Searching for "Outdoor Digital Signage Displays" returns about 10 million pages in Google. There are thousands of different outdoor displays from dozens of outdoor digital signage suppliers. This is for tech leaders at theme parks, zoos and ski resorts. It’s a deep dive into the key factors to consider from a technology standpoint to drive the best business outcomes.
Importance of digital signage in theme parks
In our previous article on the vast topic of outdoor digital signage, we took a close look at how the latest types of signage can transform theme parks with a specific focus on large-format outdoor LED displays. Through dynamic messaging and real-time interactivity, business leaders at theme parks, zoos and ski resorts can multiply guest engagement, drive stronger business outcomes while reducing their cost significantly (use our outdoor digital signage ROI calculator to see it for yourself).
Purpose of this article
We provide technology leaders with in-depth knowledge on outdoor digital signage displays to help them navigate the maze of architectural possibilities and technical factors. We hope this will assist them in collaborating with their business colleagues to select the best solution for their organization. One that will drive the best business outcomes for their theme park, zoo or ski resort.
Overview of key factors to consider when choosing outdoor digital signage displays
There are a number of key factors to consider when deciding on outdoor digital signage displays for your theme park. Each category of display has pros and cons to be aware of. Brightness and contrast, viewing angle and color accuracy, durability and weather resistance, interactivity and connectivity options, vendor selection and evaluation, implementation and deployment are all factors that we’ll be looking into in further details in this article as they should all be properly evaluated before making a purchase decision.
Understanding your needs and requirements for a successful Outdoor Digital Signage Displays deployment
Determine the purpose and message of your signage
A marketing technology solution such as outdoor digital signage should be first evaluated based on the business goal that you are looking to achieve.
In terms of marketing outcome, what are you looking to achieve when driving your digital transformation by deploying outdoor digital signage displays at your theme park?
Guest engagement comes top of mind.
Which messages, at which cadence, location, and most importantly, at which emotional point in your guests’ park experience are you looking to deliver to increase guest engagement?
Let’s take a simple, concrete example.
Let’s assume that you currently welcome your guest at your theme park with a large non-digital sign such as this one:
Imagine the messaging becomes dynamic.
Do you see the marketing possibilities beyond just welcoming your guests?
In real-time, on top of establishing your welcoming park brand and branding, you’ll be able to display high-value messaging such as park map, rides status and wait times, promotional messaging and more.
You can use large outdoor digital signage displays at the entrance of your park at the first touch point of your in-park marketing strategy to increase engagement and achieve your revenue outcomes related to ticketing and merchandising in a very dynamic fashion
Consider the physical location and environmental factors
You should give some strategic thoughts on displays’ location and messaging.
For example, if you are running a theme park with historic homes of well known political or royal leaders, along the roads or paths leading to the homes, you could share eye-catching historic facts or information deeply relevant to your park’s theme.
On top of strategy, think of local operations.
If you are running a theme park in Alaska, you’ll probably need very different outdoor digital signage displays than if you run an outdoor museum in South Florida.
We’ll touch on durability and weather resistance later in this article. We encourage you to check out that section as well.
Assess your budget and technology requirements
When you enter your parks’ specific requirements in our ROI calculator, you’ll be instantly able to determine the upfront budget to implement outdoor digital signage displays at all your strategic locations in your park.
On top of that, as a technology leader at a park, you’ll have to understand the technology requirements at each of the strategic locations decided in collaboration between your business teams and your tech teams.
These requirements will help you inform your vendor evaluation and selection. To assist you in driving the best outcome for your park organization from this aspect, we’ll touch on this subject later in this article.
Types of Outdoor Digital Signage Displays
This is something that we have covered in our recent article entitled “How Outdoor Digital Signage is Transforming Theme Parks in 2023”, specifically: LED displays, LCD displays, Projection displays and even a comparison of pros and cons of each type of display.
Key Features to look for in Outdoor Digital Signage Displays
Brightness and contrast
In order for us to understand brightness, we first need to understand the notion of luminous intensity.
Luminous intensity is the quantity of light that is emitted per unit of time (the unit of time in the International System is the second) and per unit of solid angle. The unit for the quantity of light flowing from a luminous source over the course of one second, also called luminous power or luminous flux for physicists out there fans of the Maxwell's equations, is the lumen.
The unit of luminous intensity stems from considering a luminous source, typically in the wavelength range visible to the human eye that spans 555 to 685 nanometers, in a given direction.
This unit is called the candela, also known as cd.
We look at the intensity in a given direction of a source that emits a monochromatic radiation of frequency 540 × 10^12 hertz (wavelength = celerity of light over frequency so this frequency corresponds to 3.10^8/540.10^12 = 555 nanometers which is the entry wavelength generally detected by the human eye) and has a radiant intensity in that same direction of 1/683 watt per steradian (unit solid angle).
That’s one lumen per steradian which is equal to one candela.
This leads us to the standard metrics to evaluate outdoor digital signage displays brightness, NITs. “Nitere” is the latin verb at the origin of this standard brightness unit, which means “to shine”. Make it shorter and plural and you get to NITs.
One NIT is one candela per square meter.
Contrast is best evaluated through the Contrast Ratio (CR) of an outdoor digital signage display.
It’s the ratio between the luminance of the brightest source on the screen (white) and the darkest shade (black, pixels on newer screens such as OLED and QLED are totally turned off and not just dimmed down in their black state which increases the contrast ratio for these screens).
CR ranges from 200:1 on transmissive digital projectors to 6000:1 on the latest outdoor digital signage displays from the best manufacturers.
On a screen such as the OH55A-S by Samsung (one of our favorites), you’ll find a CR at 6000:1 and 3500 NITs.
You’ll get 3000:1 and lower brightness at 1500 NITs on the Sunbrite 32" Pro 2 LED HDR Outdoor TV - Full Sun - SB-P2-32-1K
Viewing angle and color accuracy
We should actually talk about “solid viewing angle” here since the viewing of any screen is limited by moving both horizontally and vertically towards the edge of the vision cone. This might be too geeky for being the norm in the outdoor digital signage displays industry and the tech specs mention both the vertical and the horizontal angles with 178º x 178º being a common viewing angle in 2023 (just shy a couple degrees in both directions of a half circle at 180º or at Pi radians).
So, what happens when you reach the edge?
It all depends on the outdoor digital signage display in question. Brightness drop-off may be stronger, a decrease in contrast ratio and color shifting.
For example, in the LCD (liquid crystal display) digital displays category, there are three types to consider: IPS, VA and TN.
IPS panels will give you better color accuracy and wider viewing angles when compared to TN. They have slower response times though.
VA displays have higher contrast ratios (CR as explained above) than IPS and TN but have narrow viewing angles and tend to showcase slower response times.
Fastest response times are available with TN panels. They are the most affordable, but have poor color accuracy and limited viewing angles.
In the specific technical context of a theme park, an IPS panel is preferred due to its wider viewing angle and better color accuracy. They best sustain color accuracy and brightness from a wider range of viewing positions. TN displays tend to wash out in bright sunlight making IPS a better choice.
It’s important to remember that for the same viewing angle, you may have noticeably different performances from one display from another. You should really factor in other factors such as brightness and contrast as discussed above and color accuracy to look at the full picture, no pun intended.
How well an outdoor digital signage display can reproduce colors and shades as intended defines its color accuracy.
Color accuracy is important for outdoor digital signage displays because it affects how well the information is conveyed to the audience. If the colors are not accurate, then the message might be hard to read or understand. To make sure that the colors are correct, you need to measure them.
There are several ways to measure color accuracy, but one of the most common methods is using a color meter. A color meter is a tool that reads the colors on the screen and compares them to a standard. The standard is usually a color chart that has been carefully created to represent the correct colors.
To measure the color accuracy of an outdoor digital signage display, you need to follow these steps:
- Place the color meter in front of the display and turn it on.
- Hold the color meter up to the screen and press the button to take a reading.
- Check the results on the color meter to see if the colors are accurate. If they are not, you will need to adjust the settings on the display until they match the standard.
Another way to measure color accuracy is to use software. There are many different software programs available that can be used to check the colors on the screen. These programs work by taking a picture of the display and then comparing the colors in the picture to the standard.
The software will then give you a report that shows the difference between the colors on the screen and the standard. You can use this information to adjust the settings on the display until the colors are accurate
It is important to regularly check the color accuracy of outdoor digital signage displays because the colors can change over time due to factors like sunlight, weather, and aging of the screen. By regularly checking the colors and making adjustments when necessary, you can ensure that the information on the screen is always clear and easy to understand.
QLED and OLED screens have much stronger color accuracy than older technology signage displays such as LCD. Among LCD screens, IPS have the strongest color accuracy.
Durability and weather resistance
IP ratings are a way to measure how well an outdoor digital signage display is protected from weather and other environmental factors. The IP rating has two numbers. The first number measures the protection against solid objects, and the second number measures the protection against liquids. For example, IP56 means the display is well protected against dust and water.
To measure the durability and weather resistance of outdoor digital signage displays, it is important to consider the IP rating. A higher IP rating means the display is better protected and more durable. Some common IP ratings for outdoor displays are IP56, IP65, and IP67.
It is also important to consider the materials used in the construction of the display. Displays made with high-quality materials, such as aluminum and tempered glass, are more durable and weather-resistant than displays made with lower-quality materials.
Finally, is to select the right manufacturer. In an upcoming article we will focus on helping you compare such manufacturers so you can make the best purchase decision for your theme park, zoo or ski resort.
Interactivity and connectivity options
Touchscreens Outdoor Digital Signage Displays
There are different types of touchscreens for outdoor digital signage displays, including resistive, capacitive, and infrared touchscreens. Resistive touchscreens are durable and work with any type of stylus or finger. Capacitive touchscreens are more accurate and responsive, but only work with a bare finger. Infrared touchscreens use beams of light to detect touch and are durable in outdoor environments.
Each type of touchscreen has its own advantages, so it's important to choose the one that best fits the needs of your outdoor digital signage display.
Depending on the type of capacitive touchscreen and the temperature. Some capacitive touchscreens are designed to work with gloves, while others are not. At low temperatures, it may be difficult for the touch screen to detect the touch of a gloved hand. In such cases, a touch screen that is specifically designed to work with gloves may be a better choice.
However, it is always best to check with the manufacturer or supplier of the capacitive touchscreen to determine its compatibility with gloves in low temperature conditions. They may be able to provide recommendations or modifications to make the touch screen usable with gloves in cold weather.
Capacitive touchscreens are generally considered more accurate in terms of multitouch compared to other touchscreens such as resistive ones. Capacitive touchscreens work by detecting changes in electrical current when a finger or other conductive object comes into contact with the screen. This makes them highly accurate and responsive, and able to recognize multiple touch points at once.
In comparison, resistive touchscreens work by pressing two conductive layers together, which can lead to less accurate and less responsive multitouch capabilities.
It's worth noting that the accuracy of multitouch capabilities can also depend on the quality and design of the touchscreen, as well as the processing capabilities of the device it is integrated into. So while capacitive touchscreens are often considered more accurate, there can be variations in performance between different touchscreens and setups.
QR on Outdoor Digital Signage Displays
As we’ve recently showcased it at the IAAPA conference in Orlando a few months ago, including a QR on a digital signage ad is a great way to engage your guests.
See for yourself here, scan the QR code of the ad we ran at IAAPA on our high brightness, high contrast ratio and color accuracy digital signage to demo our new guest engagement text messaging app, Alpine Text™:
Imagine the interactive possibilities when you display such QR code and deep link your park guests directly into the experience that amplifies your growth outcomes.
The possibilities are infinite, from wayfinding to merchandising and more, you dynamically drive growth and deeper guest engagement throughout your customer experience.
Computer vision and Outdoor Digital Signage Displays
QR codes became the de facto standard to connect target customers, or guests, to a digital resource from a digital screen or even a more traditional form of non-digital marketing asset such as a traditional signage.
Yet, it’s just a baby step in a much broader subject that is gaining a lot of AI research attention, computer vision.
Beyond QR, tech leaders at theme parks, zoos and ski resorts can already leverage computer vision to create next-generation guest engagement in their industry.
For example, our custom Alpine mobile apps are able to connect your guest to the digital marketing resource of your choice - in-app content or web content - in a simple snap of a picture.
Guests snap a picture of an ad running on your outdoor digital signage display at your park and we are able to deep link them directly to any digital marketing resource of your choice either within your custom app or your website.
Computer vision opens up a number of new guest engagement opportunities without the branding hassle stemming from pixelated codes such as QR.
The user experience is elegant and easy while fully respecting your branding.
Outdoor Digital Signage Displays connectivity and infrastructure integration diagram
Using the connectivity diagram above, we can see that the signage media player has two types of connectivity: WiFi and HDMI.
HDMI is the standard connection between the outdoor digital signage displays and the media player.
In order for the media player to display relevant information on the screen to your guests, it must be connected to the Content Management Server (CMS).
This connection requires LAN or WAN connectivity generally via WiFi. It can also be achieved with Ethernet cables, preferably Category 5 cables.
In some instances we have also leveraged 4G and 5G cellular network data connectivity to connect media players to LAN for several marquees at schools in Colorado. We also currently leverage this type of wireless connectivity to provide on-the-go data feeds, including video, to outdoor digital signage displays installed on chairlifts.
You can see one of these installations in action on the following picture at a ski resort.
Wireless connectivity feeds data, including video, to chairlifts’ outdoor digital signage displays
Satellite connections between the media player and the CMS are also in operation for some of our clients. In this case we leverage the Starlink satellite network to achieve LAN or WAN connectivity.
You can read more about LiftDigital™ here.
Vendor Selection and Evaluation
Research and compare different vendor options
This, in itself, requires a full article.
We’ll be sharing an in-depth vendor selection, evaluation and comparison article soon.
In the meantime, here is a list of some of the vendors that we consider when building a full outdoor digital signage displays infrastructure for our customers:
- LG Electronics
- NEC Display Solutions
- Christie Digital Systems
- Elo Touch Solutions
- Planar Systems
- DynaScan Technology
Note: This is not an exhaustive list, and the availability of these suppliers may vary by region. It's recommended to research and compare the products and services offered by these and other suppliers to determine the best fit for your specific needs.
Look for vendor reliability and customer reviews
MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure) is a good reliability indicator to consider in your outdoor digital signage display buying decision journey.
MTBF = Number of hours the screen is in operation / Number of failures in operational hours
In essence, it’s the average time a screen operates without failures. This metric can be influenced by a number of factors including the number and types of connections to the screen, the context in which the screen is deployed (harsh weather, temperature conditions) and other factors.
In 2023, some screens can achieve MTBF of over 100,000 hours.
When looking for a reliable vendor, look for high MTBF and low MTTR.
MTTR stands for Mean Time To Repair, the lower the MTTR the more you maximize the uptime of your equipment.
Digital signage today wrote this interesting article that can help you understand how to minimize MTBF, the number of cable connections to the screen and the quality of the component used will directly affect your operational MTBF.
On top of evaluating vendor reliability, you should look for and read vendor ratings and reviews.
Consider vendor support and maintenance services
Vendor support and maintenance services need to be clearly assessed. As for most network equipment you operate, you want to make sure that in case of failure, outdoor digital signage displays can be recovered quickly.
Ask vendors for their support quality metrics. Guaranteed Time for Intervention (GTI) and Guaranteed Time for Repair (GTR) can vary considerably from one vendor to another.
At Alpine Media we offer 15 minutes GTI and as short as 24 hours GTR for maintenance tickets on Alpine services and components.
Note that in some cases, your infrastructure can recover on its own and we are able to tell you if that is going to be the case within minutes after you contact us.
Another criteria to consider when evaluating vendor support for outdoor digital signage displays are warranty claims. Give preference to a vendor who will handle warranty claims for you in case a screen failure under warranty happens.
This can save you a lot of time.
We handle warranty claims for you at Alpine Media.
Implementation and Deployment
Proper installation and maintenance of displays
Defining proper installation and maintenance really depends on the type of outdoor digital signage displays you’ll be deploying at your theme park, zoo or ski resort.
The best ones can be mounted anywhere and in the open. You don’t need to plan your strategic deployment with roofing in mind. They will sustain rain, wind and harsh winter weather for years.
As for any electrical devices, you’ll need to power up all components of the outdoor infrastructure, all screens and media players.
For larger displays, we recommend working with a reliable partner that will conduct a comprehensive engineering analysis. With larger screens, stability challenges related to wind speed must be studied in detail to ensure full security of your park guests and limit your risks and liabilities.
We offer complimentary engineering analysis and have helped customers successfully deploy very large screens – including this 15 feet x 9 feet outdoor digital signage display at Angel Fire Resort. This very large screen features over 1 Million high intensity pixels and is able to sustain winds of 100+ Mph.
Integration with existing technology infrastructure
It’s important to make sure your outdoor digital signage displays and their supporting technology infrastructure will integrate seamlessly into your existing technology operation.
Both the media players and your Content Management Server will have to fit in your overall IT network architecture. They all have TCP/IP interfaces and you should be able to integrate them in your current infrastructure in 24 hours or less.
From experience, you should be able to complete the entire integration with comprehensive testing of all new interfaces introduced into your network in a business day or less.
Content creation and management
The CMS (Content Management Server) is the part of your outdoor digital signage displays infrastructure which allows you to dynamically change and even schedule all your marketing messages, or other guest engagement information, on all your displays or a specific subset.
A basic CMS is user friendly but only allows to dynamically change the content displayed on a limited number of pages, typically 5. This means you could rotate 5 different messaging at any point in time which can be quite limiting.
On the other hand, Alpine Media CMS offers much more flexibility and possibilities. Each page can be dynamically turned into a 4-page subset as shown on the diagram above.
This means that you can dynamically leverage 4^5 = 1,024 messaging possibilities. Plus you can independently set the duration each message is displayed. There is no cookie cutter set timer applied to all pages across the board.
We make it very easy to manage your dynamic guest engagement strategy. We can handle large volumes of messaging and any format. Imagine the possibilities. Any type of video format, any animated media format, including GIF animated and any other animations of your choice.
We wrote this article for tech leaders at theme parks, zoos and ski resorts to drive the best business outcome from their technology decision for a comprehensive deployment of outdoor digital signage displays.
Tech leaders must consider a number of key technological factors to best support the guest engagement strategy in their park operations. First, a clear understanding of your needs and requirements is the right starting point. Second, a solid knowledge of the different types of outdoor digital signage displays is key to creating the most relevant customer experience. Third, we looked into the key technological features tech leaders should familiarize themselves with in order to compare vendor options. Fourth, beyond tech characteristics, tech leaders should consider core reliability and maintenance service metrics when evaluating competitive alternatives.
Last but not least, when deploying an outdoor digital signage displays solution, tech leaders should make sure the new infrastructure will sustain the local weather conditions and easily integrate into their existing IT infrastructure.
For a complimentary evaluation and recommendation on your outdoor digital signage displays deployment, simply fill out the form below to get in touch: