The following is an excerpt from Digital Signage Today’s 2017 Digital Signage Future Trends

Large Area Seamless LED Digital Signage demand continues to grow in deployed areas at double digit percentages.  The very idea that millions of RGB LEDs packaged on tile-able, seamless boards in tight proximity create a large area display market not accessible to either LCD or OLED is fascinating.  That large area display market growth is fueled by an optimal combination of value and availability of the 1) hardware, 2) the software and the 3) content.  These three elements are serving all vertical markets in a world of ever increasing demand for deployments with the greatest impact and vertical market segment are seeing growth.  Leading these segments are Transportation, Corporate, Gaming, Sports, Retail and Federal Systems, all which are experiencing a strong 5 year growth curve.  The unit growth over the next 5 years is significant in indoor, indoor/outdoor and pure outdoor solutions; growth is not limited in geo or market.  The indoor LED Digital Signage market in m2 will grow annually to almost 250% of 2016 as we close 2022.

Show me the Money

The primary reason for this continued growth is the customer’s verified and validated return on investment.  While displays are often deployed for ego and architectural image only, the largest driver to a buying decision is the impact the digital signage will have on net revenue, brand growth and positive audience impact.  Simply put, digital signage generates new revenue and new revenue creates new sales growth and a larger market.  In parallel, the insatiable desire of the public to see digital stimulating image and video content everywhere has lit up public spaces.  There is also growing revenue in automating the programmed content for relevance and value and the availability of that content is now ubiquitous.  Anything available, anywhere, instantly with pristine digital format is demanded. The public expects displays and the customers expect compelling content around them.  Business experts are managing those expectations in an impressive delivery format to generate a significant return on investment.  Those improvements and volume growth beget lower costs and they beget lower prices and even greater ROIs.  Even though the opportunity headroom is large, there are few limitations in the next 5 years.  Cost reductions are difficult to normalize based upon a heterogeneous mix of reliability, life, specifications and applications.  However equal product of equivalent specification should be 30% of current prices by 2022.

Improvements and Evolution

Growth over the next five years will be fueled by continuous increased performance and lower cost (higher value) for equivalent performance year after year.  These performance improvements expand the market and digital signage impact in a monotonic never ceasing manner.  The improvement targets grow and open new applications.  Displays of common performance will be reduced in per unit area mass by >50% as we deploy products in 2022.  The volume potential reductions for LED displays will have two step function changes depending upon the application; expect standard design systems in liters/m2 to be cut in half on the average in the next 5 years with a fine pitch capability to have reductions of 75% by leveraging microelectronic packaging implementation.

Display system power efficacy increases (lower power and increased cd/W) are largely a product of the LED efficacy; a mature technology.  Being a well-learned component there is much less headroom.  New scanning methods and distributed power architectures will not have a large potential impact in cd/W.   Expect (for each specific implementation) the potential of only a 25% reduction in power efficacy (cd/W) with the same performance by 2022. Smaller volumes imply we will need to manage heat better in the newest designs to maintain junction temperature well below the specifications to support long life products.

Packaged RGB LEDs will continue to improve in overall optical performance, specifically color and luminance consistency, to assure displays can emulate more life-like performance.  We’re also seeing HD and Quad HD displays (large area, close viewing, indoor LED displays) replace DLP and LCOS projection displays.  At the fine pitch resolutions, MTBF requirements demand more reliability than any currently deployed SMD RGB LED displays in the world.  The 200ppm annual failure rates are unacceptable.  LED life and reliability must quickly approach and then be lower than the 10ppm failure rates to be effectively deployed as a competitor to projection displays and current seamed/tiled LCD video walls.  Leading LED packaging companies will attain these levels of <10ppm performance in 2017 and 2018.  Most SMD RGB LEDs in the market will remain at >200ppm so supply chain management will be critical to attain the needed performance.

Power and subsequent heat management (for reliability) remain a limitation on some deployments.  Pixel pitch options in the fine pitch (sub 2mm) category will continue to increase rapidly, leading to more effective, reliable and maintainable installation solutions.  The standard RGB SMT LED solution will asymptotically focus on the 0.8mm pixel pitch with sub 0.7mm packages.  At these densities it is important to assure operating device temperature remain below 60 degrees C.   The mechanical design is there to support these needs and the improvements merely require good design practices on heat removal.

Encouraging Revolutions in RBG LEDs

With  incremental and evolutionary improvements, there will be a revolution in LED Digital Signage operating in parallel.  This revolution will work to drop prices an additional 50% and redefine the electronic packaging of the solutions.  While the emphasis and impetus for this change is fine pitch LED, the impact will affect the wider pitches with time (if the cost reductions are fully realized).

First is the transition to Chip-on-Board LED panels.  The prepackaged SMD RGB LED is a wonderfully elegant pretested solution that assure the SMT process of high yield and consistent performance.  Binning is accomplished at the pre-assembly level and most inconsistencies are removed.  However, the prepackaged device as a cost that is 10X the cost of the bare die in the package.  A system level COB solution will package all the LED die for one module at one time on one removable board.  If the screening is adequate, the assembly methods repeatable and the interconnect (wire bond or thin film) is robust, the potential is to yield a board solution that is 50% of the cost of the equivalent SMD LED solution.  Facts on yield, service and reliability are still in evaluation but the suggestion for this approach has already been implemented and is in early prototyping across the industry.  The fact that repair is very difficult support the premise that cost needs to be low and replacement module size may need to be smaller.

Another blue ocean approach leverages the new area of micro-LED, or µLED.  The µ LED concepts is gaining significant support from the largest information leaders in the world, with the acquisition of evolving companies and the funding of higher resources.  While LED luminance and efficacy are directly proportional factors, the area of the device that currently drive architectures use the LEDs only 100th of the total frame time as they incorporate multiplexing up to 32:1 and pulse width modulation to achieve proper output brightness.  With the incorporation of future AMLED backplanes, utilization times moved from 100th of a frame to a total frame time (simplistic contrast) and the luminance can be 100th the level and the display can maintain the same cd/m2 or nits level. In addition changes in the driving schema will provide new solutions for image quality that will avoid some of the artifacts of the current non persistent display architectures that rely on the integration of the viewer’s eye but work poorly under electronic imaging solutions.  If implemented effectively, the µLED will drop costs another 50% and dramatically improve image quality, allowing the LED displays to begin the path of displacing and replacing DLP for Electronic Cinema.


LED digital Signage is improving on many design and innovation fronts –  all in parallel.  From evolution to revolutions, the changes all have significant near- and mid-term realizable benefits to the continued growth of this industry.  Each segment benefits. The market revenue growth is fed by the return on a display investment.  More deployments create more revenue and the spiral of growth continues.  We are all fortunate to find ourselves in an industry experiencing double digit grow as we look forward to the next 5 years.

~Gary Feather
NanoLumens Chief Technology Officer

For more future trends in digital signage, click here.