By Wade Wei, general manager of product at NovaStar and Steve Venuti, VP Marketing at Keyssa
Very few products have as many connections as an LED video wall. Cabinets connected to cabinets running Ethernet through RJ45 connectors. LED display modules connected to cabinets or backplanes with B2B connectors running parallel RGB and a number of control signals. And with each of these hundreds of connectors comes the very real possibility that one will fail.
Connector failure should not be surprising; the mechanical data connector has been around for over a hundred years. In many applications, especially where connectors are exposed to environmental hazards or subjected to, traditional mechanical connectors can become damaged and fail.
The Problems with Traditional Connectors in LED Video Walls
The fundamental issue with mechanical connectors is…. they are mechanical; two pieces of metal that need to touch and remain physically connected to provide a reliable signal. Over time, mechanical devices will fail due to wear and tear, breakage, misalignment, and all those environmental hazards that surround us: water, dust, dirt, oxidation, and vibrations.
There are a couple of trends that are working against mechanical connectors in video wall applications.
- Increasing data rates: Cabinet-to-cabinet connections running at 1 Gigabit per second are moving to 5 Gigabits per second as video wall resolutions increase. The standard connector is the RJ45, a connector from the 1980’s and never designed for this kind of application. It is no wonder the RJ45 is a major failure point for video walls.
- Decreasing pixel pitches: Beyond requiring more data to accommodate the tighter pixel pitch on each LED display module, with sub 1 mm pitch, the typical B2B connector that connects the display module to the hub board has become another mechanical problem. Manufacturing tolerances are not always precise enough to align pixels at sub 1 mm. With a 2.5 mm pitch, it didn’t really matter. With video walls entering the conference room, it matters a lot.
The Case for Wireless Connectors (no, it is nothing like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or 5G)
When we think about mechanical connectors, we think one device connected to another. We can get fast data throughput over a connector, and as long as the connector doesn’t get damaged, the connection is reliable. When we think about wireless, we think about freedom from cables and connectors, but at the expense of bandwidth, security, and link reliability. And typical wireless technologies, like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, require logins, passwords, pairing or complex software to make the system work.
Wireless connectors are small chips that are embedded under the case of a device, and when they come into close proximity with another device, they automatically connect – just like a connector. Since they are designed to transmit over a very short distance, and since they are connected to a single device, data throughput is very high, and reliability is better than a cable and connector.
More importantly, they are encased by the device… immune from water, dust, lint – able to tolerate misalignment which is critical to address the tight alignment requirements of display modules. And the wireless connectors used in video walls operate in the 60 GHz band of the spectrum, far above the emissions from Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, audio signals, cellular or 5G. In other words, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cellular, 5G – none of these technologies will interfere with 60 GHz wireless connectors and these connectors will not interfere with all the devices that use those wireless technologies.
Case Study: Reliability and Ease of Installation (NovaStar)
Wirelessly connected video wall solutions are starting to show up in the market. At the LED China show in Shenzhen in early September, NovaStar showed their first cabinet-to-cabinet wireless connector product – the KISSLED wireless solution. NovaStar is currently shipping a KISSLED supporting 1 Gigabit Ethernet and in the first quarter of 2021, NovaStar will start selling its 5 Gigabit Ethernet KISSLED solution. Both the 1 and 5 Gigabit solutions come in two different configurations: an all wireless connected video wall system eliminating the need for Ethernet cabling from cabinet to cabinet, focused on the rental market where quick install and breakdown are critical, and a dual-channel solution featuring cabinets that use both wired and wireless connections simultaneously to ensure constant uptime even in the case of a mechanical connector failure.
When a mechanical connector fails, the wireless connector continues to keep the video wall up and running – targeted toward markets where uninterrupted uptime is essential such as public information displays or control room applications.
The two key benefits to NovaStar: reliability and ease of installation. The dirty little secret about 60GHz wireless connectors is that the Bit Error rate is lower and the uptime is higher than traditional cables and connectors. Eliminate the single most error-prone part of a video wall, the connector, and you can increase uptime dramatically.
As for ease of installation, the fewer cables you need to plug in, the faster walls go up and the faster they come down. Not to mention the joy of ridding yourself with a good portion of the cable mess of any installation.
NovaStar’s website also features a wireless LED display module connector. The web page highlights that this wireless connector allows for flexible placement of modules by eliminating the static B2B connector, saving board space while meeting the flexible alignment requirements of fine pitch displays with an XYZ connector tolerance of 1 mm.
The LED Video Wall World is Trending Wireless
The technology enabling wireless connectors at the speeds required for video data throughput, and with the reliability better than physical cables and connectors, is a relatively recent development. We all think of wireless as slow and unreliable. But wireless in the 60GHz band, used to connect two devices at a very short distance, offers benefits above and beyond what mechanical connectors and cables can offer. With pixel pitches getting smaller and smaller and display module resolutions increasing, the demands on cabinet-to-cabinet and module-to-hub connectors is clearly demonstrating the limitations and weaknesses of mechanical connectors. Device connectivity is trending wireless. LED video walls are no exception.