Samsung's gargantuan LED scoreboard offers improved interaction: Display VP

The size of three basketball courts, Samsung's new full HD LED scoreboard at South Korea's Munhak Baseball Stadium is the world's largest for a ballpark, and will allow players and spectators to interact more to boost the game.

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(Image: ZDNet/Cho Mu-hyun).

Although football is still South Korea's national favourite for international matches, in the past decade, baseball has taken over as the people's favourite leisure game with around 7 million visitors to ballparks per year. And much like the US and Japan where baseball is a big deal, the stadiums have in turn evolved to spectacular, modern coliseums that boast the glory of their home cities to foreigners.

SK Wyverns, based at Munhak Baseball Stadium in the city of Incheon, west of capital Seoul, has been one of the most lavish spenders of all the teams. It wanted a facelift for its 14-year-old Incheon SK Happy Dream Park home stadium that can host 30,000 people to offer signage that can make it a global "landmark".

"SK didn't want it to be 'just another scoreboard in a ballpark' in South Korea," said Younsik Kim, VP at Samsung's Visual Display division's enterprise display team, in an interview with ZDNet. "They wanted, one, it to become a global landmark, and second, able to allow game-watchers to better enjoy the game.

"So that led us to believing that it would be meaningful to build the biggest LED [light-emitting diode] signage for a ballpark in the world that comes with the best solutions that allows player-spectator interaction," he said.

Starting in December during off season, Samsung got to work in a job that needed be finished in 112 days before the season began. The company needed to remove the old scoreboards, produce and install the LED modules, and build an accompanying management and broadcasting software.

A total of 16,300 LED modules were manufactured in its factory in the US and delivered to Incheon, where 168 people and two 200-ton cranes were used to install them to make the 63 metres by 18 metres signage, comprised of two 1920x1080 full HD signs placed side-by-side. It is 77 metres-square larger than the one at Seattle Mariner's Safeco Field, the largest in MLB.

"Heavy snow and wind during the winter was one of our main challenges," said Kim. "And at night, when we were working on calibration or resolution control, the white screen caused a panic from people living in neighbouring apartments.

"Previous similar projects had us as one partner among many, but this is by far the largest for us in that we were the main partner that coordinated planning, design, building, and systems combining and testing," he added.

New software has been installed that allows posting of the percentage of players hitting or stealing a base during a game. For instance, if a certain player is at second base, the solution can calculate the chances of stealing third, based on the database it has, and load it on screen.

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(Image: ZDNet/Cho Mu-hyun).

The usual features are all in, too -- spectators can download the SK Wyverns app and be part of live events during game, which the large screen makes more exciting, said Kim. For the LED screens debut match on Friday, two Wyvern subscribers saw themselves side-by-side for a beer drinking contest on the near 70-metre screen, to much excitement from the crowd.

"Because of the high-resolution large screen, players, cheerleaders, and visitors of our trial game has consistently told us that they feel more part of the match by being viewed on the LED scoreboard," he said. "Visitors go to ballparks to get the feel of being part of the match -- the fun factor that is different from watching the game on TV on a sofa. And we tried our best to get that interactive factor by providing new software and the best resolution."

LED push

Samsung has been the world's largest TV manufacturer by revenue for the tenth-straight year and its Visual Display division, or TV business, wants to expand its hegemony outside the home to the enterprise.

The ballpark project is part of the South Korean tech giant's plan to show off its technology prowess in LED, a business that it is heavily promoting, and one part of its B2B display business.

According to IHS, the worldwide market for LED was worth $1.47 billion last year. This will grow to $1.57 billion this year and $2.01 billion by 2020.

Samsung got serious on its LED enterprise business when it acquired the US' Yesco Electronics -- which built the signs in London's Piccadilly Square and hotels in Las Vegas -- in March last year. It was renamed Prismview earlier this year.

"The superiority of LED from previous technology used for outdoor displays or scoreboards speaks for itself, and Las Vegas is proof of this," said the vice president. "LED will not only make new landmarks, but it will be used to integrate more IT features that will increase mutual communication.

"No one can say for certain what will happen in 10 years in this industry. But in a couple of years, imagine this: A large, outdoor LED screen near or atop a global car manufacturer's headquarters; its customers all across the globe, from Tokyo, Germany, to South Korea, sending their feedback live on that screen; the open, mutual communication that offers and the promotion it also offers by being displayed on a beautiful, large screen. This is the type of business that will come in a few years."

Corrections 14:11 AEST April 4, 2016: 70-metre screen from 100-metre screen; 63 metres by 18 metres signage from 93 metres by 18 metres.