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The bigger picture

Sales of Large Format Displays are on the up. Business Info finds out why.

ViewSonic digital signage
ViewSonic digital signage

European sales of commercial Large Format Displays (LFDs) reached 748,000 units in 2015, a year-on-year volume growth of 19%, according to analysis by Futuresource Consulting for Sony.

Demand for big screen sizes is rising, with shipments of LFDs over 60 inches in size growing by more than 70% in 2015, to reach 131K units. Sales are predicted to rise to 192k units by 2018.

LDFs are popular in a variety of industries and their applications are wide-ranging, as Thomas Walter, section manager strategic product marketing at NEC Display Solutions Europe GmbH, points out.

He said: “LFDs deliver animated posters and advertising; they also offer information, such as menus, promotions or flight times; acting as a digital consultant, they provide wayfinding and can be used as a kiosk for browsing and ordering; LFDs support presentation and collaboration to facilitate positive meeting results; in professional environments, they deliver detailed financial and market data; and, even more crucially, in the operating theatre they support surgeons with medical images. There are so many more examples; some deliver a communication, others encourage bi-directional interaction, but they all engage the audience in some way.”

The main factors behind growth in the LFD market, says Brian Wei, director of commercial displays at ViewSonic Europe, are an increase in demand for high-quality digital signage in the retail sector and a “strong uptake by educational institutions and businesses that are choosing to adopt the use of touch-screen Interactive Flat Panels (IFPs) for collaborative presentations and learning”.

In retail, a big driver is the desire to capture the attention of passers-by with impressive digital images both in-store and outside. Holger Graeff, general manager of Vivitek EMEA, said: “As the technology develops and progresses, it allows designers to be more creative with their content and share and display their work with perfect image quality.”

Enhanced meetings

Natalie Harris-Briggs, VP of marketing at Avocor, highlights the education and corporate sectors as key growth areas. “The education sector is very much a replacement market, where we are witnessing schools upgrade their legacy interactive whiteboard and projector technology, moving to large format displays, whereas the corporate market has started to use display technology to enhance the meeting room experience. Improved productivity and greater work efficiency as a result of collaboration and meeting room technology should facilitate this. We can collaborate every day on tablets, laptops and ‘individual’ screens, but true and effective collaboration happens on a ‘shared’ screen,” she said.

NEC’s Walter adds that we mustn’t forget the role that affordability plays in driving growth. “Pricing for larger format screen sizes is reducing as production becomes more efficient and capacity is increased. Low-cost, entry-level options are making digital available to everyone, such as NEC’s E series with built-in playback capabilities,” he said.

Walter sees integrated or embedded technology as another major trend, citing NEC’s recent partnership with Raspberry Pi to bring embedded computing power to its V & P Series large format displays, as well as NEC’s ability to deliver context-aware signage that shows content relevant to the viewer.

“Through measurement of a visitor’s behaviour, digital signage becomes more effective and attractive. Data such as age, gender and dwell time enable retailers to provide better services, consultancy and product choice in line with an individual’s preferences to deliver a personalised experience.”

Wei of ViewSonic has also seen a move towards smarter all-in-one displays that don’t require the purchase of additional media players or software. “Products that offer users a simple, quick installation and enable them to display content almost immediately are proving most popular,” he said.

Key questions

Natalie Harris-Briggs (1), VP of marketing at Avocor, and Thomas Walter (2) strategic product marketing at NEC Display Solutions Europe, list some of the questions to ask before choosing an LFD

(1)• How easy will adoption of the technology be – does it require lengthy end user training?
• Can the solution be tailored to changing business requirements as your company grows?
• Can legacy equipment easily be added to the solution or is the technology propriety, therefore locking you in?

(2)• Is there high ambient light, requiring a higher brightness display, or risk of damage, requiring a housing or protective glass?
• How will you control the content and manage servicing and maintenance?
• How will content be fed to the screen – will a network connection be required or seamless integration of a PC or player?

Invest Wisely

With so many solutions available, how can you ensure you make the right choice when buying an LFD?

Wei advises businesses to work out exactly what they need so that they don’t waste money on unwanted features. “Businesses looking to make the most of their investment in LFDs need to understand a product’s main applications and cross-reference these with the needs of the business. This way, businesses can avoid paying unnecessary costs for additional features and functions, such as software or media players, or risk purchasing a solution that doesn’t suit its needs.”

For NEC’s Walter, it’s also crucial to know the total cost of ownership: “Just 30% of the total cost is represented by the initial purchasing cost, meaning the remaining 70%, by far the greater proportion, is spent on the operational costs, including power consumption, maintenance and device management. But this proportion is often ignored.”

He adds that it is vital to make a purchasing decision based on devices’ reliability, power consumption, failure rates (and potential for failure e.g. through unnecessary cables) and the upgradability of the player performance, all of which will have a bearing on operational costs.

Business Info Magazine & Site is Published by Kingswood Media 2022