Saturday, January 30, 2010

Stack iPads for Library e-Book Display

Apple iPad video wall proposed by Clarke Hopkins ClarkeAccording to Gizmodo, architects Clarke Hopkins Clarke have suggested stacking hundreds of Apple iPads on a library wall to display iBooks. A wall of iPads in a library is an intriguing idea, but would cost twenty times as much as some alternatives. There are much more affordable and environmentally efficient ways to build a video wall to display e-Books.

Many libraries now use large flat panel displays. These can be used to show book details. The latest of these displays used LED backlit LCD panels, which use less power than old plasma screens. One computer can drive many displays, making the setup much cheaper. A video projector can also be used to make a wall size display which can show one large image, or well as many small ones. At the Australian National University's famous " CSIT building N101 seminar room" I have used the full wall display for presentations. Three high resolution projectors cover one wall of the room and a computer with three video interfaces knits these into one large desktop. The wall has also been used for video art display. The wall can display cinema style video, or when the room is needed for other purposes, simply switched off.

An Apple iPad has an area of about 0.05m2 and costs about US$500. The Dell G2410 24-inch LED LCD monitor has an area of 0.23m2 and costs about US$300. Allowing for the extra computer hardware to drive a video wall, the LCD screens would cost about US$500 each. These would cost the same as the iPads, but because the iPads are much smaller the wall would cost five times as much.

The wall depicted by Clarke Hopkins Clarke has thirty columns of iPads, ten high, or 300 in total. The wall would cover 15m2 and the iPads would cost US$150,000. The same wall area would require about 66 LCD screens and cost US$33,000. Using video projectors would cost about US$7,000.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sony LCD TV Presence Sensor

Sony 40The Sony BRAVIA 40 inch WE5 Series HD LCD TV comes with a "Presence Sensor". This can be switched on so that the unit will turn off the screen to save power if it detected no one is in the room. It switches the picture back on instantly when someone comes in. The feature does save power with my measurements showing a drop from 109 Watt to 60 Watt.

Presumably this feature works using an infra-red sensor, as used in low cost burglar alarms. The sensor appears to have a range of about 3.5 m over 120 degrees. The time can be set to 7 seconds to test the feature. It might be set to five minutes for a screen which is only used occasionally or thirty minutes more typically.

The system works very well and would be useful in education and for digital signage. One problem is that the feature does not seem to be active when the TV is receiving VGA input. Otherwise it could be used in meeting rooms and parts of libraries not in constant use. One feature I would like to see is the screen brighten slowly, rather than come on suddenly at full brightness.

Also it would be useful if the feature had a second stage which would switch the unit to standby after a further period of inactivity. That would save more power (dropping consumption to 25 Watt), at the cost of the unit taking longer to restart.

See also:
  1. Sony 40 Inch LCD TV Initial Impressions

  2. Sony BRAVIA WE Series LCD TV".

ps: Sony TVs are also available via but may not be versions suitable for Australian TV: Sony BRAVIA W-Series 40-Inch LCD HDTV

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Sony 40 Inch LCD TV Initial Impressions

Sony 40The Sony BRAVIA 40 inch WE5 Series HD LCD TV comes in a box 210 x 1250 x 785 mm weighing 26 kg. It is light enough for one person to lift, but so large it takes to to move it. This is much heavier and larger than a LCD projector. But it is lighter than a comparable sized plasma screen.

The unit is relatively simple to unpack and assemble, with a stand which slots into the bottom of the screen and is held with four bolts.

I connected an VGA cable to a computer and composite input from a digital set top box. The unit also has HDMI 2 input, but I did not have a HDMI cable available. No cables were supplied with the unit, apart from the power cable.

Plugged in using VGA to my laptop, the screen gave a very clear computer display, but disappointingly dim. The display was not bright enough to be used in a room with sunlight coming through the window. The display was unusable in conditions where a 24 inch Dell 2405FPW LCD display worked fine. When sunlight in the room was reduced, the screen brightened enough to be usable.

Plugged into a digital set top box via component video, the unit gave an acceptable resolution image. However, as with the PC display, the image was not bright enough to be comfortably viewed. It turned out that this was a problem with the Power Saving feature. When set to "high" this dims the screen. This makes the unit not bright enough for typical digital signage or presentation applications. Turing this power saving setting to "off" was the only way to obtain an acceptable level of brightness.

Power consumption

When I plugged the unit in it drew 76 Watt. The unit arrived in "shop" mode, with the power savings setting turned off. It took some time to work out how to turn off this mode. Many people would not find, or not be able to set, the power saving setting and Sony should set them on before delivery.

The unit used 120 Watt when displaying moving component video and 123 Watt with PC input. When in standby mode it used 26 Watt. The unit also has a physical power switch which reduced consumption to less than 1 Watt (the limit of measurement of my power meter).

Safety Problem

The instruction manual for the unit includes advice for preventing the TV from toppling over. This says to install a machine screw (not supplied) into a hole on the the TV and tie a "strong cord" (not supplied) to it, with the other end secured to the TV stand with a bolt (not supplied). These instructions will not be relevant in most educational and digital signage applications, where the unit will be securely attached to a wall with a Vesa mount. However, the manual instructions are inadequate and the unit is unsafe for home use, as supplied. The unit should be withdrawn from retail sale until this is corrected.

See also: "Sony BRAVIA WE Series LCD TV".

ps: Sony TVs are also available via but may not be versions suitable for Australian TV: Sony BRAVIA W-Series 40-Inch LCD HDTV

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Sony 40Sony have loaned me a Sony BRAVIA 40 inch WE5 Series HD LCD TV to try out for a few days. Specifically I wanted to see if this unit save much energy. The application I have in mind is for learning commons, where flat screens are used for digital signage and for presentations. In this applications the screens tend to be left on all day, so energy use is an issue.

One disappointment is that according to the specifications, the unit appears to be florescent backlit, not LED. As a result the backlight has to be all on, or off, the lighting behind black parts of the image can't be turned off.

However, the unit offers a Presence Sensor, which would be useful for public venues. This switches the picture off when no one is in the room. Sony claim this saves 50% of the power. This could be good for presentation screens, which tend to get left on. It may also be very effective for some applications of digital signage: when the person come within viewing range of the screen it will light up, thus attracting their attention.

At present the TV is still in the box, on the floor, some comments about how it goes to follow...

ps: Sony TVs are also available via but may not be versions suitable for Australian TV: Sony BRAVIA W-Series 40-Inch LCD HDTV

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Waterless Video Urinal

The award for the most eye-catching product at the DesignBUILD 2009 exhibition would have to be Urimat's Waterless Video Urinal. This is a waterless urinal, much like others used to save water in public buildings but with a flat area at the top facing the user. This flat area can be used to fit a 7 inch, wide format video screen for advertising or information messages. This is one of the more imaginative forms of digital signage I have seen.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Australian TV to broadcast web pages

According to media reports the Australian Freeview consortium proposes to use MPEG-4 video and an MHEG-5 electronic program guide (EPG) for new Australian free to air digital TV transmissions. The use of MPEG-4 has received the most attention as this would require an extra chip in the digital TV tuners (or some upgraded software) over the current MPEG-2 standard (and also government approval). What has received less attention is that the MHEG-5 standard includes a subset of HTML 3.2 slightly modified for TV. This is used for providing the program guide, but can also be used for web-like interactive content, including advertisements.

MHEG-5 is used in the UK and and New Zealand and so seems a reasonable choice for Australia. HTML 3.2 is a very old web standard and would not be a good choice for regular web pages, but is suitable for the limited role it has on a set-top box. MHEG-5 is also used for digital signage.

Unfortunately no technical details of what Freeview propose to do are provided on their web site. Freevie have also chosen not to use the standards they are reported to be proposing other Australians use. The Freeview web site seems to be entirely composed of Flash media and so very difficult to access.

Another issue is if Freview's limited form of interactive TV will be of much interest to an audience now acquiring iPhones, Wiis with web browsers and Google Android phones. It may be that by the time Freeview is available, it will be of no more interest than old fashioned analogue TV.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Bombproof digital bins

London advertising agency Media Metrica is sponsoring bomb proof bins in London. The cost will be recovered from advertising sold on digital signage screens on the bins. The bomb proof technology for the bins comes from BlastGuard International's Bomb Proof Trash Cans. lined with blast attenuating filler materials. There are not the only type of Blast Resistant Litter Bins available and the idea of advertising to pay for outdoor furniture is not a new one.

One issue will be if use of digital signage reduces the level of maintenance. Previously staff had to visit the signs to change the advertising. At the same time they could change the sign and check for damage. With the display being digital there will not be a need to visit the unit. As a result maintenance may be neglected.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Video Wall Specification

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology have issued a request for Expression of Interest for Provision, Installation and maintenance of a Video Wall. The specification seems excessively high for the application, requiring gaps less than 1mm between screens, which is likely to result in an unnecessarily complex design and high cost:
Provision, Installation and maintenance of a Video Wall
ATM ID ITR 033/2008
Agency Bureau of Meteorology
Category 43222619 - Video networking equipment
Close Date & Time 12-Jun-2008 3:00 pm (ACT Local time)
Publish Date 16-May-2008


The Canberra Office of the Water Division of the Bureau of Meteorology requires a Company to undertake the design, delivery, installation, maintenance and support of a VideoWall for use in displaying Windows and UNIX driven application windows, as well as incorporating a videoconferencing solution seperate to this process into this solution.

Main specifications for the VideoWall are that it:

* Covers a screen area of as much of a backing wall of 6.465m wide by 2.685m high (floor to ceiling height) as is possible;
* must have seamless borders between screens e.g less than 1mm border).
* uses high resolution;
* have automated colour and brightness matching
* preference for DLP Technology;
* provides a connection to a console consisting of four MS Windows PCs (each with dual screens); and
* provision of a maintenance and support contract.

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

Digital Signage

Digital Signage, that is the use of elelctronic screens for advertising and information, is becoming common in public places. LCD screens are now big, bright and cheap enough to put up to display notices. There are specialist hardware and software products for driving the screens, or a small general purpose computer can be used. The content can be delivered over the Internet. One LCD screen has been put up at the entrance of the ANU Computer Science and Information Technology (CSIT) Building which will be driven by experimental software. Some of the content will be automatically extracted from the web, to reduce the need to manually maintain the content.

One of the hardest parts of installing digital signage is finding somewhere to put the sign. The sign needs to be somewhere easily seen, but not where it will be in the way. It also needs mains power and data communications cables (unless wireless data is used).

See also: