Not being a software developer, you can imagine my confusion when NEC Display Solutions of America announced its upcoming line of commercial displays with the ability to insert a Raspberry Pi Compute Module. “Raspberry Pi?” I said. “Isn’t that some sort of dessert?” R read more
At Almo Pro AV we just wrapped up our 2016 E-4 AV Tour with stops in Boston and then Dallas. Like our previous E-4s, these events offered our customers, large end-users and consultants multiple CTS-certified lectures (with RU Credits!), hands-on experience rooms and an impressive exhibit floor populated with over 50 manufacturer partners displaying the latest in technology.
Due to space constraints and other outside factors, exhibit halls in general often restrict what manufacturers showcase to individual components and not an entire working solution. Attendees then must visualize the solution, usually by associating it with a recent or current application need. But what if they could see an entire solution, made up of components from multiple manufacturers in a single exhibit? This is a concept I’ve been at work on for the past few E-4 events, and the reception and feedback I’ve received is motivating.
Representatives from well-regarded display and projector manufacturer NEC have worked with me on this concept from the beginning. Our goal is to display NEC’s superior commercial panel designs and demonstrate their functionality in a working model, such as a video wall or unique projector application. To accomplish this we started with a video wall configuration and called on another partner, Peerless-AV to supply their specialized video wall cart. The cart is an actual Peerless-AV sku providing video wall mounting with mobility. Perfect for our exhibit hall floor. Now we can easily demonstrate the features of this video wall solution and mount combination to show attendees.
In Dallas we took the partial solution even further. TVOne joined our configuration to display their low-cost and feature-rich 4k video processing unit that utilizes NEC’s Tile Matrix feature. We then insured electrical noise-free power by employing a Tripp-Lite double-conversion UPS. The end result was a working, fully mobile 4k video wall solution.
Next, we wanted to demonstrate a single-panel application with a 65″ UHD Panel, mounted in portrait orientation. Once again we called on Peerless-AV to provide a video cart capable of portrait orientation, enabling us to demonstrate the panel’s ability to change screen orientation. One dealer group actually came by the booth that day ans offered to purchase the solution right then and there and take it back to their office!
Also popular these days are indoor kiosks, and Almo and NEC were able to bring such a solution to our E4 attendees as well. This time we created a kiosk solution featuring a 46″ NEC panel displaying content from a BrightSign media player, all secured and ventilated within the Peerless-AV kiosk and once again powered by Tripp-Lite.
Almo is already hard at work with our partners for our March E-4 AV Tour stop in the Windy City, Chicago, IL. Our solutions exhibits will no doubt continue to evolve and grow. Perhaps we’ll employ a unique NEC SSL laser projector based digital signage application with portrait orientation using content provided by Almo’s Content Creation Services. Rest assured, we’ll come up with something – and our attendees will be able to see a true solution through the forest of products on the exhibit floor.
I’ve noticed over the last year the increasing use of outdoor displays in commercial applications. Once regulated to residential porches and light commercial use (such as a sports bar’s outdoor covered patio), manufacturers are now producing displays that eliminate the need for environmental enclosures and kiosks.
Today, properly specified displays provide many benefits compared to the traditional panel within an enclosure or kiosk. Some of those benefits include but are not limited to:
- Weatherproof operation at a considerable lower cost without expensive environmental enclosures & kiosks
- Better picture due to no gap between the screen and an outer enclosure glass that may hinder picture quality
- Overall reduction in physical size and weight for the application
- Simpler mounting and installation
- Ease of on-going maintenance
But how does a design engineer specify the right outdoor panel for a particular environmental application? It’s relatively simple – match the properly-rated display to the outdoor demands of the application. First, assess the application environmental demands:
- Environmental temperature extremes.
- Dust & water extremes (both type of dust and at what angles they can attack a panel).
- Under cover or in direct sunlight.
- Maintenance access (e.g., mounted high, extremely restricted location, etc.).
- Exposure to glass-breaking projectiles like rocks and such.
Now, match the display to the environmental demands of the application.
- Temperature Extremes: Coldest and warmest extremes a display can safely operate.
- Dust and Moisture: Determine a display’s rating using either a NEMA Enclosure Rating (relative dust & particle resistance measurement) or the more popular “IP’ Rating (Ingress Protection as defined by DIN EN 60529). An IP rating indicates the external conditions enclosures can withstand. It describes a display’s scope of protection during use when exposed to temperatures, fuel and oil and their fumes, chemical clouds, acid based moisture and dust entering the display. For example, the “I” in IP has a scale of 1 to 6 that defines the protection against contact and ingress of dust. The “P” has a scale of 0 to 9k that defines ingress of moisture from water droplets to high pressure steam cleaning.
- Indirect or Direct Sunlight: If direct sunlight is a factor, consider a panel with UV optical bonding that can eliminate reflection & refraction glare so it can be easily seen in direct sunlight. Note that simply being a high brightness panel (1500+ nits) doesn’t necessarily translate to good picture in direct sunlight. It’s hard to out bright the sun!
- Impact Resistant: Determine if the display needs to be protected from impacts. And should the screen be broken, make sure it is shatter proof to protect nearby viewers and property.
- Maintenance: Some displays will be mounted high or in difficult to reach places. The less maintenance of filters and the ability to be hosed-off or pressure washed can be key.
Almo ProAV partners with Peerless-AV to offer a family of outdoor displays starting with the IP55-rated UltraView Series up to the IP68-rated Xtreme series. We can match the right display for the environmental demands of temperatures, dust & moisture, direct sunlight, impact resistance, and ease of maintenance. Also, we will assist in pairing the proper outdoor, wind-rated mount. Feel free to contact me or your Almo ProAV Account Rep. We’ll be happy to assist you in specifying the right display for your outdoor application.
A couple of months ago, I spoke with one of our Arizona integrators about a window digital signage project for a large retail jewelry store. As we discussed the project, I asked for specifics as to display size dimensions and quickly moved to content, media player, and signal distribution scheme. The spec seemed relatively straightforward and a bill of materials would be easy to create.
But as I reviewed drawings and artist renderings, I quickly asked myself:
- What direction do the windows face? Southwest exposure?
- Coverings shading the windows?
- Portrait or landscape orientation?
- City ordinances on night time brightness?
The answers to the above questions quickly convinced me that I was actually dealing with a high ambient light specification than that of a typical within-the-building digital signage project. Additionally, this window project calls for commercial grade, 24/7 displays (for use well into the night after closing hours) that must have the following design attributes:
- Higher brightness rating than that of a typical indoor display to ensure crystal clear visibility during the daytime
- Resistant to the effects of high temperatures and direct sunlight that cause an isotropic blackening effect on liquid crystal
- Advanced heat management to provide proper cooling given high temperatures and extensive operational hours
- Polarizing film on the displays so as to be seen by polarized sunglasses in either portrait or landscape orientation
- Ambient light sensors to dim displays in low sunlight or nighttime
So, as you can easily surmise, we’re now talking about specially designed displays for this project. NEC, for example, manufactures 47”, 55”, and 75” high brightness displays designed for front-facing window display applications. The XHB Series of displays addresses the above needs with:
- High brightness (2000-2700 nits) for high ambient light conditions
- High resistance to isotropic effects from direct sunlight
- Quarter Lambda Polarizing film so content can be easily seen regardless of orientation or polarized sunglasses
- Internal heat management and self-diagnostics to insure reliable 24/7 operation
- Ambient light sensors to dim the panel for lower light and nighttime conditions
Bottom line—front-facing window signage demands are different from indoor or outdoor models. Be sure to know the application when an end user mentions windows in a digital signage application. Yes, these panels are an investment, but if you can’t see the displays, why have the signage?
So when did your end user last consider refreshing an older video wall? What a great question. I bet most end users consider replacing or reconfiguring video walls a prohibitive exercise of expense for soft dollar returns. In other words, it’s about metrics related to advertising attention or informational effectiveness. But soft dollars are challenging to measure and hard for integrators to include in project proposals designed to convince end users.
But today there’s more! When advances in large display panel technology, mount designs, content software, signal distribution, and control are combined with lower purchase, implementation, and operational costs, a “perfect storm” of hard cost justification opportunity begins to form. Add in the possibility that the end user’s current video wall may be fully depreciated as a capital expense, and BINGO! ….. dealers and integrators have a great pitch to sell.
In the coming month, Almo ProAV will be reviewing the opportunities with Video Wall Refresh. In the meantime, here are some quick items to consider:
- Energy Savings: Today’s panels are much more efficient in operation, substantially reducing energy costs. Those savings alone can nearly justify a whole project.
- Advanced Design and Features: One example is ambient light sensors that provide auto dimming. Another example is High Brightness (high nit) panels for high ambient light environments
- Lower Install Costs: Today’s mount designs reduce install time. Easy to use color calibration tools reduce install time as well
- Lower Large Format Display Costs: Perhaps consider a single 90”+ display rather than a 2×2 wall, for example
Look for discussion guide to Video Wall Refresh in the coming months.
Many commercial ProAV installs are challenged with small rack space real estate, either due to physical limitations such as small closets and cabinets or having to share rack space with an existing IT location. In the past, many pieces of hardware were specialized to performing one or maybe two functions within a system, each occupying valuable rack space. Systems requiring 2 or 3 of these types of devices could face serious space issues in these limited rack space scenarios! Rack design with proper air flow is now aided with new multi-function hardware designs such as Tripp Lite’s growing family of power distribution units (PDUs) that various choices and combinations of unmanaged IP signal gigabit switching and PoE into an efficient 1U rack cabinet.
For example, Tripp Lite has introduced designs that are targeted for racks in smaller, distributed AV networks where space is at a premium. Their designs provide various combinations of AC power and PoE distribution with unmanaged Ethernet gigabit switching, all in only 1U of rack space. One particular PDU supplies continuous AC power from a connected UPS system (or alternate source) and contains (12) NEMA 5-15R outlets. The unmanaged gigabit Ethernet Network Switch on the other side of the 1U cabinet function has (24) RJ45 ports that support auto-negotiable 10/100/1000 Mbps and auto MDI/MDIX cross-over detection functions for true “plug and play” capability. Additionally, Tripp Lite has a model that includes 8 POE+ ports, which support up to 30W per port with a total POE budget of 120W, to connect POE devices such as Wireless APs, IP Cameras, VoIP phones and more. Utilizing Green Ethernet technology, power consumption is automatically lowered by turning off Ethernet ports not in use or and by detecting the connected network cable lengths to adjust the power usage to only what is necessary.
As companies continue to find ways to maximize rack space, manufacturers are adapting to the challenges with products that have more functionality with 1U configurations. Based on the current trend, I would expect to see managed gigabit switching, IP-addressable AC outlets, surge & conditioning and the like. So on you next project, look for this combined functionality to implement into your rack design that utilize IP-based signal distribution.
Last August we reviewed Five Things to Consider When Selecting a New Projector: 1) Projector Technology; 2) Image Position & Adjustment; 3) Throw Distance; 4) Interactivity; and 5) Resolution. Though not the complete list of all the factors relative to specifying a commercial AV projector, these are usually considered to be the main points in any competent projector selection and installation.
The first factor, Projector Technology, has become a hot topic with the increasing offerings of SSI (Solid State Illuminated), lamp-free projectors from our manufacturer partners. The superior performance characteristics of SSI Laser and SSI Hybrid lighting technologies are rarely disputed. But traditional high initial purchase cost impeded rapid marketplace adoption. However, like all technologies, sales price decrease as the category matures. So the transition to Commercial AV marketplace adoption is “on” as the lifetime cost of ownership, operating benefits, and eco-friendly green considerations are now within realistic reach of end-users’ ROI acceptance levels.
Rather than taking a drowning deep dive into the world of SSI Laser and SSI Hybrid lighting technologies, let’s just review the basics. Generally speaking, we are referring to the lighting source of projectors, not what manipulates the light to create the image on the screen. That is the job of DLP, LCoS or LCD chips. Three lasers (red, blue, green) replace traditional UHD, Xenon and other lamps. This translates to deeper and richer colors without brightness issues. Hybrid designs don’t use all three lasers but rather a combination of one or two lasers or LEDs with a phosphors-based alternative to create the needed wavelengths of light. The big benefit of SSI Hybrid is to reduce costs as compared to the three-laser design.
The major benefits of SSI Laser and SSI Hybrid over legacy lamp lighting technology are generally bundled into the following:
- No or very little projector maintenance (lamps and filters) – Traditional lamps have a limited life expectancy of 1,500 to 6,000 hours. Compare that to SSI Laser with a typical life-to-half brightness of at least 20,000 hours. Put the SSI light source in a “eco” power mode and you’ll experience well above 40k hours. Lamp replacement (as many as 13 times compared to SSI) and associated maintenance labor costs are drastically reduced. Also, the SSI Laser and SSI hybrid is a sealed engine design, less filters and air-cooling reduces cleaning and filters replacement.
- Less brightness decay – Regressive decay of conventional lamps means significant initial brightness is lost in the early hours of operation. This can mean that a conventional lamp will spend as much as half its life operating at close to 50% of capacity before it is changed. SSI Laser and SSI Hybrid light sources, on the other hand experience more of a linear decay curve. This means that soon after starting its lifetime, SSI Laser and SSI Hybrid will be providing more brightness compared to conventional lamps.
- Superior lifetime energy efficiency – SSI Lasers and SSI Hybrid consume power according to the content being projected by only providing the light that is needed. Compare that to traditional lamps that run nearly 100% power consumption all the time. Less energy consumption is less heat that has to be fan cooled.
- Instant on/off operating capability – Imagine how more effective a presentation or lecture can be if the projector can be conveniently shut-off and then turned on when needed.
- Less heat & noised output – Less energy required translates to less heat output and fan cooling. Fans create noise distractions to be dealt with and heat demands more room HVAC.
Criticism of SSI Laser and SSI Hybrid normally surround concerns of safety and “speckle-like” effects. As to safety, light coming out of nearly all laser projectors comply with class level 2 safety standards. No worries here. Speckling lighting effect, as you see with focused laser light, is now nearly eliminated in today’s state-of-the-art laser illuminated projector systems. So the speckle concern has been mitigated substantially.
Today, SSI Laser projectors are mostly found in large screen/high-ambient light applications such as museums, training centers and auditoriums in which legacy lamp-based projectors do not deliver the necessary brightness performance and low maintenance lamp replacement costs. But today when end-users combine the cost of ownership with lower acquisition price points for SSI Laser and SSI Hybrid projectors, they quickly see ROI projections as reasonable. But today when superior performance is appreciated, the technology makes the sale.
NEC’s new entry-level integration projector, the NP-502WL (DLP Laser-5,000 lumen) has an estimated sale price of only $3,849. In a higher education application for example, 20k hours of operation (less than 10 years) is a savings of 10 lamp replacements (conservative), or $3k ($300/lamp estimated cost) is realized. Combine that with the associated maintenance labor costs and one will quickly see how ROI is achieved. And we have yet to even incorporate energy savings, operational convenience, and superior lifetime performance into the equation.
The transition is here. Lamp free, SSI Laser and SSI Hybrid projectors sales are projected to be robust. Almo ProAV is ready to be your valued resource for this projector technology. We welcome the opportunity to assist you.