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Outdoor LED Signs: Getting Into The Guts

July 17, 2017

Outdoor LED signs are in the midst of a substantial growth spurt, with the giant digital screens popping up across the country. It’s no wonder LED signage is taking the digital-out-of-home (DOOH) market by storm: These displays offer incredible benefits to your customers and help to reach more consumers more effectively than traditional signage ever could.

But for many value-added resellers (VARs) that are new to the pro AV space, outdoor LED signs might be a new concept. You probably occasionally see them near highways and shopping areas, but how exactly do they work and what components do they include?

Here, we take a closer look at the guts of outdoor LED signs:

1. The screen itself

LED signs are made up of panels of LEDs called modules. The modules are available in sizes that range from 8x8 to 16x16 pixels or larger, depending on your customer’s needs.

Today’s outdoor LED signs can come in all types of sizes and shapes, and many customers are really getting creative. LED displays offer several significant benefits, including high-resolution and high-brightness, full color, and large format. And yet, they are still cost-effective over time, providing a strong return-on-investment case.

2. The controller

The controller is the brain of the LED sign. It helps to direct the video input and output and communications, as well as any external lighting sensors or temperature controls.

Controllers are available in two different formats: embedded and PC-based. Embedded controllers reside on the sign itself and look much like a circuit board. A PC-based controller is completely separate from the sign and runs on a computer. Embedded controllers are well-suited for simple LED signs (such as those used on restaurant or retail signs), which typically display static text and images. For more complex displays, especially ones with video and fast-moving graphics, a PC-based controller is your best bet.

3. Video board

This device takes the video input from the controller and converts it into a format that can be read by the sign hardware. When using an embedded controller, the video board is often built into the device to keep the system more streamlined. But in a PC-based system, the video board is separate.

4. Logic board

This is the next step in the video signal’s journey. Logic boards translate the video from the video board to the LED modules that are going to actually display the content. Just like the video board, sometimes logic boards are included as part of embedded LED displays.

5. Power supplies

Of course, power is an important consideration for any outdoor LED sign. Most take AC voltage and output DC to the various components. A high-quality power supply is important to ensure that it will send the proper level of power to each component—especially in signs that will operate 24 hours a day.

6. Communication devices

Because outdoor LED signs are often located away from their network hubs—for example, on the side of an interstate—many VARs use secured wireless communications devices for content and lighting control. But for certain applications, such as retail signage, you might still recommend hardwired Cat5/6 Ethernet cable, which provides maximum reliability.

How popular would you say outdoor LED signs have become in your market? Do advertisers in your area primarily use digital displays, or are there still many traditional static signs?