Common QuestionsThis is all about questions and related answers.
- What is an LED?
- How is a digital billboard constructed?
- What are the product options?
- What is pixel pitch?
- Is the cost of digital billboards coming down?
- Are digital billboards susceptible to vandalism or severe weather damage?
- How can I be sure my digital outdoor board is operating properly 24 hours a day? What proof of performance is provided?
- How long does an LED billboard last?
- Will the weight of an digital billboard require structural changes to an existing billboard?
- How is content sent to a digital billboard?
- Does Watchfire provide software training?
- What kind of files will display on a Watchfire digital billboard?
- Is financing available?
- What kind of warranties are available?
- After I buy a digital billboard, what kind of service, maintenance and technical support is available?
- What is the difference between digital outdoor, or a billboard, and "on-premise" LED signs?
- Why should I consider Watchfire Digital Billboards?
- I'm ready to take the next step. What should I do?
- Are digital billboards distracting and unsafe for drivers?
- What studies have been conducted regarding the relationship between auto accidents and digital billboards?
An LED (light emitting diode) is a semiconductor light source that is an efficient, effective and ultra-bright alternative to incandescent light bulbs. The useful life of LEDs in a Watchfire digital billboard is typically 12 - 15 years and requires significantly less power to operate than many competitive LEDs (in most cases less than $10.00 a day).
Broadly speaking, LED billboards have three main components - the LED modules, the internal controllers and power supplies, and the outer cabinet - all of which are manufactured and assembled at Watchfire's Danville, Ill., headquarters. We differ from many "distributors" who import components and handle some light assembly. Watchfire Digital Outdoor is a vertically integrated digital billboard manufacturer. We engineer our own products, write and support the software that runs them, and build our products from start to finish.
The LED module is also composed of three main pieces - a module tray, the circuit board (which holds the LEDs and circuitry), and a louver, which snaps over the tray and circuit board to provide protection from impact and provide contrast for the LEDs. Each Watchfire LED module is encapsulated in a thick bed of silicone gel, sealing out moisture so thoroughly they can actually operate underwater for months on end. We know of no other digital billboard product that can withstand such a rigorous test.
Some internal components are built at Watchfire's Danville, Ill., headquarters. Others are sourced from the world's premier Tier 1 vendors.
Watchfire Digital Outdoor billboards are built to last. Our cabinets feature solid welds, not "pop" rivets. We design for high-inrush current and high-voltage protection. We use stronger, heavy-walled aluminum extrusions with monocoque construction instead of cheaper sheet metal or fabricated metal cabinets. Plus, our LED and component supply chain comprises the finest Tier 1 manufacturers the world has to offer.
Our digital billboards have a clean design, both mechanically and electronically. Minimal parts count and connectors combined with simplified construction results in lower predicted failure rates and better overall operation.
Because of the advanced engineering and manufacturing of Watchfire digital billboards, we were the first to offer a 5-year warranty - the finest in the industry.
We also encourage our customers to tour our manufacturing plant to see the Watchfire difference first-hand.
Watchfire Digital Outdoor signs are built to fit all typical billboard sizes in True -12mm, True-16mm, True-19mm and E-16mm, providing a variety of solutions to fit your existing bulletin, junior bulletin or poster "30 sheet" structures.
Pixel pitch is the distance, in millimeters, of center-to-center
spacing between adjacent pixels. Watchfire makes a True-12mm
pitch model, True-16mm pitch model, a True-19mm pitch model and the
innovative E-16mm pitch model.
The density of each pixel is the leading determinant of image clarity - the more pixels per square foot, the crisper the image. The closer a viewer is to a digital billboard, the more the pixel density comes into play.
The best manufacturers use three high-quality LEDs per pixel to create a high-density, high resolution product. Higher resolution means sharper, clearer advertising images.
The cost of digital billboards has leveled significantly. There have been moderate price reductions in recent years, but billboard operators who have premium locations (which can be permitted for digital billboards) can earn far more in revenue by moving ahead quickly than they could hope to save in several years of price reductions. In other words, the opportunity cost greatly exceeds potential savings.
Most billboard operators report a 6 to 10 time increase in revenue per billboard after converting from traditional to digital faces.
With Watchfire's E-16mm boards, the savings can be even greater. Our technology offers an alternative approach to higher resolution at an attractive price point. These digital boards don't just improve your image; they make your bottom line look better too.
We test our products relentlessly to ensure they will weather
extreme heat changes (-40° to +140°F), water, salt fog, and
electrical disturbances. Watchfire digital billboards are tested to
withstand windloads per IBC 2006/2009 standards.
What's more, Watchfire is the only digital outdoor manufacturer to fully encapsulate the LED board in a thick bed of silicone gel. This protection helps seal the components from the elements - especially moisture - to improve the durability of the board.
The tray and louver assemblies of each module are manufactured using a matte polycarbonate plastic, which is nearly unbreakable. This polycarbonate packaging protects the LEDs from most projectiles. There are occasions when a precise hit can cause damage, but those are rare. In the event that there is damage, it is typically limited to a single module. This means that the whole sign is rarely damaged and replacement is usually limited to a single module.
We offer three reliable means for you to track the operation of your digital billboard: live webcam, automated diagnostics and proof-of-performance reports.
- Webcam: a webcam provides you with a real time view of the billboard 24-hours a day.
- Automated Diagnostics: monitor the billboard's "health" in real time to identify malfunctions and service issues. Problems can be identified down to the individual LED level. In the event of an issue, the billboard will send an immediate, automated email so that service can be conducted quickly. Our Digital Support Group is at the ready to dispatch a service provider in the event of a maintenance issue.
- Proof of Performance Reports: the billboard operator can generate log files on demand through Ignite Online. These reports summarize play counts and date ranges for each advertiser, and can be customized for individual advertisers.
LEDs themselves do not burn out. There is nothing inside them that fails. They simply dim uniformly over time. In a severe laboratory environment, the LEDs used by Watchfire are rated to maintain acceptable brightness for at least 100,000 hours. In real world operations, they should last much longer.
Because a digital billboard is made up of many components besides LEDs, the lifespan of an LED billboard can vary by manufacturer. When you are choosing a digital billboard manufacturer, it is important to look into how their boards are performing years after installation. Learn more about indicators of billboard quality and durability in our blog post, Five Questions to Ask Before Buying a Digital Billboard.
Each case is unique, so you should seek the advice of a structural engineer. A Watchfire 14' x 48' bulletin billboard, for example, weighs about 6,200lbs.
Due to our superior design and construction, Watchfire digital billboards come in at the light-weight end of the scale and can weigh as little as half as much as competitors' digital billboards.
As a rule of thumb, if the billboard structure is a contemporary, well-engineered, professionally-built and installed steel monopole, a digital billboard can be added with minimal, if any, strengthening. However, every billboard must be inspected by a licensed engineer before making plans to add a digital face.
Images are sent to the billboard through an internet connection using Watchfire's Ignite® Online web-based software. This means Watchfire Digital Outdoor billboards are updated easily - from anywhere - without sending out a posting crew. In fact, you can update and manage your digital billboard from anywhere in the world.
Most of our billboard customers use broadband wireless connectivity, though we also offer DSL connectivity.
Yes. Our Ignite® Online software has been built with the billboard operator in mind. With just an hour or two of training from a Watchfire software specialist, most people feel very comfortable using our intuitive online interface.
Ignite Online comes standard with the purchase of every Watchfire billboard.
Image files such JPG files are the most common file type, though GIF and BMP files work well too.
The Ignite Online dynamic content designer provides advertising flexibility. Use RSS feeds to design advertising content that changes depending on weather, news, sports scores or your calendar of events.
Our financing option is exclusively for Watchfire Digital Outdoor billboards. It allows you to make a manageable monthly payment for your sign. Watchfire buyers choose this option for the flexibility and freedom it allows.
Our 5-year warranty and 1-year field labor warranty are standard on every LED sign we build - and they have been for years.
There are no "upgrade" games, and you don't have to pay extra for the 5-year protection. It covers all electronics and LEDs on your Watchfire Digital Outdoor billboard. To the best of our knowledge, no one in the industry offers a better warranty.
You'll have complete support from Watchfire during and after installation. This support includes all of the following: training on your new sign's software and hardware, delivery of parts and quick repairs, customer support to answer your questions and our 5-year warranty and 1-year field labor warranty. It's standard on every LED sign we build - and has been for years.
You also have lifetime access to our Help Desk at no charge.
Digital Outdoor: An LED billboard that is used to display multiple advertisers' messages, typically located off-premise (in other words, it's not located on a business's property, but is located some distance away, more visible to traffic and the public). Billboard operators sell media space on the digital billboard to advertisers.
On-premise LED Signs: An on-premise sign is an LED sign located outdoors on the premises of a business, typically mounted on the building, in a monument display or on a set of posts, used by the business owner or organization to directly promote their specific business or organization. On-premise LED signs can usually use animation, scrolling, or full-motion video, depending on local zoning regulations.
If you're looking for an on-premise LED sign for your business, visit the Watchfire Signs website to learn about our sister products.
Watchfire digital billboards are more energy efficient, more technologically advanced and more user-friendly than ever:
- Reduction in energy requirements. A Watchfire 19mm digital bulletin, for example, now requires just 50 amps of service.
- We can help with market research, custom sales materials and comprehensive sales training to maximize your revenue from day one.
- Front- and rear-service cabinets simplify maintenance, improve appearance and lower the overall weight of the structure.
- Higher-efficacy LEDs effectively deliver a wider viewing angle and truer colors.
- Ignite® Online offers Web-based access and the display of RSS feeds (news, sports scores, stock quotes, weather forecasts, etc.)
- Whole-sign color calibration on every Watchfire billboard eliminates the "tiling" or "quilting" effect.
- Advanced image processing gives Watchfire the deepest color palette in the industry for richer, more vibrant images.
We hope you're feeling informed and ready to move forward to the next steps in selecting an LED billboard manufacturer. We offer a number of resources that can be downloaded and reviewed, or call 800-219-0496 for more information.
Large quantities of data show that digital billboards are safe. On December 30, 2013, the Federal Highway Administration released a study about digital billboards and traffic safety. The study was conducted using instrumented vehicles equipped with an eye tracking system. Unlike prior studies, this study evaluated drivers in two U.S. cities, Reading, Pa., and Richmond, Va. Findings indicate that drivers do not direct their attention away from the forward roadway long enough to present decrease in safety. Read the study here - the executive summary begins on page 1.
In 2007, state officials from South Carolina, Virginia and West
Virginia found that the rate of accidents did not increase in
proximity to digital billboards. Local officials in El Paso,
Texas; Rochester, Minn.; and elsewhere have echoed this same
In addition, the outdoor advertising industry began analyzing accident records in 2007. Conducted in Cleveland, Ohio, this pioneering research showed no significant statistical relationship between digital billboards and traffic accidents.
There have been several notable studies. During 2009 and
2010, five studies were conducted using in-depth data that spanned
years. The studies looked at more than 160,000 accident
records in proximity to 69 digital billboard faces. The
billboard sizes varied, and the locations included Interstates,
expressways and local roads. The combined traffic counts in
these studies exceed one-half billion cars per year. In all
five of the studies, there was no statistically-significant
relationship between accidents and digital billboards. These
studies also showed that the age of the driver and the time of the
day were not factors.
More specific information about these studies can be found here.