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Stepping Outside the Classroom With Digital Signage

Oct 22, 2013

Already many schools are taking advantage of digital display and interactive screens inside and around the classroom. As a communication and education tool, the ability to deliver information in a vivid and dynamic way through digital signage is a great way to embrace this technology.

by Sean O’Leary

Digital Signage

Now is the time where some schools are looking to spread the use of digital signage technology and step outside the classroom by taking the dynamic messaging technology to the great outdoors.

Placing digital signage and interactive screen elements at key points in and around the school grounds provides an opportunity to share communication with visitors, students and staff as they enter the school. Digital signage has the ability to provide relevant way-finding and school information at strategic locations.

Beware, stepping outside the classroom with digital signage is not as simple as locating the same screens you use indoors to an outside environment, even if you encase them within a sign structure. There are also varying screen options available, depending on what information you wish to display, the viewing distance and interactivity.

There are 5 key elements to consider when commissioning a digital signage project for outdoors, they are:

  1. Information to be displayed
  2. Screen brightness and resolution
  3. Weather protection of components
  4. Operational temperature and cooling
  5. Ongoing maintenance

The type of information to be displayed will determine the type of screen to be used. For simple messaging you may want to choose a scrolling or dynamic LED module screen, typical of those used at car park entries or as scoreboards. For dynamic high resolution images you may want to choose a LCD screen similar to those used indoors. For an interactive touch screen you will need to choose a special screen with touch screen capability.

Next is the screen brightness and resolution. A place where most people lacking insight make the mistake of not choosing a screen bright enough. Considering that average daylight outside has a brightness level of around 5000 nits, and most screens that are used indoors will not be able to generate enough brightness to be seen. These screens used indoors average around 1500 nits and when placed outdoors tend to appear dull or even blacked out. For outdoors you will need a screen with a brightness level of at least 2500 nits, ideally 5000 nits brightness would be best. Check the specification sheets on the screens to assess the brightness level – the brighter the better.

Protecting the screen, media players and other components from the weather, dust and pests is imperative. Unless the components used are rated as weather proof you will need to encase them in some structure to protect them. This can be designed and built as part of the overall sign and allow for design elements such as crests, logos and location names to be incorporated into the sign itself.

If your screen overheats it will most likely shutdown and not display any information, failing to deliver your intended message. Also constant overheating will lead to deterioration of the equipment and permanent failure. So keep it cool. Most screens will have an ideal working temperature ranging from 25-35°C. This means that the signage enclosure that holds the screen will need to have some form of cooling, either convection or assisted cooling, such as an air conditioning unit installed. Deciding on this will be a consideration of location and design, as well as the heat generation of components. Consultation with an engineer on this is recommended.

Finally, please put in place a regular service and maintenance regime. The screen, media player, cooling system should all be inspected and cleaned monthly. This will insure no build up of dust, weather penetration or pest infestation will ruin your investment in this new technology.

For the best solution in taking your digital signage outdoors it is best to engage with design consultants, suppliers and fabricators that can demonstrate the right knowledge, skills and experience in delivering outdoor digital signage solutions. With this attribute and you asking the right questions you should be more than ready to embrace this technology and bring a whole new way of communicating to your school environment.

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