Arizona State University

Brighter than the Sun: How LED Displays Outsmart Nature’s Top Challenger

Joey Davis August 9, 2018 175 Views 0 Comments blog

Squirrels, seagulls, fish, and countless other creatures are attracted to bright objects. This is why birds’ nests are often found to contain small metallic trinkets and why fisherman use shiny lures that glimmer in the water. Humans have a more sophisticated nervous system than these animals but we aren’t really all that different when it comes to instinctively turning our attention to the brightest objects around us. It comes as no surprise then that large-format LED display solutions are better at attracting our attention than perhaps any other technologies we have created. Still, these displays are not without competition. NanoLumens creates displays that are installed both indoors and out, so ambient sunlight is a common obstacle we often find our displays working against. It is difficult to be the brightest thing around when competing with the sun, but we build our solutions in ways that work around and through this issue.

A 4:1 Contrast Ratio is Recommended

In the digital display industry, brightness is frequently measured in “nits,” with one nit being equivalent to one candela per square meter. We could spend all day diving into what that means, but for now just understand that during most of the day sunlight reflects off outdoor displays at around 2,200 nits. To overcome this reflective light from the sun, we recommend operating a display at four times the level of nits present from ambient reflective light, regardless of where the display is located. The levels of reflective sunlight hitting an indoor display will be significantly smaller than 2,200 nits as light is filtered through windows but the goal of hitting a 4:1 contrast ratio remains. This ratio will allow the light from your display content to outshine the glare of ambient light to deliver audiences a clear picture. At NanoLumens, we continue a step further and specifically design our displays to minimize the reflectiveness of their surfaces. This lets displays operate at reduced brightness levels while still maintaining that 4:1 contrast ratio, thus allowing for lower energy usage and longer lifetimes for pixels.

Sensors Adjust Display Brightness as Ambient Light Changes

To accommodate for changing light levels throughout the day, we include ambient light sensors in all of our outdoor or outdoor facing displays. These sensors measure the presence of ambient light and forward that information to the display management platform, which correspondingly adjusts the brightness levels of the display. An illustration of this adaptive brightness technology can be found at the Beus Center for Law and Society at Arizona State University, where you’ll find an indoor display that faces off against the scorching Phoenix sun through massive glass windows. Though the reflective light from the sun hits the display with fewer nits than it would a fully outdoor display, ambient light levels fluctuate dramatically as the sun moves through the sky and rays bounce off adjacent buildings. Despite this challenge, the self-adjusting display has proven so successful in reinvigorating the surrounding communal area that Commercial Integrator honored it with their 2017 Integration Award for Best Higher Education Project.

As anyone can surely imagine, the harder a display is worked, the further its performance will erode. If the display at the Beus Center were to engage its full brightness capacity 24 hours a day, its performance would diminish a fair deal more quickly than it would under its current, self-adjusting usage pattern. Finding the optimal level of brightness for each use case will extend the performance lifespan of your display and will save on both energy and maintenance costs as well. That’s why it’s helpful to have a built-in sensor and adaptor that can do it for you. For any outdoor or outdoor facing display, the sun is always going to be a factor. At NanoLumens, we take steps to prepare for it so that when the sun shines, we shine brighter. To read more about the Beus Center display, click here.