We live in a world where effective communication is critical. And, besides the business benefit, even utility companies and public amenity providers also need to be able to properly communicate with people in real time.
In recent times, this communication has been bolstered by Variable Message Sign (VMS) boards. Known for their ability to deliver dynamic and simple messages, VMS boards have become a staple in different industries as a reliable and effective real-time communications tool.
So, what are these signs and how do they work? Just as well, we’ll explain how best to get the most out of your sign going forward – if you choose to get one.
The VMS Sign Board: What Is It?
A Variable Message Sign – or VMS – board is a simple board that provides an opportunity to communicate seamlessly between people. Primarily used in transport and security systems, it offers one-way communication capabilities between drivers and pedestrians, with a light-emitting build that makes it difficult to miss.
If you’re a regular commuter, then there’s a significant chance that you’ve seen a VMS board somewhere; you probably just don’t know it. For a perfect example, consider those signages on motorways that deliver messages such as “Traffic Ahead” or “Speed Limit: 20 MPH.”
Remember those? Great! That’s a VMS board!
With VMS boards, you’re able to deliver variable and switching messages using high-level technology. The signs are commonly used on highways to offer guidance, real-time information, warnings, and other critical messages. However, they also have applications in several other industries – we’ll look deeply into those in a later section.
It is generally believed that VMS boards first came into prominence back in the 1950s. Their use first became mainstream in the United States at a time that coincided with the massive adoption of vehicles and automobiles. Authorities needed a way to better control traffic and communicate with both drivers and pedestrians, and these signs – with their bright lights and catchy nature – provided the perfect opportunity.
Today, many of us see VMS boards without even realizing it. And, with their impressive functionality, they are a solid communication tool across the board.
Components Of A VMS Sign Board
The entire setup or a VMS board isn’t so complicated. Generally, the boards come with the following components, working together to provide real-time, variable messaging:
- Display Panel: As you’d expect, the display panel provides the primary visual component of any VMS board. In most cases, display panels are made of Light Emitting Diode (LED) boards – or other illuminated elements – that form the symbols and characters displayed on the screen. With its brightness, energy efficiency, and long-term strength, LED technology has become the standard for VMS boards.
- Board Controller: The controller is the central operating module of the VMS board, being primarily responsible for managing and switching the content on the display. In most cases, the controller gets instructions from a primary control system and translates them into appropriate commands for the display panel. Due to its operation, the board is able to display dynamic and variable messages.
- Communication Interface: Most VMS boards are connected to a central control system with the aid of a communication interface. This interface enables the seamless passage of instructions to and from the VMS board, incorporating methods such as wireless or network connections to ensure quick and accurate communication.
- Power Supply: To function properly, you’d need to plug your VMS board to a power source. All components – front he display to the network array – will need to get electrical current to work. In most cases, the boards are connected directly to the local power grid.
However, the rise of solar power in recent times has meant that solar panels and other alternative sources of power can also be used. These ensure that the sign continues operating, even in cases of power outage. As long as there’s sufficient power to operate the board, you should be able to enjoy an endless operation.
- Sensors: Not every VMS board comes with sensor.s However, those that do would need them to gather real-time data to display sensitive and relevant information. For instance, you can have boards with sensors that measure weather conditions, traffic movement, and more, enabling the VMS board to offer timely and accurate information to drivers.
- Mounting Structure: Most VMS boards are installed on strong mounting surfaces that can withstand exposure to the elements – especially if they are placed in outdoor locations. With proper mounting, the sign should be stable and visible to motorists or viewers even if they are a considerable distance away.
Now, you should note that there are some VMS boards that incorporate features such as graphics capabilities, color displays, and even flexible sizing options. However, with the components listed above, you should be able to get a solid VMS board.
Functionality and Features of VMS Sign Boards
For them to be able to operate as they do, VMS sign boards need to incorporate several features. While these tend to vary based on the type of sign board you’re getting, some of the most essential features of a VMS board include:
- Dynamic Messaging and Real-Time Updates: The best VMS boards provide an opportunity to share different types of messages – from alerts to warnings to notifications and more. Just as well, it is important to have a board that lets you drop messages in real time, based on changing and dynamic situations.
- Variable Display Options: You also need a VMS board that will allow you to share different types of messages – ranging from text to symbols and even special graphics. Flexibility in content formats will benefit you as it ensures your ability to reach a broader audience and engage people more efficiently.
- Programmable and Customizable Content: The most advanced VMS boards come with the opportunity to set content remotely through simple and comprehensible programming. Some boards can also be customized and personalized to provide a more impactful content delivery system across the board. All of these provide an opportunity for easier and more effective operation.
- Brightness and Visibility Control: As part of the drive towards flexibility, you want a VMS that allows you to easily control its brightness levels. This is especially important for boards that will be placed in outdoor locations – you can make changes to the brightness levels based on the availability of ambient light, thus making the boards – and their messages- more visible to people.
- Connectivity and Integration with Systems: Finally, VMS boards should be more compatible with additional systems. This is especially true in traffic management, where boards could function as a component of a broader traffic management system.
Which VMS Sign Board Is Best For You?
Considering that they are so effective, you might already be looking to get a VMS board for yourself. However, before you do, it’s important to understand the types of boards available to you as well as the scenarios where each might be more ideal:
Full-Matrix VMS Boards:
The full-matrix VMS board comes with a full matrix display panel – complete with different LED rows and columns. This build makes it possible for the boards to display just about anything – text, graphics, symbols, etc.
The boards are also notable for their flexibility in messaging, as well as their ability to display complex information with optimal visibility levels.
Line-Matrix VMS Boards:
A line-matrix VMS board is similar to the full-matrix variant. However, they differ in the sense that line-matrix boards only come with a single line of characters. So, when you need to display simple text or symbols, these boards are perfect for you.
Color VMS Boards:
As the name suggests, a color VMS board will come with LEDs that can display different color options. With the use of colors, you can achieve optimal visibility and convey information with potentially better results.
In cases when you need to deliver important alerts or drive home a critical message, color VMS boards are better because of their higher potential to be seen.
Portable VMS Boards:
You might think that VMS boards have to be big and bold, but this isn’t always the case. Thanks to advancements in design technology, we now have portable VMS boards, which are designed to be transported easily.
These boards are mostly mounted on movable structures like cars or trailers, making them perfect for deployment in work areas, special events, etc. As expected, their benefit lies in the fact that they can quickly be set up and moved if the need arises.
Overhead VMS Boards:
The overhead VMS boards are installed directly above highways. In most cases, you have structures supporting them, spanning different motorway lanes. Drivers are able to see the boards at eye level and consume their content directly without any obstruction – from real-time traffic updates to safety messages and other information.
Integrated VMS Boards:
With an integrated VMS board, you get the flexibility of a traditional VMS board and other safety or traffic control devices. For instance, the boards could come with integrated radars that enable speed detection or sensors that collect weather data and display it.
With their enhanced functionality, integrated VMS boards can provide a broader wealth of information to viewers.
Vehicle-Mounted VMS Boards:
As the name suggests, these boards are installed on particular vehicles – first trucks, police cars, etc. They ensure easy deployment of dynamic messages, serving purposes like traffic control, emergency response, and more.
Each variant of the traditional VMS board comes with its benefits and applications. To choose the appropriate type, consider factors such as intended location, proposed use, and visibility requirements.
Whatever option you choose, rest assured that we at NSE LED Cloud will be able to get what you need. Simply let us know your requirements, and we will be able to get your desired board.
VMS Sign Boards: Everyone Wants Them!
Today, VMS boards are pretty much everywhere. With their ability to deliver real-time, impactful messages, these boards are used in different industries where conveying sensitive information is important. Some of these include:
Transportation and Road Authorities:
Perhaps the industry that uses VMS boards the most is transportation. Road authorities use them to manage traffic flow, provide time-sensitive information to drivers, and generally ensure that the road is kept free and safe.
VMS boards are also used on expressways and urban roads – as well as intersections – where they help to communicate things like lane control information, emergency notifications, and more.
Construction and Engineering:
In the construction space, VMS boards are used to ensure optimal work zone management. Authorities use them to communicate traffic detours, lane closures, enforce speed limits, and share other safety information with anyone who might be approaching.
All in all, the use of a vMS board can help to improve safety and reduce traffic disruptions in the overall construction zone.
Public Safety and Emergency Services:
Law enforcement agencies have also been able to use vMA boards to optimize public safety and better control emergencies. Police, fire departments. Amnd emergency management authorities use the boards to seamlessly communicate things like evacuation channels, notifications, and more in the event of public emergencies.
In public spaces – stadiums, airports, shopping malls, etc. – VMS boards help to offer real-time information about available parking areas, wayfinding for specific high-volume areas, and even parking rates.
The goal here is to use the boards to improve parking utility, cut out congestion, and optimize the overall experience for users.
Mass Transit Systems:
Mass transit systems like train stations and bus terminals use VMS boards to display information – from arrival and departure times to changes in routes and possible disruptions in service. Essentially, as long as it’s information that commuters will find useful, the VMS board is capable of displaying it.
The boards also assist in optimizing passenger flow and offering timely information to enhance the overall effectiveness of mass transit operations.
Event managers at concert venues, sports arenas, and other high-volume entertainment centers can use VMS boards to guide attendees. They can display routes, parking information, event schedules, and provide other critical event-related information.
Commercial and Retail:
The retail space has evolved significantly. And, in a market that is becoming ever competitive, companies are looking for ways to stand out and differentiate themselves from others.
With VMS boards, retail stores at shopping centers, airports, and other locations can display information about their products, promotions, and more. They contribute to effective customer communication and engagement, and they can help to optimize the shopping experience and provide seamless navigation in large shop complexes.
Schools, colleges, and other educational institutions can use VMS boards to display important information around campuses. Whether it’s event schedules, directions, safety details, class updates, and more, VMS boards provide a better way to enhance communication between staff, students, and visitors within the campus.
As long as they can be used judiciously and within the right context, VMS boards are a net positive for just about any industry.
VMS Sign Boards: Operational Benefits & Advantages
With functionality in different industries, VMS boards provide several operational benefits that can shape the way they are being used. Some of these advantages include:
- Improved Traffic Management: With their ability to provide real-time traffic information to drivers, VMS boards ensure that they can make the right choices regarding traffic behavior and routes. This leads to a more optimized traffic flow and cuts down on congestion.
- Enhanced Road Safety: VMS boards also display critical information such as accidents, hazards, road closures, or speed limit changes. As such, they contribute to better road safety, allowing drivers to adjust their driving based on available information.
- Timely Information Dissemination: With a VMS board, you will be able to quickly and efficiently disseminate information to a large number of people. Ensure that they get timely information that’s important to them, all towards achieving a specific goal.
- Flexibility and Customization: It’s all in the name, of course. VMS boards also provide the opportunity to incorporate flexibility in content and customization options. Whether you’re trying to display symbols, alphanumeric characters, or graphics, a VMS board allows you to do that easily.
- Real-Time Updates: You can always update a VMS board in real time. This allows you to provide immediate, relevant information to your audience – a benefit that comes in very handy in rapidly changing situations and emergencies.
- Energy Efficiency: Thanks to their use of LED technology, VMS boards provide impressive levels of energy efficiency compared to traditional signage. LEDs consume less power, meaning that your energy costs – and carbon footprint – will be reduced significantly.
- Cost Savings: To be fair, you will need to put up some money to have a VMS board installed. However, the cost of the board doesn’t compare to the long-term benefits you stand to gain from it. So, it is undoubtedly worth the investment.
Setting A VMS Sign Board: Design and Placement Considerations
When setting up a VMS sign board, it is important to consider several important factors to ensure that the board remains effective and can perform as it should. And, as you look to purchase one, be sure to have plans for the following:
Location and Placement:
Of course, the location and placement of the board should be your first priority. You want to choose the right location for the board based on your intended purpose for it and the target audience.
For this step, you need to consider factors such as line of sight, visibility, and possible readability as people approach it. Ensure strategic placement of the board, focusing on maximizing its impact and minimizing possible obstructions that could prevent people from seeing it.
Message Content and Design:
You also need to determine the right type of messages that will be displayed on the board – as well as their development design.
Having the right message doesn’t mean much if it’s not legible and comprehensible for its audience. So, ensure that you have the right design, color, font size, and message layout. All of these will see to it that your content is easily comprehensible across the board.
Power Supply and Connectivity:
As we said earlier, your VMS board will work with electricity. So, you need to ensure that you have a reliable power supply route for the board. Consider the board’s power requirements and make accommodations for appropriate power sources.
Just as well, see to it that you have a reliable connectivity option that allows you to manage and update the content on the board. It could be a cellular network, WiFi access, etc. As long as it gets the job done.
Maintenance and Serviceability:
You also need to have a plan for maintaining the VMS board. Schedule regular inspections, cleaning, and maintenance repairs based on the manufacturer’s requirements. At NSE LED Cloud, we can provide the right instructions to help ensure that your board is in top shape, and that you can get the most out of it.
If you’ll be installing your board at an outdoor location, then you want to consider the environmental factors at the installation site. Make accommodations for sunlight exposure, extreme temperatures, wind access, and moisture content.
Our VMS boards at NSE LED Cloud are built to be resilient and withstand significant environmental factors. However, minimizing contact will go a long way in helping you get the most out of your board.
Regulatory and Permit Requirements:
In most cases, you will need to ensure compliance with local laws and guidelines that govern the installation and operation of your VMS board. To wit, ensure that you remain in compliance with the right laws.
The applicable laws concern factors such as board size, placement, electrical requirements, and even messaging. We recommend working with a professional installer who will be able to take you through all important guidelines as you prepare for the installation.
Integration with Traffic Management Systems:
If you’re looking to get a VMS board as part of a traffic management system, then you would most likely need to incorporate it with other components – sensors, CCTV cameras, control centers, etc.
To that end, ensuring compatibility with these other devices is important as it ensures seamless coordination and management of all information.
User Training and Documentation:
You also need to ensure that everyone who operates and manages the VMS board is trained to handle it. See to it that they are familiar with the board’s control interface, the content management systems, and any required troubleshooting procedures.
Comprehensive documentation will be critical as well. You can create manuals and guides to help users operate and maintain the board ideally.
Your installation of a VMS board should also include proper engagement with relevant stakeholders – government agencies, community members, etc. Look out for potential bottlenecks, seek input, and find ways to address possible concerns to ensure that the installation of your board aligns with community objectives.
Getting The Most Out Of Your VMS Sign Boards
Owning a VMS board can help to significantly improve your communication efficiency. However, VMS boards also need regular maintenance to ensure that they operate optimally and can deliver the most value.
If you own a VMS board, then we would recommend that you build a maintenance schedule for it. The schedule should include maintenance steps, as well as frequent checkups on the board’s components to see that they are in top condition.
If you find that you might need additional help, then don’t hesitate to call for it. Reach out to the board’s manufacturer on the next steps, or get a professional to come in and give the board a thorough examination to identify and fix possible faults.
Another important point to keep in mind is to ensure that the board’s software and firmware are always up to date. Software updates provide benefits such as bug fixes and patches, which help to address system issues that you might not know how to fix. Just as well, they provide the added benefit of improved security, ensuring that data and your messaging can’t be intercepted by nefarious individuals.
Troubleshooting Common Issues
As a VMS board operator, it is important for you to be aware of some of the prominent issues that could affect your board from time to time. As part of your maintenance schedule, try to make accommodations for the following:
From power outages to display failures and more, VMS boards can experience technical malfunctions. To address these issues, be sure to have a maintenance schedule that allows you to inspect and troubleshoot the board. If the need arises, engage technical experts – or give us a call at NSE LED Cloud and we will be able to help out.
If your VMS board relied on cellular or internet networks to operate and make updates, then connectivity issues can be catastrophic.
To mitigate this, ensure that your network connection is robust and secure. You should also consider connection backups and using multiple network providers as possible redundancy options.
Visibility and Readability Challenges:
When a VMS board isn’t visible, it becomes less effective. Fortunately, you can address this issue by choosing the right font color, size, and color contrasts to optimize the board’s visibility. Regular cleaning to remove obstructions like dirt or debris can also help.
When you have too much information on a VMS board, you run the risk of overwhelming its drivers and reducing the impact of the messages.
So, as part of your content development, focus on relevant, short, and comprehensible messages. Limit the number of messages being displayed per time, and ensure that everyone can process the information being passed quickly.
Power Supply Issues:
A VMS board will need a stable power supply to operate effectively. So, ensure that you have a reliable power source and backup power options in case there’s an outage. Power sources should be tested regularly as well to ensure their functionality.
Like we said earlier, the fact that VMS boards are built to withstand extreme weather conditions doesn’t necessarily mean you should subject them to that.
As much as possible, do your best to shield the board from excess moisture, exposure to sunlight, and other factors. However, you should also remember that the best way to avoid any of these issues is to get a high-quality VMS board – just like the ones we offer at NSE LED Cloud.
How VMS Sign Boards Will Shape Communications
The market for VMS boards is incredibly vibrant right now. And, considering that they work across multiple industries, things should only get better. But, like everything else, VMS boards will most likely evolve as they continue to change the way we pass information.
One of the many ways we believe that VMS boards will change is concerning their integration with Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS).
An ITS incorporates different advanced technologies and communication systems to improve road safety and efficiency in a transportation network. From sensors to communication devices and data analytics, an ITS focuses on ensuring that road networks are free and clear. And, with VMS boards already showing their efficiency with optimizing communications, we believe that they could be a major part of the ITS evolution.
Data analytics and predictive modeling are also areas where we expect to see growth VMS boards emphasize more in the future. With both, boards will be even smarter and more flexible in their operation, taking advantage of a broader set of data to display more relevant information to viewers.
VMS boards have become a revolution for communication. Whether in the traffic management industry or even retail, their ability to share important, relevant information to people makes them highly underrated.
With NSE LED Cloud, you have the opportunity to get your hands on the best, most efficient VMS boards available on the market. No matter the type, we have what you need. Contact us today, and let us know how to help you.