Public agencies at all levels of government — whether they’re charged with maintaining public safety or running critical infrastructure — have a consistent need to see both the big picture and the fine details of their operations.
That fact has been amplified by the relatively new ability to harvest, analyze and visualize data from Internet of Things devices as varied as single-purpose sensors and AI-driven HD cameras.
Video displays that fill entire walls of command, control and operational centers can enable agencies to monitor their services, adjust to emerging situations and focus on responding to problems and challenges. Video walls have become grand-scale dashboards for visualizing the state of operations in real time.
Agency operations and IT decision makers who have concluded that a video wall would improve and optimize their operations have several factors to consider as they look for the technology solution that will best meet their needs.
Here’s a rundown of the keys to getting video wall planning right.
Account for the content displayed
End-users should think well beyond the simple objective of finding a large screen that everyone can see. What will be displayed on a video wall should directly inform the choice of display technology, as well as the supporting hardware and software.
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Operations centers that show schematics, text and other fine details need to ensure viewability at any distance or angle within the room, as well as practical applications that addresses operator needs. Decision makers should look for:
- Color accuracy and high contrast levels may be critical for operators analyzing aerial, radar or seismic imagery, as subtle shade differences can directly affect their decisions. The difference between orange and red, or light gray and dark gray, could be the difference between caution and emergency.
- Ultra-high resolution video feeds and images are handled differently by the two main display technologies used in video walls. While a single flat-panel LCD can support 4K or even 8K resolutions, direct-view LED typically needs a much larger footprint to achieve 4K or 8K. Each LED light is a pixel, and aggregating enough light pixels to realize 4K might consume a full wall.
- Video processing, control and switching technologies can all be impacted by operator needs. In a busy control room environment, operators may want the ability to switch between views on the main video wall quickly or to allow multiple operators to push information to the main screen.
- Interactivity allows operators to walk up and manipulate information directly on a video wall screen by pinching, zooming and tapping as they would on a smartphone. LCD readily supports touch, while this functionality is uncommon and complicated with LED.
Factor in environmental dynamics
An operations center’s viewing distances, lighting conditions and physical scale can all influence what display technology will make the most sense for the environment.
In most control rooms, displays line a primary wall, with operator desks set back, facing that wall. It’s important to consider whether the scale of a display will match your space and whether the visuals will be viewable for operators sitting in the back of the room.
The prevailing notion about control rooms is that they’re darkened, bunker-like areas. That owes a lot to older projection-driven display technologies that could only produce bright visuals if the lights were dimmed. High brightness LCD video walls now allow the lights to come up, and direct-view LED modules have brightness properties that make control and meeting room displays vibrant, even if the room is filled with natural sunlight.
Understand the budgetary implications
There are three main display options for contemporary control room video walls: narrow-bezel LCD, direct-view LED and microLED. Each has distinct benefits and price points.
Narrow-bezel LCD is, in most circumstances, the most budget-friendly option. Bezels are the frames or edges of flat-panel displays, and display manufacturers have been steadily narrowing the width of these frames to minimize visible seams for many years. When LCDs are tiled in arrays to create video walls, the bezels create gridlines, and those lines can be more noticeable as bezel width increases.
For control room scenarios that use numerous views on the video wall at once (such as multiple camera feeds), the seams may be immaterial, as the different views could fit within their own display blocks. But when there are schematics, line drawings and blocks of text spanning multiple displays, those gridlines could directly impact views and even create false impressions by appearing to add new lines to a schematic or map.
Direct-view LED video walls are attractive to many government agency operators because the viewing canvas is seamless (LED does not have bezels) and because there are more shape and scale options available for LED displays than for LCD displays. The technology is also typically much brighter, which can make it more usable in full lighting situations.
Costs are directly informed by the pixel pitch, with finer-pitch displays costing more because they use thousands or even millions more LED lights than “coarser” pitch versions. The optimal pitch is correlated with the distance between the video wall and the viewers. For example, a 2-millimeter LED video wall will look crisp for viewers seated 15 to 20 or more feet back, but legibility may be negatively affected for operators sitting any closer because they will see the individual light pixels. For them, pitches of 1 millimeters to 1.5 millimeters will be optimal.
Video walls and microLED
Samsung’s The Wall For Business uses microLED, a technology that bridges the best of LCD and LED in many respects. Micron-sized light pixels are set against high-contrast black backgrounds, delivering detail that rivals premium LCD panels. It also uses technologies like HDR10+ to amplify colors and reveal all the dark and bright details of visuals that are often lost with lesser displays.
The Wall is positioned as a premium product, and for use cases that require detail and visual quality, it offers the optimal visuals of flat-panel displays on a seamless viewing canvas that can be scaled to any size.