What Communication Options are there for Programmable LED Signs?

23rd October 2014

programmable led signs and rate boardsTo communicate with our programmable  LED Signs we have a number of options. Some use a keypad, others PC software. In general terms PC software is easier to use once set up because you can control one or a number of signs quickly and easily. Not all displays have all the options below. If in doubt discuss your application with a Messagemaker Engineer.

Pluginkey board
A hand held keypad plugs into a port on the display. Text is entered from the keypad. Once text is entered the keypad can be removed. Advantage is simplicity of operation. Disadvantage is that it’s quite time consuming and you need to plug in the keyboard (can you reach it easily?). Not normally available on multiline signs because programming is difficult. PC control is best for frequently hanging messages.

Infrared keypad
Very similar to above except that infra red communications mean no wired connection is needed. Simply aim the IR keypad up to 15M away at the display. Advantages are wireless connection, disadvantages that you can’t always use it on outdoor signs or window applications. Standard on some displays but extra on others. The keypad can be fiddly to operate.

Hardwiredusing/PCsoftwareover/RS232or/RS485 communications
This uses a data cable daisy chained through the building or outside and connecting every sign to each other. It is the safest and most secureProgrammable LED  signs and display boards way of transmitting data. Even if the computer network is down you can still successfully transmit. If the cabling has to be extensive it can be quite time consuming to lay. Cabling usually runs in the ceiling or floor cavity. Either your own staff or preferred subcontractor can lay cabling to our specification. For distances under 30Metres RS232 can be used. For larger distances or most multi addressed systems RS485 communications are preferred and if needed a low cost RS485 line driver (£83) should be fitted. Makingthedisplayanetworkpointwithit’sownTCP/IPaddress On most displays it is possible to incorporate a network box inside or outside the sign to create a network point at the display. On many signs this is standard. On others it adds £160 to the cost.
GSM/ GPRS / 3G/4G DataModemusing PC software
Subject to adequate reception (90% of the population is covered) this is fairly straightforward. The radio modems simply takes the place of the phone modem. They use a digital data transmission network are fully approved and will not interfere with other radio transmissions. Each modem plus aerial costs approximately £275. You would need one with each sign you wished to send to. In addition there is a monthly subscription fee to the network dependent on your anticipated traffic of £5-15 a month typically. You must specify a DATA ENABLED Sim card to use with this.
Short & long distance radio communications
This uses licence exempt radio modems to achieve wireless transmission of communications. Very useful if cabling is impractical. Two versions are available. Short distance radio modems cost £75 each and work up to 100M away in clear line-of-sight transmission applications. More powerful versions work up to 3km away in buildings, up to 20km away outdoors and cost £425 each.

SMS text Messaging
Useful for basic messaging and frequent updating. Security coding ensures accidental or malicious content cannot be displayed. Cost is £275 for GSM Modem, excluding SIM card which client is to provide. Useful on single line displays or smaller multiline displays.