Archive for September 16, 2015

Hackers in Atlanta Put Naked Man on LED Sign

Road signs are usually the target of hackers looking to get a little creative. They’ll hack into the road signs and put up messages about everything from zombie invasions to politically charged warnings. This time it was a private company that got hacked.

Naked Man on LED Sign

 

In May a hacker got into the billboard programming software of a company called Monumedia. They posted up an obscene image of a naked man (it gets worse than that, but for the purposes of this article let’s just say he was naked) on a billboard in Buckhead, Atlanta.

Shocking? Well, that’s what they’re going for.

As you may expect, some viewers were so upset by the image that they called the police. The police couldn’t really do anything about it other than try and find the owners and let them know they had to change the image.

The FBI was sent in to investigate and also determined that some other electronic LED signs owned by Yesco across the United States were also hacked.

As it turns out, security expert Dan Tentler has been trying to work with Yesco to secure their system as he has identified a clear loophole in their sign programming network that would allow this very incident. Yesco has turned him away.

Tentler has pointed out that Yesco, as well as many sign companies, use “cloud” software which keeps everything online, allowing their system to easily be hacked. Plus, they use very simplistic passwords that are easily bypassed.

Sunburst LED Signs has always steered clear of cloud software for several reasons.  One biggie is how easy they are to be hacked. The last thing a business needs is a vulgar display from an immature hacker on the front of its building!

Of course, the other reason to not use cloud software is that you are tied to that company. If you bought your sign from Yesco, and they go out of business, your sign is now worthless. Or what if they get on board with the Microsoft way of doing business and decide to start charging you $500/month to use their cloud? Now that sign that you bought and paid for is worthless, unless you pay them an additional $500/month.

Do your research, protect your systems, and make sure you go with a sign that isn’t going to one day have a naked man on it disgusting your potential customers and getting you in legal trouble.

Signs Manufacturing Corporation

Digital Sign Manufacturer Reviews

How Do The LED Billboard Companies Stack Up?

 

By Dwight Burdette (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

The question is, “What do outdoor companies really think about each of the digital sign manufacturers?” A national billboard trade magazine surveyed experienced outdoor advertising company owners.  Here’s what they found:

Daktronics is generally regarded as a good LED product with very poor customer service. Because Daktronics deals with so many very large national accounts, if you are a small company you will not be treated well.  They also require ongoing upgrades to keep their signs functioning. Not a recommended vendor.

Watchfire is also regarded as having a good LED product but an awful sales force (we’ve had problems with them in the past as well). They have decent hardware and software. Technical support is responsive although not stellar by any means.

Formetco is considered a strong brand. Similar to Watchfire.

Yesco and Samsung focus on scoreboards and have poor sales and support of anything else. The hardware is sub-par and the software is poor quality as well.

Chinese manufacturers are terrible. Their claims are incorrect, they ship product that is different from what they sold, technical support doesn’t exist, signs ultimately end up much more expensive than what was bid, BUYER BEWARE!

Signs Manufacturing’s Sunburst Displays aren’t a big entry into the market … yet. But in the Dallas / Fort Worth / Denton metroplex of Texas they are one of the only manufacturers and can provide a turnkey solution with reliability, excellent customer service and accountability.

Dallas LED Digital Billboard Manufacturer

Why Have A Sign Ordinance?

How often do we see this? The City wants to control the clutter of the community so they hone in on their sign ordinance.

Street View, Cluttered

Certainly there’s clutter. Look at that mess!

But what’s wrong with this picture? Where’s the clutter? Are the signs causing a distraction, a mess … a clutter? If you eliminate every sign from this street, is it going to make a difference?

Now let’s go to the extreme. Las Vegas!

Signs on Las Vegas Boulevard

Certainly Vegas has A LOT of signs! You can see them up and down the Boulevard. Digital LED signs, a favorite target of City ordinances, are tremendously popular in Vegas.

So what’s the best way to go? Where is the line between a reasonable, fair ordinance and over-restrictive regulation.

For a business, that’s an easy answer. Eliminate the ordinance altogether! It’s not like a business is going to blanket their building in signage. And if they do, so what? They just spent a ton of money to bring revenue to the City.

For a City, it’s also an easy answer. 12″ tall white unlit letters on the building. One word. No freestanding sign. Believe me, I’ve heard many Sign Inspectors tell me, “They don’t need that signage!”

For my money, the City of Dallas USED to have the best ordinance. They allowed pole signs yet the City was never cluttered with them. They allowed monument signs and again, no clutter. They allowed 8 words or less per elevation on the building. It was a simple ordinance, yet comprehensive.

Now they’re making changes. They enacted a pole sign ordinance that is so severe it either eliminates pole signs or makes them so huge and out of place, sitting in the middle of a business’ parking lot.

Monument signs are now all over, in-your-face blocking street views and lines of sight.

They just recently created an insane ordinance against LED signs. They dramatically increased the amount of time a message had to display on them (as long as 20 minutes per message!), created unenforceable restrictions on the way the signs must be built (and created a legal time bomb between the sign owner and the sign company) and, on top of it all, their new ordinance actually ENCOURAGES larger signs!

Will it make any difference? The pole sign ordinance changed 15 years ago. Have you noticed it? Would you say the City is more or less cluttered now than it was 15 years ago?

I think the solution is a simple ordinance that is also simple to enforce, not creating an unnecessary burden on your City Inspectors. Generally limit signs to 75% of the width of the building and 25% of the height.

Limit pole signs to 200 sqft on side roads, as long as there is a 10′ setback from the property line and the bottom of the sign is at least 10′ off of the ground to keep it from cluttering the street.

Monument signs should have a 15′ setback to keep from blocking visibility to the side streets. Other than that, no restrictions on their size or height (any other restrictions are pointless anyways).

I’m sure my suggestions fall on deaf ears, as it is in the government’s nature to regulate. But maybe some City, somewhere, will see the reality of Sign Ordinances and make the right move to help their businesses, their economy and the poor Sign Permitting Technicians that have to deal with these Cities.

 

 

 

Importance of Signs for Grocers and Supermarkets

I was recently contacted by a trade magazine for grocers and supermarkets to discuss the importance of signage to their industry, and the changes in signage and how it affects their industry. I’d like to share part of that discussion.

The Importance of Signs

Signage is on the move! There are changes every day to the industry and, with it, changes to the primary method of advertising for almost every business in North America.

Businesses thrive on lighted signs, and the method of lighting signs has changed considerably over the last 20 years.

Almost every supermarket sign used to be lighted with neon but now LED products have advanced far enough to compete with neon in terms of illumination. So most Grocer building signs are now lighted with LEDs.

LEDs can be touch-and-go. Many of them are poor quality so there is a high failure rate. The life of LEDs is widely exaggerated, typically estimating 100,000 hours (the 100,000 hour rating is only for non-commercial uses, NOT for signage).

Color range and the spectrum of light emitted by LEDs varies wildly as well. So if your store has a red logo you may end up with pink, or orange, or a red that is far too dark.

 

As the LED industry marches forward the digital display signs has also progressed.  Pricing has come down and the quantity of sign providers has shot up. Consequently, many supermarket signs now incorporate full color LED displays as part of their sign marketing packages.

The digital signage developments are allowing all businesses to create dynamic messages for their customers. A supermarket can use a digital LED sign to display specials, calls to action, converse with the local community (“Congratulations DeSoto Eagles!”) and provide a level of advertising that has never before been available to a supermarket.

The biggest hurdle for advertising is now the local ordinances.  The trend among Cities is to severely restrict, or eliminate, freestanding pole and pylon signs. This creates a tremendous problem for a company’s ability to market their store, as freestanding signs have always been a permanent, inexpensive way to advertise long-term. Many stores address this problem by building up the storefront, frequently adding a “tower” to the building, and putting signage on the building instead.

We’ve developed many different monument (ground) sign options to circumvent the pole and pylon sign ordinances.

Also, LED displays are being targeted by Cities as they become more popular. Stores that move quickly tend to get the larger, nicer signs grandfathered under the old ordinances.

Signs Manufacturing now also builds its own LED signs, getting ETL approval for installation in Cities and States that require Listed signs (this includes every City in the Dallas / Fort Worth / Denton market).  We are one of only two companies in the DFW metroplex that builds its own LED signs, and we are the only one that builds Listed signs.

LEDs continue to change daily. So we constantly monitor new technology improvements and test new LED products to insure we are using the brightest and best lighting in our signs.

To help businesses deal with these challenges, Signs Manufacturing will meet with a business owner at their location to determine the best signage for their property. We consider the company logo, branding colors, image, local ordinances, site barriers (such as easements), etc.  Then we prepare a signage plan and work with the customer to develop the best signage for their situation.

We also offer payment plans and financing options so that the customer can purchase the signage they need without affecting their immediate cashflow.

Staying on the cutting edge of technology, Signs Manufacturing has developed an iOs and Android app called Sign Service Request which allows business owners to place a service call using their cellphone in the event they have an outage in a sign. It’s as easy as two touches on the device to place a service call and make sure their signage and parking lot lights are working 100% everyday.

http://www.signsmanufacturing.com/signserviceapp/signserviceapp.htm

 

 

James Watson, President

Signs Manufacturing Corporation, Dallas, Texas 214-339-2227  http://SignsManufacturing.com