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Technology Showcase: LCD Lobby Displays

Dec 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Jay Ankeney

From kiosks to videowalls, the selection of hospitality flatscreens is growing.

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Hyundai IT D400ML/D460ML

Hyundai IT D400ML/D460ML

Lobby displays are the warm and fuzzy siblings of the expanding digital-signage family. Instead of blaring out advertising, flashing directional commands, or hyping the latest gotta-get-'em item at a desperate sale price, lobby displays usually present information you actually want to know. They beckon you warmly to hotel registration desks, gently empower your self-service efforts to purchase tickets and other merchandise, or tell you when the next presentation is due to start at a theater, cineplex, or museum. While most digital signage roars, lobby displays usually purr.

As lobby displays become ever more ubiquitous, LCD flatpanels have come to predominate. This is partially due to their lower cost in smaller panel sizes, but also because of their historical resistance to burn-in when the same logo or branded icon has to stay in the same place on the screen 24 hours a day. In addition, the energy efficiency of LCDs has proved to be more green, and while home users are only starting to become aware of the energy requirements of their entertainment screens, facilities managers are increasingly monitoring the kilowattage it takes to keep their lobby displays shining.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that a 42in. LCD display can consume less than half the energy required by the equivalent plasma screen, especially if the plasma set only goes into standby mode when shut off. To encourage conservation, on Nov. 1, the EPA began awarding Energy Star labels to displays that are up to 30 percent more energy efficient than conventional models. With soaring costs per kilowatt hour, that can start to make a difference if your lobby displays are on 24/7.

You'd have to be as blind as a bat not to have noticed that digital signage is exploding. Although figures for lobby displays by themselves are hard to break out, the sales of commercial LCDs are doing very well. According to DisplaySearch — a worldwide leader in market research, consulting, and conferences on the display supply chain and display-related industries — sales of LCD public displays that are more than 26in. will grow from $447,967,000 in 2006 to $2,889,671,000 in 2011. This represents an increase in unit shipments of 196,926,000 displays in 2006 to 2,527,536,000 in 2011 with 0.04 percent of them being more than 100in.

Since they are intended for well-lit public areas, most lobby displays are expected to put out a luminance intensity of at least 600 candela per square meter (cd/m2) or nits of brightness and a robust contrast ratio that would not be required for home-theater installations.

Many lobby displays can be configured in multipanel videowalls since they are intended to catch the eye in the background of a public environment. Or in more intimate settings, they can stand alone, often mounted in areas where decisions have to be made. Although they all boast VESA-compliant mounting patterns so they can be hung on walls, many LCD panels are designed to sit on registration counters or self-supporting pedestals. This gives them the look more of a compliant butler than the commanding majordomo presence associated with most other digital-signage displays.

To get signals into a lobby display, multiple connection options on the back of the chassis are usually provided — including HDMI, DVI, BNC (component/composite), and VGA ports, along with an RS-232c port to remotely control the display's functions. Content can be provided over a network via IP, or from built-in media players and various card readers. Of course, to keep innocent fingers from messing with the look of the display, most front-panel controls are locked out.

In recent years, the capability of being able to choose portrait (vertical) or landscape (horizontal) orientation has become increasingly appealing. While back in the days of relatively square (4×3) CRT screens this wasn't a big factor, the rectangular (16×9) faces of modern LCD panels have encouraged many lobby-display designers to stand them on their heads.

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