Four big immediate trends are apparent in the industry: simplified robust software, higher performance systems at lower costs, RMM (remote management monitoring) and standardization across platforms.
Simplified Robust Software: Originally, software for LED message centers came in two flavors, incredibly simple text-based software and incredibly complex content creation and management software. A middle ground is emerging where software now allows for previously complex functions to be simplified to the point where an “average” end-user with little computer proficiency can create and schedule content quickly and easily with little assistance. This trend is carried forward in the software industry overall where interfaces HAVE to be more intuitive for the end-users. There are still niche markets for the simple text software and the more complex controls for something like a billboard or sports venue, but the middle market is where the largest amount of traction is taking place and this dictates the move.
Higher Performance Systems at Lower Costs: Asia had a stranglehold on the market, not just because of lower labor costs, but because of large capital investments the governments are making to increase manufacturing. With improved automation in the factories, the labor cost equation is going away and driving down overall cost to production while improving overall output and quality. This allows for some manufacturing to return to the United States and a market where the LED message centers coming out now are of much higher quality than before while costing less (especially as the component costs themselves are being driven down with reduced prices on LEDs as they are becoming a commodity product and less of a specialized manufactured item).
RMM (remote management monitoring): While this is really only available in higher-end systems, many of the low-end and middle-grade systems now offer the option to remote-in to a controller and add low-cost monitoring solutions to the LED message centers. Previously, this wasn’t possible because the message centers utilized embedded controller technologies which weren’t easily modified by manufacturers and end-users. Now many manufacturers are moving over to IPC (industrial power computing) controller solutions as they allow more flexibility in monitoring and management. An IPC allows manufacturers to add remote connectivity software for management and monitoring of the message centers and this “add functionality” is also available to the end-user should they opt to modify a controller to fit into their specific network security protocols.
Standardization Across Platforms: As technology improves and different manufacturers refine their processes, the LED message centers start to become somewhat standardized. While there are still significant differences from one build to the next, the components used to produce, run and manage/maintain the LED message center is becoming somewhat standard. Power supplies, control systems, “sender cards,” “receiver cards,” and other components are increasingly becoming standard. The naming conventions vary greatly, but the components themselves carry the same or similar functionality. Ultimately, the differentiator between quality manufacturers will not be the build itself but rather the value of services, support and software options available.
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