Key points to consider when launching outdoor digital signage

This image is of a storm on the horizon and is used for our post on weather apps and weather widgets for use with digital signage.

Digital signs have become a popular communication channel between businesses and customers. Just as businesses can use digital signs to communicate with customers for in-store advertising, digital signs can also be used to communicate with customers who are outside the store. Businesses can use this outdoor digital signage to attract potential customers to come inside the store. Businesses can also use remote outdoor digital signs located in bus stops and metro stations to build their brand and advertise special offers. In this post, we discuss some key points you must consider when launching outdoor digital signage for your business.

Weather concerns with outdoor digital signs

Since you will expose your outdoor display to the elements, you must choose an outdoor signage display that can withstand a variety of weather types. Importantly, your screen must be able to withstand water from humidity, rain, and snow. Some displays feature a weatherproofing seal while others will require a separate weatherproof casing.

If you go the casing route, you will need to be sure to manage the temperature within the screen enclosure. Screens generate heat, and, if the temperature inside the enclosure becomes too hot, your outdoor display screen may be damaged. Note that freezing temperatures can also damage your outdoor sign. If your display screen is in an environment with occasional freezing temperatures, you will likely need to add a heat source to your screen enclosure. Be sure to check and comply with the requirements of your chosen display screen.

Nowadays, more and more outdoor display screens can withstand water exposure and a variety of weather conditions on their own. These screens do not need a secondary protective enclosure. This feature is important, as matching a secondary enclosure with a display screen is quite difficult. There compatibility issues concerning size, and temperature and moisture management within these enclosures is a real headache. Stand-alone outdoor digital signage screens are more expensive than screens that require a protective enclosure. However, the added convenience and avoided maintenance issues are often worth the price.

Dealing with the effects of sunlight on your outdoor digital signage

Another environmental consideration for outdoor digital signs is the effect of sunlight. For people to be able to see your LED sign, it must compete with the brightness of surrounding sunlight. To be seen in sunlit conditions, a display screen needs to be capable of displaying at approximately 700 nits or more. A “nit” is a measure of brightness. Of course, the screen will need to display at different brightness levels in different levels of sunlight. If a screen displays more brightly than required, the screen consumes unnecessary electricity. If a screen is not displaying brightly enough, potential customers will have a hard time viewing your outdoor advertising. Many outdoor digital signage displays have an ambient light sensor to deal with varying brightness levels. This sensor allows the screen to automatically adjust its brightness based on the lighting conditions of the environment.

Making things easy with outdoor digital signage software

Once you set up your outdoor digital sign, you need to populate this sign with content. Given the nature of outdoor digital signs, these screens are often hard to access. Outdoor digital signs can be elevated and hard to reach without a ladder, or they can be spread out across a city. Outdoor advertising management software allows users to change the content of their outdoor digital signs from anywhere. With these software platforms, users can change the content of their screens using a simple web interface on their laptop. Without such a content management system, users have to physically travel to each outdoor digital sign and upload new content via a USB drive. This process is unnecessarily time-consuming, and, in many cases, it is also dangerous.

When you are choosing a media management tool for your outdoor digital signage, make sure it has a few key features. First, ensure that the software allows you to manage multiple screens at once. If you are managing multiple screens, you do not want to have to upload new content to each screen individually. Some outdoor advertising management software will allow users to place screens into groups, and users can update the content for each of the screens in this group together via a single workflow.

Second, make sure that your digital signage software allows you to schedule assets to show at predetermined times. This feature is useful for outdoor digital signs with restaurants, as the restaurant can show different menu promotions for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This feature is also useful for cinema digital signage, as the theater may want to display content for a particular movie just prior to the movie’s show time.

Another useful feature is the ability to manage the status of your outdoor digital signs remotely. Particularly for outdoor digital sign deployments that are spread out across a city, teams that manage these signs must be quickly alerted of any playback issues. If teams are not informed, malfunctioning digital signs could be down for days or weeks before the team learns of the problem. Some outdoor advertising management software provides a useful dashboard that reports the display status of each screen in real time. If a screen experiences any issues, teams that are alerted of the issue can quickly visit and fix the outdoor digital sign.

Lastly, you will need to sort out internet connectivity for your outdoor digital sign. In many cases, it is not feasible to run an ethernet cable to your digital sign. Accordingly, you will need to connect your outdoor digital sign to the internet wirelessly in order to use outdoor digital signage management software. One option is to connect your outdoor sign to a WiFi connection. This option works well if your sign is located directly outside of your place of business and is well within the range of your store’s WiFi network. If you have outdoor signs that are spread across your city, you will need to connect these signs to a cellular network. Some outdoor digital signs have built-in hardware that enables the sign to connect to a mobile network.

If your screen does not have a built-in solution, you will need to buy an add-on device for your digital signage media player. Screenly’s digital signage media player uses a Raspberry Pi mini-computer. Altitude Technology offers a variety of Raspberry Pi HATs that allow your Raspberry Pi to connect to a cellular network. A Raspberry Pi HAT is a physical device that you simply attach to your Screenly Player. Altitude Technology has options for 3G and 4G/LTE connectivity. Do check out the price points of these Raspberry Pi HATs before considering them as part of your solution. These add-ons can be quite expensive! You can find a cheaper option from SixFab, but read the product description as SixFab’s add-on will require a few additional components that will cost you another US $100. If you are using a cellular network to connect your outdoor digital sign to the internet, you need to manage data usage carefully. If you download an image or video file each time you display it on your outdoor digital sign, this activity will quickly use up your data plan. To address this issue, Screenly Players automatically cache your digital signage content so that it only needs to be downloaded once.

Outdoor digital signs and security concerns

Developers often overlook security when it comes to IoT devices, and this phenomenon is certainly the case with outdoor digital signage. In fact, Screenly CEO Viktor Petersson wrote an article addressing this issue titled, “Why Are We Not Talking About Digital Signage Security.” Additionally, Viktor Petersson gave a lecture on the status of security in IoT at Container Camp Australia 2018 titled, “The ‘S’ in ‘IoT’ stands for Security.”

Outdoor digital signage is particularly vulnerable to attacks as these devices are often off-premise and unattended. Hackers can thereby access a device’s software and physical hardware. Businesses with outdoor digital signs must ensure that they choose software and hardware solutions with built-in security precautions and safeguards. If businesses deploy vulnerable outdoor digital signs, hackers make take over these outdoor signs and display unwanted content. Additionally, hackers may use outdoor signs as a backdoor to your company’s servers and access sensitive business data. To learn more on how to protect your outdoor digital signage, check out our article about how Screenly focuses on digital signage security.

Getting started with outdoor digital signage

To get started with outdoor digital signage solutions for your business or organization, you will need to purchase an outdoor display screen that can withstand the weather conditions of your environment. As mentioned earlier, the easiest route is to purchase an outdoor digital display screen that does not require a separate enclosure.

One option for a standalone weatherproof sign is SunBrite TV’s 49” Pro Series. This screen displays at 700 nits and is viewable in direct sunlight. Regarding temperature, the screen can operate between -40°F to 122°F (-40°C to 50°C). That should be fine for this planet! Importantly, the 49” Pro Series has a large media bay at the bottom. This space is important, as it provides an area for you to store your outdoor digital sign media player. Note that we are not a reseller of any of SunBrite TVs, so we cannot endorse or guarantee these solutions.

If you chose a display screen that needs an enclosure, AV-IQ will help you in your search for the best enclosure unit for your business. The website brands itself as “the largest database of professional AV, residential, production & video products.” Two solutions to check out are the one screen and two screen ViewStation QSR Enclosure units. These enclosures work great for outdoor menu boards for fast food drive-throughs. The Display Shield is another option to check out. It is a simpler enclosure, and it can support horizontal screen orientations. We are not a reseller of these enclosure units, so we can’t guarantee these solutions either. Before purchasing, double check with your screen manufacturer an enclosure provider to see if the two items are compatible and if they will suit your weather conditions.

For outdoor digital signage software, check out Screenly’s digital signage solution. Screenly software runs on the Screenly Player, and you will need one Screenly Player for each of your outdoor digital signs. If you have any questions regarding your outdoor digital signage needs, send us a note. We’re always happy to help.