Flat Panel: An Abundance Of Riches

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Picking the Best of an Ever-Evolving Crop

By David Keene

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As long as we’ve been covering the digital signage industry, digital signage display and flat panels have gone hand in hand. Although video projection still dominates in the classroom, boardroom, and auditorium (for now), flat panels — especially LCD and plasma panels — seem to be the technology that keeps the digital signage market growing year after year. That’s not to say there is not other display technology in the digital signage world. There is plenty. But it often seems LCD panels alone, with their inexorable economies of scale, are taking over the flat panel world.

On the surface, they often seem to be, but there are both old and newer flat panel technologies out there now, and more coming in the future. But this special supplement on flat panels is not meant to be a roadmap for the future. The industry still needs to address today’s top issues: deciding between LCD and plasma and deciding between commercial- vs. consumer-grade flat panels. And I could not think of two professionals more able to tackle these issues than Alan and Jonathan Brawn. They have both been involved in this industry since before we called it “digital signage.” Of course, now with their DSEG (Digital Signage Experts Group) education, training, and certification initiatives, both Alan and Jonathan Brawn are again at the forefront of the industry.

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Displays for digital signage take many forms, as the applications are many, and multiplying each year: point of decision, point of purchase, general awareness, wayfinding, commuting news and weather, advertising, inward-facing corporate campus signage, emergency evacuation signage…the list goes on. And AV integrators, end-users, and display providers continue to grapple with perennial issues regarding flat panel selection:
• Many customers want cheaper up-front costs, so they ask for cheaper solutions, often confusing consumer- and commercial- grade products. (Most flat panel TVs have a PC connector, like a VGA connector or even a DVI connector, making their selection seductive to many.)
• Some flat panel manufacturers respond to the above, by offering their own consumer televisions through commercial channels, adding even more confusion.
• Just when it looks like LCD is pushing out plasma, plasma continues to win customers with its deep black levels, film-like images, and ability to be very cost-efficient at larger screen sizes especially.
• Speaking of black, it seems “Green is the new black.” As Alan Brawn points out, energy consumption and Green initiatives are all-important now, and the newest models of LCD and plasma displays are engineered to provide up to a 30 percent savings in power consumption compared to older models. Also, tests have shown up to a 20 percent savings in energy on properly calibrated displays versus those that are not calibrated.

In the advertising/DOOH arena, as the huge Out-of-Home media placement companies such as JC Decaux, CBS Outdoor, and ClearChannel continue to migrate some customers to a digital signage platform, many challenges remain. The marketing challenges to this migration are daunting enough, and are the subject of much of our coverage in Digital Signage Magazine. While we address those challenges, it seems it’s never too soon to revisit again the constantly evolving world of the digital flat panel — that mainstay of digital signage — that still offers the best platform for the rapid expansion of the market through the picking of low-hanging fruit.

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