While outdoor digital signage has emerged as large sector of the total outdoor advertising market, with LCD screens placed in all sorts of locations, from high streets to train stations; advertising is not the only use for outdoor screens.
Information displays are common, especially around transport hubs and in city centres – used for things like timetabling and wayfinding – other uses of screens in outdoor locations are emerging all the time.
One expanding use of outdoor LCD screens is for emergency warnings. Remote areas, in particular, are finding the benefits of outdoor digital signage a literal life-saver. Ski resorts are one example where providing avalanche warnings can be extremely difficult on mountain areas that span hundreds of square miles, while screens are also being used as Tsunami warnings.
The advantage of digital screens for warnings is their immediacy – information can be uploaded instantly, wasting no time and enabling people in remote areas to be forewarned. Other mediums do not have this advantage – radio broadcasts are reliant on people tuning in and while audio tannoys can’t be used in places like ski resorts due to the possibility of causing avalanches.
In America, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies are now using outdoor digital signage for profiling wanted posters. As with emergency broadcasts the immediacy allows fugitive pictures and profiles to be displayed quickly, crucial in a federal area where criminals attempt to evade justice by travelling across state lines, causing nationwide manhunts. Newspapers have been traditionally used for this practice but it takes time for the editions to come of the presses.
Digital signage is also being used to prevent low level crime like shoplifting; used in shopping malls it allows vendors and retailers to get up to date profiles of suspected thieves.
And as immediacy is also vital in cases of child abduction, outdoor digital signage is helping to prevent abducted children from being moved across state lines by issuing pictures as soon as the children are reported missing. The US Department of Justice say that the first three hours of abduction are the most critical for the safe return of children, and no other medium, except perhaps radio and TV broadcasts – both requiring people to be tuned in – can provide such immediacy.