Support developments keep pace with displays

As AV technology continues to innovate and evolve, mounts manufacturers have to make innovations of their own. Rob Lane reports.

Continual and rapid developments in the AV technology market have seen professional mount manufacturers having to be particularly agile in their responses to new technological demands, often trying to second guess and predict the next big change across a variety of tech genres and sectors. At the same time, AV is now being widely utilised across more verticals than ever before – putting increasing demands on the mounts experts.

“New technologies are being used across many verticals, including corporate, education and retail,” says John Whittle, director at Loxit. “In the corporate world, the move away from formal boardrooms to more informal collaborative breakout spaces and huddle rooms has also impacted mounting solutions, with tools being built into furniture.”

The corporate sector has been quick to realise the value of AV and digital signage, and there has been a rapid increased demand for large-format displays and videowalls – beyond the lobby, into conference rooms, meeting rooms and open plan office floors.

“In modern workspaces, the walls are coming down, allowing for more open communication and collaborative working,” explains Keith Dutch, managing director EMEA at Peerless-AV. “Interactive white board solutions such as Microsoft Surface Hub and Samsung Flip, for example, require flexible, convenient mounting solutions that are installer-friendly and help customers bring their creative thinking and business presentations to life.”

At the same time, AV distribution and power products are increasingly being used in very close proximity to huddle spaces and other collaboration environments, requiring flexible storage solutions that allow specifiers to conceal their equipment – usually behind the display, in or under the collaboration table or above the suspended ceiling.

Corporate display demand
When it comes to displays, the demand for high quality height adjustable mounts for interactive flat panels is growing at pace in the corporate (and also education) markets. Indeed, as demand for interactive displays across all sectors has grown, so demands on mounts manufacturers has grown too.

“The rapid growth and diversification in the interactive touchscreen market is linked to an increasing number of touchscreen applications – requiring a wider variety of solutions for the marketplace,” opines Robert de Jong, director of product marketing EMEA at Milestone AV Technologies. “For example, corporate markets have different requirements to how a touchscreen is being presented and used than in the educational markets. Therefore providing the marketplace with a wider choice that fits the application is important.”

Videowalls
When it comes to videowalls – “still dominating business”, according to Nick Spencer, marketing manager, B-Tech AV Mounts – for smaller displays, traditional 2×2 and 3×3 videowalls are still the solution of choice in boardrooms (and retail). At the same time, for larger solutions LED is a serious consideration as price points continue to fall. Away from enterprise, larger pixel pitch solutions – 6mm and above – are also now a cost effective solution for large-scale signage viewed at a distance.

“Direct LED solutions are becoming more accessible to an increasing number of applications for the videowall market,” says De Jong. “These require dedicated and very precise mount solutions that assist installation teams in decreasing the time used with the measurement and alignment of the LED tiles.

“There are a couple of new trends in mount solution requests coming from the specification and installation channels that have influenced our product development,” he adds. “Firstly the videowall installation market is increasingly asking for alternative configurations than just the standard landscape or portrait configurations. This requires additional solutions that provide videowall installations with this kind of placement flexibility.”

Education sector
The education sector has also seen increased demand for large format displays and collaboration solutions – particularly Surface Hub – driving demand for high quality height adjustable mounts for interactive flat panels.

“The mounting of large screens up to 110in on stands and trolleys has remained a popular theme in the corporate and higher education sectors since the introduction of the Microsoft Surface Hub,” explains David Jopling, Unicol managing director. A successor to the Hub is likely to be announced in the coming months, possibly providing additional mounts challenges.

In retail, Unicol notes an upsurge in orders for kiosks and totems for display sizes of 43in, 55in and 65in – both in landscape and portrait, single and double sided. But this increased demand is not reserved to retail.

“In the retail and events sector, kiosk and point of purchase displays are increasingly being introduced to offer information and wayfinding or to engage customers during the purchasing process,” says John Whittle, director at Loxit.

“These large, interactive screens can be a great way in to digital signage and can be all-in-one solutions, making it easy for integrators and users. They do, however, need to be able to handle heavy use from people of all ages and abilities and the mounting solution needs to be similarly sturdy and reliable. No matter where screens and videowalls are being installed, there is an increasing emphasis on creating a polished, seamless solution and the mounting system is a key part of this.”

When it comes to videowalls in retail, there are increased requirements for maintaining front panel loading and cabling panels during installation.

“With retail store costs based on square footage it is essential to make the most of available space,” says Jopling. “Therefore, LCD display videowalls on individual pop-out mounts work very well when mounted on a wall because access to the front and rear of each screen is available. However, by virtue of its seamless edge-to-edge construction an LED videowall is made up of many panels and although each panel can weigh only 10kg, a wall of 2.5 x 5m can weigh nearly 500kg.”

Pop-out mount innovation
The displays sector as a whole has seen huge amounts of innovation in recent years, and that is set to continue, with pop-out videowalls one area that’s driving innovation in mounts solutions.

“As people increasingly expect high-resolution displays that allow content to make the maximum impact, seamless walls of panels with minimal joint spaces are becoming popular,” says Whittle. “Pop-out mounting systems aid installation and enable easier access to these screens for servicing and maintenance.

“Many users, particularly those in mission-critical environments including security, the military and command and control centres, also require the ability to take large, multi-screen videowalls and relocate them quickly in response to realtime situations.”

And as more and more integrators invest time and effort into the growing LED market, across all sectors, the demand for sector- and solution-specific mounting solutions will continue to mushroom.

“The challenge is that every LED supplier needs a different mount, meaning unique specifications, unique training and unique installs,” says Dutch. “There are no set standards for mounting LED yet, but we are starting to see ‘standard’ cabinet sizes to appear, such as 16:9, helping configurations become more consistent. The main inconsistency is the points at which the cabinets mount to a surface. This is where LED still has a high level of custom design to accommodate the ever-decreasing pixel pitch and their tight tolerances.”

There’s also something of a resurgence in projection, either for projection mapping, as an alternative to LED or a complementary technology – particularly in events and experiential solutions. Of course, projectors bring their own mounting challenges.

“Mounting heavy projectors can be a challenge,” says Dutch, “particularly in big entertainment venues like conference venues, concert halls, stadiums and arenas – especially those requiring multiple large units to achieve the desired 3D mapping or image blending experience.”

But it’s LED display and touchscreen technology that will particularly continue to challenge mounts companies as the rapid pace of development continues its upward trend, with displays getting larger and thinner and demands across all sectors growing.

“Looking at the evidence of the past couple of years, it’s hard to see direct LED doing anything other than grow in popularity,” says Spencer. “Traditional screens are the sensible choice for smaller displays – QSRs, etc. Collaboration devices are also popular, with several new interactive solutions now on the market – Google Jamboard, Samsung Flip, Microsoft’s Surface Hub and so on.”

“As the touchscreen market matures, end user expectations are being set ever higher and higher,” explains Whittle. “In some environments this is leading to increasingly large and complicated configurations of displays.”

“One trend is the use of touch panels and tablets for room scheduling systems,” adds De Jong. “These touch panels have to be discreetly installed on to various surfaces to display room availability and allow the interaction to reserve a room on the fly. Due to the size of typically 7in-10in, these panels need to be mounted as flush on the surface as possible.”

Interactivity
Such developments in interactivity will continue to set new challenges for mount manufacturers over the coming years, with screens getting wider and slimmer than ever before.

This will likely lead to an even greater increase in the use of videowalls and digital displays in varying configurations at exhibition centres, visitor attractions, stadiums, hospitality, entertainment and transportation venues.

Dutch says: “As a result of future developments in display technology, partnerships between display and mount manufacturers will be more important than ever, as all-in-one display options emerge to address aesthetics as well as speed and ease of install.”

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