Digital Design Process 3.


Engineering Design – Components

Consider the digital components as early as possible in the design process. Correct selection of components can greatly impact the functionality, efficiency and cost of the completed solution. Common digital components include:




LCD  (Liquid Crystal Display) and LED (Light Emitting Diode) screens are the two most popular types of screens.


Domestic LCD screens are typically used for 4-6 hours a day and only have a brightness level of 250 nits or candelas per m2, which is fine in a living room where the light level is low but retail environments tend to be much brighter and therefore require brighter screens to create contrast.

Also, domestic screens aren’t able to hold static images for prolonged periods, such as logo’s or typographic images because the images burns the screen surface and leaves a ‘ghost’ image.

Commercial LCD screens have brighter screens and internal components of higher quality to meet the demands of an extended operating life.


Domestic screen                  250 nits          4-6 hours daily use

Commercial screen              700 nits          16 or 24 hours daily use/7 days a week

One of the main reasons to use a screen in store is to attract attention but this can only be achieved when the screen is bright enough to create contrast, much like display lighting.

As a rule of thumb, the brightness level of the screen must match the store lighting level as a minimum luxx per meter squared in store versus candelas per meter squared or nits.

For example, if a supermarket store slighting is 750 luxx pm2 then the screen would need to be 700 nits to have noticeable contrast and been seen across the store from more than 3m.

Recommended brightness levels for screens

> 3m viewing distance in store      350-500 nits

< 3m viewing distance in store      500-1000 nits

< 3m viewing distance external     2500-4000 nits

Most commercial LCD screens will have adjustment settings to reduce brightness and this in turn can be used to extend the life of the screen.

Retail environments tend to have high light levels with lots of lights to so it’s important to ensure the screens is not in direct light otherwise the brightness level will have to be increased to achieve an acceptable contrast level.

It’s recommended to use screens that have anti-glare finish to reduce the need for high bright screens.


Touch screens

Touch screens offer immediate customer engagement and physical contact with the content.

This is achieved by adding a sensor-based panel over a standard screen which reacts to finger pressure.

(It’s worth noting that the pressure sensitive layer limits the brightness of the screen to 250nits and means that anti reflective layer cannot be added)

When considering touch screens it’s import to ensure the screen is perpendicular to the user with minimal reflectivity.

Shelf edge screens

Compact linear screens can extend content delivery to the shelf front as well as offering the benefits of digital pricing.

As with other LCD screens the operating software is a critical component in the evaluation of these products.

One of the most critical decisions will be whether the screens are stand alone or if they’re interrogate with the existing EPOS.


It can be difficult to find LCD screens smaller than 32” because factory’s that build them typically make domestic screens as well and 32” is the smallest common screen size.

Computer monitors can be used as an alternative but typically have limited brightness levels due to their typical usage. If computer monitors are chosen then it is imperative to ensure they are commercial grade and guaranteed for extended operating use.


These can be used for small screens within displays but with brightness levels of only 200-250 nits they are limited to close proximity viewing.

Also tablets typically run on Android or IOS platforms and may not be compatible with CMS platforms.


LED screens are made using LED’s in grids to make interconnecting tiles. The tiles allow the screens to be built to bespoke sizes and are typically used in large format commercial advertising such as shopping centres and outdoor advertising.

The density if the LED grid determines the resolution of picture and cost. As a rule of thumb, pixel density is equal to the recommended viewing distance. For example:

> 1.9mm pixels         2m viewing distance

> 2.8mm pixels         3m viewing distance

> 5.0mm pixels         5m and more viewing distance


Media players

These devices act like mini-computers and process the delivery of content onto LCD, LED, monitors, tablets.


LCD screens and tablets typically have built in media players. They can offer the benefit of reduced components and cost,  however they often have limited platforms and only work with manufactures CMS software.

It is recommended to use screens with media players that work on multiple platforms.


Monitors and LED screens will require external media players and are often used in conjunction with LCD screens and tablets to provide an agnostic CMS solution.

Whilst adding some additional cost external media players will ensure that multiple screen manufactures and types can be used.

External media players also have the capacity to run multiple screens and can be placed either close to the screen or in the other store locations such as the sever cabinet with the use of HDMI extenders.

Key considerations

  • Agnostic player with ability to run multiple software programs
  • Ability to live stream or play audio files or HD video
  • ‘Plug and play’ simplicity for ease of installation
  • Ethernet LAN input
  • WIFI compatibility
  • HDMI HD output – multiple outputs where possible
  • Audio output – where possible



To connect the screens with the product, sensors can be integrated into the display or attached to the product to provide instant, relevant product information.

This type of technology connects the content developer directly with the customer and offers an instant personalisation.

Sensors can be used in a variety of ways depending on the design and type of products on offer. Examples include:

  • Weight sensors
  • Motion sensors
  • Proximity sensors

While many hardware providers have turnkey and lone solutions, integration with existing CMS may be required by the retailer.


The use of audio instore can range from background ambient to live music, this guide focuses on the former and recommends the use of speciality advice for the latter.

Studies have shown that audio can have a strong subliminal influence on shoppers with style and tempo influencing the mood of shoppers and how quickly they shop.

Retailers will typically have a style of music they play based on the demographic of their customers however their most consistent listeners are their staff and happy staff are more productive. Therefore, music and good quality audio can have an influence on customers, staff and sales and should not be overlooked in the digital design process.

Key considerations:

a. Does the store require different levels or types of music in different areas?

  • How is the music delivered to store and how is it updated?
  • Will the retailer integrate messages and promotions?
  • Is the content all synced to the same sound level?
  • Commercial or unlicensed music?


Music licensing

Retailers who play commercially available music must pay a licence fee for broadcasting music to PPL, PRS and MCPS, based upon the size of their store.
Music which is part royalty free, where the supplier does not pay royalties to licensing bodies, may still require the retailer to hold a site licence for each store.

Royalty free music does not require any licencing fees.


Music hardware is one of the most rapidly developing consumer electronics, with recent years seeing the move from CD to MP3 and now streaming audio.

These changes mean hardware can become difficult to maintain and ultimately redundant. Before selecting a music hardware source it is important to consider the cost and ability to source and deliver music.

Media players

Either in the form of standalone devices or integrated with multi-media players, digital audio players provide the retailer with the opportunity to remotely update and manage music and content.

See previous f. Media players for further details


Consideration should be given to music zoning and microphone paging. All amplifiers should have RCA audio connectors.



Consideration should be given to:

  1. existing hardware infrastructure when integrating analytics within the store.
  2. what the data will be used for and what is most valuable?


Many analytics providers will offer solutions that work with existing CCTV installations reducing the need for cameras instore. However, it’s worth noting that CCTV cameras are not always positioned for the same purpose and additional cameras may be needed.

When retailers or brands require facial recognition for gender or age identification cameras need to be positioned facing directly at the customer and within close proximity. This typically requires a small camera, so the customer is not put off and therefore in-built micro cameras offer a good solution. This type of camera normally works up to 1.5m from the customer.

Alternatively, more sophisticated cameras can be added externally to screens, and may require additional housing, but will work up to 3m from the customer and are more expensive.


Motion and proximity sensors offer an alternative to cameras and can often be integrated with a camera based system.


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