Thursday, July 3, 2014

Digital Signage Need To Know: Help! My sign isn't communicating! Steps to a solving communication problems.

-Deacon Wardlow
If you work with digital signage (LED outdoor or HD interior/exterior systems (LED, OLED, SMD, projection, etc.) at one point or another you may have had "the call." If you're new to the business, you will most likely get the call soon if you haven't already. This is the call where the client can't connect to the "heart and soul" of their marketing system - their new digital signage solution. Don't panic, take deep breaths... there's a solution.

Check all cables and connections. More often than not, a communication problem is simply caused by an unplugged cable or missing power adapter.

For wireless communication, check both radios (most radios have indicator lights showing power (usually red) and signal up/down (green or yellow - usually flashing). Make sure the devices are powered and showing communications.

When did it stop working? What changed?
For networked signs (signs requiring a static IP address on a network), find out the last time the sign was working. What changed since then? Was a new computer/printer/device added to the network? Did the sign fail when the device was added? It's possible the IP address is conflicted (two devices using the same address). Speak with the IT person in charge or check with the sign manufacturer to see how to verify IP address settings and how to change the settings if necessary.

For signs using RS232 or RS485: check the cable connections and power adapters. More often than not, an antenna came loose or a power adapter is unplugged (or failed). Having a backup pair of devices (known to be in good working condition) helps as the devices can be replaced and the radios showing faults can be tested off site for repair and/or replacement.

Check the connections inside the sign. In highly humid locations, the communication ports can become oxidized (rusted) and cause disruption with the communication. Use a deoxidizing cleaner (99.9% alcohol with a hogs hair brush for cleaning) or DeOxit. Make sure to remove any dust first and lightly spray/apply cleaner. DeOxit sprays will both clean and coat/protect the connector. Make sure to clean both the connector on the control board/computer of the sign AND the cable's connector to be certain the issue is fully resolved.

Bring your tools!
It's helpful to have a laptop with the LED Sign software on it. Sometimes a communication error can be caused by the client's network and/or computers (a virus or possibly anti-virus software causes issues). If your laptop can communicate directly with the LED sign and communicate using the communication equipment going to the business, it's likely the problem requires the client to speak with an IT professional regarding their network and/or computer(s). For recommendations on a tool kit, check out my earlier post here: TOOLS You can also check out more information below on support issues:

- Networking Basics
- Troubleshooting Power
- General Technical support

At the end of the day, aside from the right tools and know-how having a solid partner is the most important part of a good LED Sign system. Make sure your company is partnered with a manufacturer who can not only support you with the right know-how, but is willing to go above and beyond to help you resolve issues in the field. The telling sign of a good partner isn't how they perform when things are going well, but how they respond to a problem. Make sure your manufacturer is more than a vendor, make sure their an active partner in your success!

Please comment here or send questions or requests for information to Vantage LED has white paper resources and more educational material on the website (, please check it out when you have a moment. Note all posts/thoughts/writings are strictly the viewpoint of me and me alone and do not reflect nor speak for Vantage LED’s beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, etc. unless specifically noted.attitudes, thoughts, etc. unless specifically noted.

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