Digital Signage T1 Networking
High reliability and wide bandwidth
using T1 lines to support digital billboards and other electronic
By: John Shepler
Outdoor advertising in town
looks more like an enormous plasma TV than a billboard. It's
actually an LED matrix display the same size as the large outdoor
billboard it replaces. Unlike the billboards with replaceable
vinyl banners, this new billboard can change messages as often
as every few seconds. It also glows for easy readability both
day and night.
What Digital Signage is All About
Digital signage is the new term for all types of electronic displays
including LED video billboards, time and temperature signs at
banks, crawling stock tickers, ballpark scoreboards, and flat
panel TVs showing ads in grocery stores. The largest examples
are the 120 foot tall rounded LED display at the NASDAQ-AMEX
Marketsite Tower in Times Square and the enormous overhead LED
video screen called the Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas.
The Billboard Becomes a Video Screen
These gigantic electronic signs are made up of replaceable modules
containing high brightness Light Emitting Diodes instead of light
bulbs. All-electronic LEDs are low maintenance and can last 70,000
or more hours before needing replacement. They can be addressed
individually like pixels on a computer monitor. Clusters of different
color LEDs can display millions of RGB (Red, Green, Blue) colors.
From normal viewing distances, the LED pixels produce a smooth
picture that can be refreshed at video rates. In essence, the
billboard has become a TV screen.
Real-Time Advertising Opportunities
While smaller digital signs and simple one color matrix displays
are intended for a single business location and programmed locally,
many of the larger multicolor billboards are suitable for general
commercial advertisements. Signs that have similar resolution
to the paper and vinyl panels they replace can serve the same
purpose, but with vastly expanded options. Many are used to display
a series of different advertisements on a rotating basis. But
the potential is there to update images on demand. For instance,
a store located near a large billboard could offer 1 hour special
sales. A bakery could tell drivers to take the next exit to get
in on the hot batch of pastries just coming out of the oven.
Billboards could feature breakfast specials to freeway drivers
in morning rush hour and dinner specials during evening drive
Ad Changes on the Fly
This ability to advertise by day part has long been a staple
of radio and TV stations, but now comes within the ability of
outdoor advertising as more and more billboards are converted
to digital signage. The LED display can also show moving images,
even video and TV. The challenge for creative ad departments
is now to leverage this new capability appropriately, so the
message gets through in the time available to view it.
T1 Data Lines Update the Signs On Demand
Another challenge is to replace the fleet of trucks that go around
updating billboards once a week, a month or longer, with high
speed network links so that the electronic billboards can be
updated on a real-time basis. This requires a private or virtually
private network with reasonable bandwidth and high reliability.
Some operators use satellite Earth stations or fiber optic cables,
depending on what is available. Another option is T1 data lines,
which are almost universally available even in remote locations.
T1 service is highly reliable, comes with a service level guarantee,
and offers a bandwidth of 1.5 Mbps for rapid download updates.
The reverse channel can be used to monitor billboard performance
or perhaps send video camera images of traffic conditions at
Total Inventory Control
T1 private lines or VPNs (Virtual Private Networks), running
on T1 dedicated Internet connections or MPLS networks, offer
the opportunity to control an entire inventory of outdoor ad
locations from a central point. Advertisers can then pick the
locations, times, rotation schedule, and creative updates as
needed for their campaigns. New content can be uploaded from
advertiser to ad agency to the desired signs almost as fast as
it can be created. That's the promise of digital signage networking.
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