invidis analysis

Digital Signage is not ready yet for UHD

Two major trends dominate digital signage: the demand for larger displays and the desire for lower prices. In a perfect world that means price sensitive displays with 60” diameter and larger. A market commentary.

Large size doesn’t rule out low prices: the market leading display vendors offer already large professional displays which are affordable. But the limit of affordable is somewhere around 5k Euros. Single large format displays priced over EUR 5k need to compete with combined video wall solutions. Defining the tipping point between single display and video walls is a dynamic and from region to region varying challenge.

What does it mean for UHD?

The digital signage product offering is factory driven by consumer displays. The biggest thing for TV’s besides curved is UHD. That is the main reason why UHD will be the dominating resolution in very large format displays in the coming months. We record a high demand for control room applications. The high resolution makes perfect sense in the control room environment and UHD large format displays are usually much more affordable than special solutions from eyevis, Barco & Co. If they are better suited for typical 24/7 operations is a different story.

Display vendors have been looking beyond control rooms and identified digital signage as the next big driver for UHD. There seems to be a solid demand for professional, very large format displays. An undisputed demand for large format is evident, but we don’t see a significant demand for ultra-high resolutions as offered by UHD. Today’s digital signage installations are still coping with managing and transferring Full HD content. By the way, the dominating content format – Adobe Flash – is almost unthinkable in UHD resolution.

The majority of content played out to video walls doesn’t max out the available resolution. Most system integrators settle with less –1080p content is still more an exception than the rule. If today’s projects settle with far less resolution than technically available, why should they even bother with four time the resolution offered by UHD or the multiple for video walls? That’s very unlikely for the next three years. Not taking into consideration the much higher costs for content, media player and connectivity. Does the customer achieve a positive ROI through UHD resolution in a standard project? Hardly!

Wherefore UHD?

Big images usually don’t need very high resolutions as the minimum viewing distance should be a multiple of the video wall diameter. The differences between Full HD and UHD is not visible for a typical spectator passing by a video wall at the Point of Sale. That is similar to large printed poster which also uses a low resolution which looks perfectly fine from a distance.
(Ultra) High resolution is necessary for applications which require to display large amount of information from various sources (control rooms) or when the viewer is very close to the display (tablets or mobile phones). Or to give a traditional example: a postcard needs to be printed in photo quality whereas the resolution of a street side poster is far less demanding.

Is there a future for UHD in digital signage?

Definitely yes: but similar to the launch of HD it’ll take a couple years for UHD to be the established, standard resolution. Integration of UHD displays in digital signage projects will start much earlier as the industry will offer UHD-only from 65” upwards very soon.

Today, digital SLRs and a few premium smart phones offer already 4k resolution. The size of memory cards and consumer content creation software will follow soon. Eventually UHD will be standard and dictate the minimum requirements for media player, software and connectivity in digital signage RFPs. Maybe not next year but latest in 2016 enterprise RFP will require UHD, even if it’s only for the sake of being “future-proof”. Till then UHD display prices will drop to Full HD levels. And we will then start worrying about 8k. But that is another story for the new decade 2020.

Ergebnisse der DBCI Befragung zu UHD April 2014
UHD survey results of the DBCI – DACH / April 2014 (Image: invidis)

UHD is also a major topic being discussed by industry experts at the 8th OVAB Digital Signage Conference Munich on September 18th 2014. The annual event is hosted by invidis consulting conveniently located right at Munich Airport. The strategy conference for digital signage and digital out of home is the leading event in EMEA.

For more information about the „OVAB Digital Sigange Conference Munich“ click here.