Global Display Solutions design, manufacture, supply, install and maintain Passenger Information Displays for rail – how have you seen the technology change during the time you’ve been with the company?
GDS focusses on innovation and research, aiming to be first to market with its technology so I have consequently seen a lot of changes in recent years!
LCD technology has moved forward significantly in the past ten years with many displays now being 4K or UHD in resolution. We have found that LCD based screens have become more popular for outdoor and demanding semi-outdoor environments across Europe and the rest of the world. The UK rail industry still tends to use LED matrix displays, but our global customers find that LCD provides better resolution and more ‘screen space’ to display critical information for passengers.
GDS has also developed a new eTela™ range of e-paper displays which are often solar powered. Although not a new innovation, GDS continues to innovate its’ displays for outdoor and harsh environments with the G+Bond, its’ own optical bonding material and process which is now into its third generation. This process removes the traditional ‘air gap’ between the front glass and LCD screen, significantly reducing the internal reflections, improving the display characteristics, preventing dust and moisture ingress and improving heat dissipation of the display.
GDS Technology was awarded RISQS certification for the UK in December last year, what was the process of receiving that certification like?
Despite the RISQS certification process being very thorough, the process was fairly straightforward for us, as being part of a large global group, and already holding accreditations such as ISO 9001, 14001, and IRIS, we were easily able to demonstrate all of the requirements.
What are the most important things customers should consider when looking for Public Information Displays (PIDS)?
We believe the most important thing that customers should consider is selecting hardware which has the lowest overall Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Often customers only consider the initial cost of the equipment, forgetting the lifetime costs of maintenance, reliability and replacement.
I would also say that for any displays that are installed outdoors or in very high ambient lighting conditions that optical bonding is important as mentioned earlier. Customers should also ensure that displays are properly designed for their intended environment – bright, rugged, and easy to maintain in-situ.
How does your flexible design philosophy help in the installation, maintenance and reliability of the PIDs?
Our design philosophy, and long experience, ensures that our displays are easy to install and simple to maintain. In fact, as we install and maintain a lot of our own displays for our customers, we have first-hand experience in what works and what doesn’t! We thoroughly test all our displays at our in-house testing facilities to ensure they function as required within the demanding railway environment.
How do you balance environmental and operating life requirements?
We strongly believe that these factors perfectly complement each other. By reducing power consumption, and better managing thermal dissipation, we can extend the life of our displays. GDS designs its own LED backlights for LCD displays, rather than relying on ‘off the shelf’ components, which allows us the ability
to meet the specific requirements of PIDS in challenging environments. Our eTela™ range of e-paper displays are ultra-low power and can be solar powered making them the greenest displays on the market!
How bespoke can you get when it comes to hardware and Digital Signage Software?
Our hardware can be fully customised depending on the project scope and requirements – we offer a range of paint colours and finishes and in many cases design bespoke enclosures for clients. Signage software depends very much upon the use-case – for advertising we offer a fully featured content management system (CMS), whilst for passenger information systems we have our own custom software platform which can be adapted for specific customer needs allowing third party data (real time passenger information) to be displayed intelligently on our displays. Our software engineers work with clients to choose the right solution and provide longer term technical support and training.
You describe your PIDs as ‘all-weather robust displays’, when it comes to robust displays, what are the most challenging ambient conditions you have to plan for?
Our high quality digital displays are suitable for all environments. We have ranges for Indoor, Semi-Outdoor and Full Outdoor environments all of which have their own environmental conditions to overcome. We have displays installed and working successfully in the Middle East with the high temperatures, sand/dust issues and high brightness viewing considerations through to displays installed and working in Norway, close to the arctic circle. Literally from one extreme to the other!
However, it is not just the climatic conditions that need consideration before choosing and installing digital displays, the environment in which the display is installed in needs careful consideration as well. For example, on the underground or on the metro systems carbon dust from brakes can be very corrosive. We have displays installed in Oslo, Norway between the tracks where trains pass either side.
If you want proof – you will see some of our displays in UK locations which are over ten years old!
When it comes to the passenger/ pedestrian making use of the display, what are the changes you’ve seen in terms of requirements and expectations?
We have seen a change from passengers being content with simple information such as train times and platforms, to now requiring much more information about their journey and the immediate environment. There has been an increasing trend towards ‘self-service’ where people would prefer to get information themselves than ask station staff and where a simple display would previously suffice, we are finding that interactive displays with more detailed information, relevant messaging and mapping is now required.
You focus on the UK, but how do customer expectations in the UK differ to global customers?
The UK differs from Europe, Asia and USA in market size and expectations. The UK tends to purchase LED Displays whereas in Europe and the US the ‘standard’ display technology tends to be LCD / TFT.
The specification route varies around the globe as does the procurement standards and personnel. Europe and the US also embraces new technology and change quite readily, however we in the UK seem to be more reticent. Typically, in other markets the rail infrastructure is nationally managed, whereas the UK market is made up of much smaller entities with differing requirements.
You provide services to industries other than transport, how do those other areas differ in terms of what you offer and what the customers expect?
Yes, we do provide display solutions to many other industries including, medical, industrial, advertising, retail and Quick Service Restaurants (QSR). Alongside railways, we also provide screen solutions for bus, trams and smart cities. Each market is very specific in their requirements but all expect high quality and reliable digital display solutions with the lowest total cost of ownership (TCO). Our screens can be found in many unusual places including in medical ventilators, cash machines and gym equipment!