing the need for and cost of an external digital signage player. Since then, the Smart Signage Platform has been expanded across virtually our entire range of digital signage displays, from tablet-sized to some of the largest panels on the market.
The capabilities of these SoC displays has matured with technology advances and software partner feedback. Digital Signage Expo visitors will see a variety of options at the show, and numerous software companies showing off content management systems that support these smart displays.
5. Office Communications
Not all big new things in digital signage come in equally big packages. One of the hot trends in digital signage in 2016 involves small screens installed at the doors of meeting and conference rooms. There are now dozens of software options for linking and synchronizing with workplace and hospitality calendar systems to push simple information to displays that indicate whether a room is booked or free, who booked it, and for how long.
Though seemingly pedestrian in a world of transparent OLEDs and fine pixel pitch LED walls, meeting room signs solve a nearly universal problem in the offices and corridors of just about any workplace. With Samsung’s smallest 10.1-inch smart signage displays, workers can use touchscreens to book a room on the spot.
Another office trend, multimedia-friendly e-boards are increasingly becoming an essential element of modern conference rooms as projectors are gradually phased out. E-boards allow facilitators and participants to enjoy a more seamless, interactive experience that is great for both classroom and boardroom settings.
The Broader Show
The Digital Signage Expo is an annual gathering of many of the top companies in the signage industry. There’s a lot to see, and much to learn, from scheduled talks to free workshops. It’s a hectic two days, but if your organization will be applying signage technologies in 2016 and beyond, there’s no more efficient place to get quickly up to speed.