Magazine Article | July 1, 2002

Solutions On Display

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

There is a host of visual display alternatives available for messaging. But, which one is right for you?

Integrated Solutions, July 2002

Today's visual messaging solutions offer a wide variety of delivery options. While the original display device - the LED (light emitting diode) display - is still the most popular solution, alternatives now include television and plasma displays, LCDs (liquid crystal displays), and softboards (software clients on agent workstations).

Each of these solutions has distinct advantages and drawbacks. For this reason, the best choice is predicated on the customer's needs. The optimal solution will often include implementing multiple technologies.

LED displays are sold in a wide range of sizes - from small, single-line units to large, multi-line models. LED displays are more readable from greater distances and viewing angles than other display technologies. And, they generally have a longer display life. Additionally, these displays often contain a processor that provides functionality such as message memory, clock operations, message delivery confirmation, and audio.

Most LED displays support three colors, which are generated from a two-color LED (red and green). A blue LED is available, allowing additional color support. But, these are generally cost prohibitive due to the cost of the blue LED dye. TDS (Texas Digital Systems, Inc.) offers displays supporting eleven discernable colors, using the two-color LED and TDS' patented display technology.

These displays also support multiple communication protocols, such as RS-422/485 and TCP/IP. Because these protocols can be transmitted across a network, LED displays can be placed in remote locations, away from the controlling software. LED displays are generally an expensive option. Unlike televisions, LED displays are not sold as commodities. Some components, especially the LEDs themselves, remain expensive.

Televisions are not new display solutions for the help desk and call center markets, although the flat-screen, plasma displays offer a newer element. Televisions can support more colors than LED displays and are relatively inexpensive. Plasma displays are similar to televisions, except that they generally offer better resolution and a larger viewing area. They also bring a significantly higher price tag. Both televisions and plasma displays are somewhat limited in the distances they can be located from the controlling software. And, they will experience picture decay or "burn in" after extended use.

Softboards are the visual display industry's effort to provide the same information available on a hardware display device that is found on a workstation. This solution was originally a mechanism to provide this data in areas with no viewing access to LED or television solutions, such as closed-door offices. This solution is now being implemented to actual agent workstations on a more widespread basis. In some cases, it is replacing displays entirely. These solutions offer tremendous flexibility, such as the ability to configure available data and presentation format at individual workstations, display graphics, play audio alerts, and "pop-up" based on defined events. Although this solution is relatively inexpensive, many call centers refuse to implement it because it consumes valuable footprint space on agent monitors and generates additional network traffic.

The LCD is the newest display solution. LCDs, similar to those used in laptop computer monitors, can offer the intelligent functions of LED displays as well as the display characteristics and resolution of plasmas and softboards. These solutions are currently smaller - a 20.1" display (viewing angle measured diagonally) is generally the largest available. The LCD may be the next generation display, as it is priced competitively against the alternatives. It provides all key functionality and can easily be outfitted for outdoor installations and dedicated Web browsers.

In addition to choosing a display technology based on the merits, it is important to define your controlling software needs. Additionally, always consult with a display systems vendor to help define and identify the most effective solution for your needs.