Councils: Top 10 Points to include in your Outdoor Signage tender

As a Digital Signage company, with a massive focus on Outdoor Signage, also known as Digital Out Of Home (DOOH), we’re regularly approached by councils, public bodies & industry, wanting advice on the best way to implement an outdoor solution that will offer them a quick ROI, reliability and a long lifespan.

All our units are built from the ground up for your exact requirement, and can be found throughout the UK from The Stade in Hastings, to a nuclear power station on the North coast of Scotland. Our customers range from local councils & central government agencies through to global pharmaceutical, theatres and airports. The first ever unit installed was in Europe, outside a shopping centre, over a decade ago and we’ve been providing outdoor solutions in the UK for over 5 years. Typical project turnaround for one of our outdoor installations is between 3 & 12 months. Click here for information on our outdoor digital signage products.

We still monitor & look after every single unit we’ve installed. Servicing is carried out when requested by the clever on-board electronics. We’re proud of our installations and customers & would be happy for you to speak with any of them to get their experience of dealing with our organisation, before, during and after the installation.
There are many points to consider when rolling out an outdoor Digital Signage project but here are 10 points to cover when information gathering & include when writing the tender/procurement specification:

Wales Millennium Centre outdoor totem 75 inch advertising display

Above: 75” Double Sided Ultra High Bright Totem @ The Millennium Centre, Cardiff, August 2015

1) What do you want to achieve with a totem & what problem do you want to solve?

Communicating a bare minimum of what you want to achieve from your project is the most important point. A clear vision of what initial problems you have and how you think a totem would solve them is a great starting position. It could be something as simple as delivering timely information for visitors to a company site or showing advertisements that generate revenue in a town centre. A more advanced required outcome could be interactive visitor information points, way finding, ticket booking, proximity messaging, what’s on tonight or even a totem with a defibrillator built in that is funded by the advertising shown on the screen.

2) Size of display based on the viewing distance and footfall:

Your audience need to be able to view the message you are sending out. Typically, on street pavements, where the public will pass close by to the totem a 47” display would be more than adequate. Anything smaller loses its impact and anything above 65” can become too large to view comfortably from close up.

3) Minimum 2000 cdm² bright display & safety glass with anti-reflective coating of <0.9%

For a North facing installation, outdoor units should have a brightness of >1500 cdm² (or nits); we recommend direct sunlight viewable displays with a minimum of 2000 cdm².

The legibility of a display panel can be severely reduced if not backed up with the correct type of protective glass. For safety reasons, glass must be laminated & thermally toughened (minimum of 4mm+4mm), yet still allow light to pass through, whilst having an anti-reflective coating which reduces reflections to < 0.9% (not an anti-glare film as this reduces viewing angles & LCD brightness).

The fourm, Norwich, Car Park Digital Signs showing upcoming events and pricing

Above: 65” High Bright Wall Mount Car Park displays @ The Forum, Norwich, October 2016

4) Operating Temperature of between -40ᵒc & + 55ᵒc:

Outdoor totems are installed throughout the Northern and Southern hemisphere and have to work no matter what the surrounding temperature is. Totems installed within the UK must be rated from between -40ᵒc & + 55ᵒc; this may seem extreme but if you think of the temperature in Winter is, say just -5ᵒc, add a 10 mph wind into the equation you have a wind chill of -13ᵒc, whereas 20 mph wind takes it to -20ᵒc! At the other extreme, think of the temperature when you get into your car on a summer afternoon, the in car reading can show 35ᵒc+. We’ve recorded on-surface temperatures of up ~70ᵒc on totems in the UK.

5) HVAC for climate control within the enclosure housing the electronics:

The biggest killer of outdoor displays is heat. Without effective heat management within the enclosure, the LCD panel will suffer from blackening at the very least, with multiple component failure a distinct possibility if the heat persists. Electronic components do not like operating outside certain temperatures, anything below 0ᵒc & above +32ᵒc reduces the Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF). To minimise the chance of downtime and product failure, a Heating, Venting and Air Conditioning (HVAC) unit should be part of the enclosure to keep the critical, delicate components at around 22ᵒc. Ideally the enclosure will be hermetically sealed, so no untreated air is passed through. To ensure maximum life expectancy a compressor based HVAC unit must be utilised with the ability to ramp to required level of cooling based on the actual temperature within the housing. The use of filters & fans is simply not up to the job long term, no matter what any enclosure manufacturer says.

Vandalproof and weather proof aluminium mask for extra protection of outdoor screens

Above: The outer mask, made of aluminium, provides another layer of protection from the weather & vandals

6) Weather, water, dust & vandal proof IP rating of 66 and IK rating of 10:

The Ingress Protection (IP) represents the classification of the level of protection against the ingress of Particles and Liquids. The first digit represents the dust particle size and the second digit liquid protection. So, IP 66 rating means:

First digit: 6 – dust tight – No ingress of dust; complete protection ie. dust tight. To test this a vacuum must be applied for a duration of up to 8 hours based, on air flow.

Second digit: 6 – protection against heavy seas or powerful water jets – (12.5 mm nozzle) against the enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effects.

The IK rating is the numeric classification for the degrees of protection provided by enclosures for electrical equipment against external mechanical impacts.

IK10 means the totem is protected against 20 joules impact which is the equivalent to impact of 5 kg mass dropped from 400 mm above impacted surface.

7) Foundations to take high wind loads and other external impacts:

How the totem is anchored and secured safely is critical. In the lifetime of a totem, it may come into contact with high winds, energetic youths, drunken parties, vehicles and many other impacts & loads. Assuming a freestanding, floor mounted, totem is to be installed, accurate concrete foundations that take into consideration all the above loads, should be provided to a competent groundworks team who can construct the slab whilst having the experience to adjust the foundations based on local geology. Foundations need to withstand high wind loading at the very least, gusts of 100mph can occur anywhere on the UK mainland with the totem remaining safely secured at all times.

Each totem will consume a typical amount of electricity, but maximum power consumption should also be calculated by the manufacturer, this information must be provided to the purchasing organisation, before the foundations are constructed, to make provision for appropriate power to be delivered to the unit. The foundations need to allow for mains power & data connectivity (if cabled connection is used) to be taken into the totem from below.

8) Self-monitoring with automatic daily health reporting and immediate critical alerts:

When outdoor totems are deployed they need to be able to report back the health of the unit; this will assist in servicing schedules, remote configuration and adjustments. Typically, units should at the very least measure & record the following temperatures and react accordingly: external, internal (at two different points in the totem), exhaust, critical electronic systems, as well as HVAC information such as compressor temperature, air pressure, AC gas level. Other important items include power consumption, ambient light and intruder sensing.

Readings need to be carried out at a frequency that would assist the service team quickly diagnose & proactively resolve any potential issues, preferably before they arise.

Any readings that could result in a critical outcome need to be communicated back to the supplier immediately for diagnosis and response.

Should the totems experience delays in being serviced or repaired, the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) needs to be able to go into self-preservation mode and start shutting down components that are not required, with the final outcome being able to switch its own power off to prevent damage to internal components. The steps taken by the ECU should be communicated back to the support team to keep them updated.

Manfield Council Double sided electronic sign for outdoor use

Above: 47” Double Sided Ultra High Bright Totem with 4G update @ Westgate, Mansfield, March 2017

9) Construction materials, Finishing & customisation:

It’s important to remember that the materials used for the construction of the totems will directly impact a number of outcomes, including: product life expectancy, aesthetics, spares, repairs. To cover this point; units placed in coastal locations need to be able to withstand salty water & spray and so need to be constructed of materials that will not corrode or rust over time.

Structural elements need to be made of stainless steel AISI316 with a powder coated covering layer. Non coastal areas can suffice with the structural elements being constructed from steel with a minimum of 2 powder coated layers (ground and cover layer).

The final finishing should either match with your branding, match existing street furniture or blend in with the surroundings.

The option to customise the aesthetics can help reduce visual impact of the totem whilst still getting the message across to the viewer. Use of unique shapes, designs, features can help towards ownership of the totem within the community that it is placed.

10) Previous experience, Certifications, warranty, post installation support:

Always ask for examples of previous installations carried out by the suppliers you are talking with. The examples should be in a similar environment as you require and have been running for a minimum of 3 years. Speak with the people involved in the procurement, take references from the stakeholders of the project. Be wary of suppliers who guide you towards certain reference sites, this may be because other installations have not gone so well. This will also weed out the ‘new to market’ companies who are seizing an opportunity to make a quick income using an unproven product or technology.

The units should be certified to be used within the UK/EU and copies of all safety certificates, tests, foundation drawings, power consumption and technical specifications obtained before moving forward.

All outdoor units must come with a minimum of 3 year onsite warranty – this may sound crazy, but we know of companies in the UK that make an enclosure, place a screen in it and then sell it to anybody to install. When there is a major problem the unit is expected to be shipped back to the manufacturer to repair! Check that the installation team are trained by the manufacturer to install the totem, this will cover you should any health and safety issues occur and for warranty purposes. If the installer isn’t trained correctly and the unit fails, who takes ownership of the problem?

Post installation support is paramount. The totem should be monitored daily with any adjustments / servicing carried out as per the manufacturer’s guidelines. If a problem occurs who do you call? The manufacturer, supplier or the installer? Preferably there will be one point of contact that resolves the issue with minimum downtime and disruption. Servicing should be carried out when disruption is minimised, not just during office hours.

Hastings 3,000cdm/2 Single Sided Outdoor Advertsing LCD LED Display

Above: 65” Single Sided Ultra High Bright Totem @ The Stade, Hastings, September 2014

There are many other important points to go through to ensure your project is as painless as possible, we’re here to help and can assist in other areas such as:

Creating mock up photos of your totem in situ, allowing you to visualise the installation.
Preparation for planning permission (should this be required).
Groundworks & infrastructure.
Content creation support & deployment.
Expected ROI timelines.
Advertising revenue streams & what to charge.

We’re always happy to share the knowledge we’ve gained over the last decade; unfortunately, when it comes to the tender / procurement process the salient points are not always included in the documents that are sent to potential suppliers. We’ve seen situations where months of consultation, advice & demonstrations have ended in the publication of a tender document not even mentioning the basics of specification; size of display, location and even quantity of units required. Reading between the lines, asking a supplier for as much as possible whilst paying as little as possible, is surely a recipe for disaster!

All our outdoor totems are built from the display out. We calculate heat generated by the electronics and the display panels and then build the totem accordingly. This means we can control the environment inside the inner core and so ensure that the product gives you the longest lifespan with the least downtime.

Be wary of companies that supply separate enclosures and LCD displays, an enclosure with a screen placed inside is a cheap route to market but the enclosure doesn’t know how much heat will be generated by the electronics and by the environment it is placed in and so can no way guarantee the temperature inside the enclosure. Remember, fans and filters alone do not come close to the HVAC systems that we employ in our totems.

The internal workings of our totems are protected by IP and so we don’t share pictures in the public domain, however, if you get in touch we can send photos of the inside of one of our totems and a photo of third party enclosure, you can then compare the technology side by side.

Video showing why our products are different to manufacturers of enclosures:

Video showing a typical installation process, this one for the Welsh Government:

A video showing some of our outdoor installations:

Online portfolio:

Join the many other councils and public bodies that trust our knowledge and depend on our products and services to provide a long term, reliable solution where downtime is not an option.

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