Market Insight

Competition between LCD and LED technology drives growth of 'outdoor' digital signage market

July 07, 2020  | Subscribers Only

Tay Kim Tay Kim Research and Analysis Associate Director, Digital Signage and Hospitality TV

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Traditionally, the main application for out-of-home digital signage displays has been ‘indoor’ usage intended for information delivery or product advertising. These displays utilize LCD technology that is relatively easy to implement for high resolution to secure visibility. Conversely, outdoor digital signage display requirements include high brightness and durability that LCDs do not normally possess.

OMDIA expects the growth rate of the ‘indoor’ digital signage market, which has already begun to slow down, will continue to slow in the future, except for interactive flat panel (IFP) touch displays that requires a separate touch function. However, due to saturation from rapid growth of the ‘indoor’ market through previous years, the demand generated for the ‘outdoor’ digital signage market is ramping up. More recently, many digital signage display vendors are turning their attention to the ‘outdoor’ market due to new opportunities arising from the coronavirus, in addition to the declining cost of high-brightness products made possible by further development and advancements in LCD panel technology.

On the other hand, the Public Display and Signage TV lineups for ‘outdoor’ or ‘semi-outdoor’ applications with brightness levels of more than 1000 nits is steadily increasing, mainly in the transportation sector (bus stations and  railroad outdoor platforms), and QSRs for various drive thru or menu board displays, which must deliver content under high ambient light.

In 2018 and 2019, public display shipments of about 100K per year were shown. However, with the completion of the large-scale QSR brand McDonald Drive Thru project in the US, coupled with coronavirus impacts, it is unlikely to avoid the decline in ‘outdoor’ product shipments in 2020. Nevertheless, display vendors are expanding their product offerings with brightness higher than 4000 nits and IP grades higher than 56 are steadily released. As a result, OMDIA forecasts a higher growth rate for ‘outdoor’ displays to gradually overtake the ‘indoor’ displays annual growth rate from 2021. OMDIA also expects a higher growth rate for ‘outdoor’ displays with the recent emergence of high brightness products within Signage TV. ‘The Terrace’ is Samsung’s new outdoor display line targeting both ‘Outdoor sports’ and ‘Hospitality’ verticals, with additional ‘outdoor’ market growth possible, depending on the success.

Previously, the ‘outdoor’ signage market has been a limited market for LCD technology, regarded as an area for LED technology with high brightness. However, LED technology shows an effort to reduce the chip size and pixel pitch steadily, and with the increasing resolution, it enters the ‘indoor’ market and starts competing with the LCD videowall. Conversely, expansion of LCDs for the ‘outdoor’ market is promoted with new application development. Among them, the two technologies started to compete directly in the ‘semi-outdoor’ market, especially for window-facing applications in retail and public spaces.

Aside from the common comparisons between LCD and LED technology for resolution and bezel width, OMDIA believes that analyzing the brightness specification offers a more intriguing comparison for these technologies in the ‘semi-outdoor’ market. Most often, the question of “Isn’t the brightness of LEDs more advantageous?” might seem apparent. However, due to the advancement of panel technology, LCDs now also offer brightness more than 4000 nits without any difficulty. Ironically, if LEDs use tiny LED chips to achieve higher resolution, it is possible that LEDs may have lower brightness levels than LCDs. As such, it is not easy to say that LEDs have more advantage than LCDs for brightness levels in the ‘semi-outdoor’ market.

Therefore, LED companies are developing outdoor products with fine pixel pitch rather than wide pixel pitch products, which are inferior for high resolution. The current price of outdoor LED video displays with 2-2.99mm pixel pitch and 3-4.99mm pixel pitch products is already similar to high-brightness LCDs, so a higher price is required for fine pixel pitch products with higher specifications. Each LED video display company is trying to close the price gap as much as possible. As a result of these efforts, Leyard, a leading LED video display manufacturer, recently introduced lineups for 1.5mm and 1.9mm pixel pitch ‘outdoor’ products, so the competitive composition of LEDs and LCDs in the ‘outdoor’ and ‘semi-outdoor’ markets will become more intense and interesting.

Research by Market
Large Displays
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