Modern Display Technology Can Handle New On-Off Energy Restriction Demands In EU: NEC-Sharp Experts

September 8, 2022 by Dave Haynes

EDITOR – This is an interesting take from German language content partner Invidis, with insights from Sharp-NEC, on how digital signage network operators can navigate energy consumption and cost issues that have emerged in Europe.

Guest Post: Florian Rotberg, Invidis

In times of scarce energy supply, the pressure on digital signage network operators increases, because the general public is now wired to save electricity: The turmoil surrounding the Energy Saving Ordinance has brought the electricity consumption of analogue and digital advertising systems to the front pages of the media. According to the political experts of the Federal Ministry of Economics, a total of 35 percent of energy savings should be achieved by the ban on operating between 10 p.m. and 4 p.m. The extent of the regulation is debatable. From the point of view of energy consumption, it is undisputed that switching off digital signage systems at night would often make sense – not only in the DooH area. For many operators, however, a complete shutdown is still an impossibility.

Invidis asked experts Nils Detje and Erik Elbert from Green Signage pioneer Sharp NEC Display Solutions Europe which pragmatic quick fixes help now and which structural changes should be aimed for in the long term.

No continuous operation in DooH and retail

The outdated industry rules not to completely shut down digital signage installations at night are incomprehensible to the general public. Is continuous operation still operationally necessary? “Absolutely not and from a technological point of view there are no longer any reasons for it. Only the inrush current needs to be considered. For example, each LED module has its own power supply unit, the resulting inrush current is many times higher than the nominal current that flows later and can thus overload the building services and lead to failures. However, the overall system does not require much power. If you regulate the switch-on process with a switch-on controller, the individual modules are started up sequentially and power peaks are avoided. The investment is small compared to the overall system,”

According to the Sharp/NEC experts, both the LED and the LCD are technically so mature today that nothing stands in the way of shutting them down every day. “But with many existing LED installations, switching off is simply not intended as they have always run through until now”. invidis has also received this feedback from the market in recent days as part of the current discussions: LED walls are usually in operation 24/7 – even if they run at night without content and therefore consume less energy.

For modern LCD and LED displays, shutting down shouldn’t be a problem. (Photo: Sharp/NEC)

Quick fixes with a big impact

But this is one of the biggest levers in the industry and one of the fastest ways towards green signage: LED systems should be shut down completely outside of usage times, because in standby mode they still run with a certain percentage of the maximum power consumption. A switch-on control would be a quick fix here, for example.

Another acute power-saving measure offers automatic brightness control through a brightness sensor. With the display brightness adapted to the time of day, between 20 and 30 percent of energy can be saved. The influence of the content on the energy balance is also often underestimated: if you switch to a black background with white text on LED screens, the power consumption drops by up to 50 percent.

Outdoor screens can also be switched off

Sustainable operation is also possible with outdoor installations, even if some special aspects have to be taken into account here. LED systems in sports stadiums prove that switching on and off is feasible: “Our customers operate outdoor LEDs in stadiums without any problems. They run a few hours every 14 days, the rest of the time they are completely off. This works perfectly if you plan correctly and use the right LED solution,” explains Nils Detje. Because there are certain cliffs to be navigated: “Night-time humidification, dew and condensation can cause corrosion and damage the electronics.” For a long time, these challenges were held responsible for the fact that LEDs had to be operated continuously. In the meantime, however, the solutions have been optimized. 

Adaptive display concepts for changing lighting conditions

Sensor technology, heat management and remote access are the most important levers for green signage in the more standardized display sector. Erik Elbert explains this in an invidis interview: “Almost all Sharp/NEC displays already have an integrated ambient brightness sensor. It should definitely be activated. The effect is of course greatest at installation locations with daylight, in stores with artificial light brightness sensors hardly deliver any savings.” According to Erik Elbert, Sharp/NEC is relying more on the effect of motion sensors (human presence sensors) here.

Customers of the Japanese display supplier are already successfully using this type of sensor technology in everyday life. In retail installations, they dim the brightness of the displays to a minimum by default. The backlight is only activated when passers-by step into the sensor area. The concept has two advantages: the energy consumption is measurably reduced and the service life of the displays is considerably longer. This has an impact of around 25 percent savings on energy consumption.

Green signage in the office

Not surprisingly, it is in corporate environments in particular that great importance is attached to energy efficiency. Many companies are already using the motion sensors in their meeting rooms to regulate the brightness of the displays, as Erik Elbert explains: “If no employee is in the meeting room, the display brightness is dimmed with corporate content. More and more customers attach great importance to sustainable operation.”

Active device management is the key to green signage

Digital signage screens, media players and other devices should be continuously monitored and actively controlled. The basic requirement for this is network access and remote access to all hardware devices. Serial connections like the still popular RS232 are not sufficient. The energy infrastructure, such as IP socket strips, should also be able to be managed remotely.

Many digital signage networks are still neglected after installation and are not actively monitored and managed. In many scenarios, a software solution for remote control is one of the most efficient measures to operate a display network more sustainably in the short term.

Visual solutions providers such as Sharp/NEC offer device management solutions that naturally only support their own product portfolio. With the NEC Naviset Administrator 2 software, for example, automated switch-on and switch-off times can be defined. Other display providers rely on their own solution, but there are also provider-independent management platforms such as Signage OS or IT platforms available on the market, which often only support standard functions.

For new installations, pay attention to energy efficiency

According to the experts at Sharp NEC Display Solutions Europe, energy efficiency should definitely be kept in mind for new installations. Many customers are now sensitized to the topic: “Interest in the market for energy-efficient hardware has risen sharply in recent months.” Choosing the right technology is crucial here: COB flip-chip technology is more efficient than the widespread SMD -LEDs. But there are also significant differences in efficiency with the SMD LED technology itself. In addition, the SMD technology can be repaired much better and easier. If you install a new display, you should also check which additional sensors can make sense.

Finally, it should not go unmentioned that, in addition to energy-saving measures, repairs also have a positive effect on the carbon footprint of digital signage and DooH screens. It is important that the nearest repair center is not thousands of kilometers away. For example, Sharp/NEC operates regional centers with service technicians throughout Europe. In the event of a defect in a display from the Japanese manufacturer, there is the possibility that the service center will send a repair box with the most important spare parts directly, in order to enable on-site repair and in many cases to avoid sending it in.


Florian Rotberg is a founder of Invidis, a German publishing, consulting and events firm based in Munich. Invidis publishes in German and is a content partner with Sixteen:Nine.

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