Friday, October 28, 2011

Digital Signage Solutions


When I first read the phrase "digital signage" I didn't have a clue what it meant. Are you talking about electronic signatures? But no, that's not what those two words mean when they are next to each other. According to Wikipedia, digital signage is described in this way:
Digital signage is a form of electronic display that shows Television programming, menus, information, advertising and other messages. Digital signs (such as LCDLEDplasma displays, orprojected images) can be found in public and private environments, such as retail stores, hotels, restaurants and corporate buildings.
and might look like this but, of course, adapted for use in schools:

Since I'm on multiple email lists for technology directors, questions like the following show up periodically:
Is anyone using Digital Signage hardware and software in their schools?   If so, what software and digital media players are you using and what are the ball-park costs involved?  I'm looking for a basic system that would cost I get asked about this about once per year but am always shocked at the cost.  ($3000-$4000 per device, all in including hardware, software, installation, etc.)  We currently just have old PCs running powerpoint, but we probably have 100 displays district-wide and it would be nice to be able to centralize the presentations and authenticate who can manage them.
Some of the possible responses include the following:

Response #1: Xibo Open Source Digital Signage
I have been testing this off and on - easy to set up and easy to use. Highly customizable.http://xibo.org.uk/
Xibo (pronounced eX-E-bO) is an an open source, multi-display, multi-zone, fully scheduled digital signage solution controlled from a centrally managed web interface. 
Response #2: Javascript
This is something I've played around with, but not yet implemented.  Instead of having actually LED signs that need to be programmed I had the idea of using the Internet and a website to do this.  I was thinking about displays at our entries, offices, libraries, and teachers could have them up on their computers and/or Smartboards between classes if they chose to.
I have a test page up now.  It's a free javascript that I got from "http://www.cgiscript.net" for a scrolling marquee.  I have it setup in a share directory with only a single file to update.  It's basically just a bulleted list like you would have in Word.  Whoever, I give access to can change this bulleted list and that's all they have to do.

NOTE:  It only works with IE right now.  I'm sure someone with some javascript skills can produce something that works with Firefox and Chrome.

You can view my testpage at:  announce.hobart.k12.ok.us

NOTE:  It only works with IE right now.  I'm sure someone with some javascript skills can produce something that works with Firefox and Chrome.  
You can view my testpage at:  announce.hobart.k12.ok.us
Response #3 - Flat Panels displaying Powerpoint
We have flat panels are hooked back into a "video multiplier" that in turn is hooked to the child nutrition manager's PC.  As you suggested, they use Power point for the displays, all running in kiosk mode. 
We did have another solution that was implemented in one of our schools, but it required each display to have its own "mini-pc" installed with it which had a wireless card which allowed it to connect to ouor network.  Really complicated and expensive by comparison, I think.
Response #4 - Navori and Visix Solutions
We have been running a server based software called Navori and its player as our digital signage at our Administration building.  It has worked for us for that one building, but you do have to make changes at the physical server.  http://www.navori.com/index.html

We are now looking at a company called Visix, Inc. for a more web-based content managing solution for visual communications. http://www.visix.com/index.aspx 
Response #5 - Cisco Digital Media Suite through E-Net
Our district implemented  CISCO Digital Media Suite through E-Net Solutions http://www.enetsolutions.net/index.htm  . This includes Digital Media Signage and Show & Share. We use (digital media player’s) DMP’s connected to flat panels (IP reserved) that will display announcements and student work in common areas of the building (foyers, cafeterias, hallways). 
Currently, each new building will acquire these displays as well in the future. The media technology teachers currently at each campus (2) are in charge of uploading and deploying content. The program includes a variety of templates (including a menu). At this point, the media teachers use a variety of programs, including PPT. to create the content and deploy them as JPG/PNG or create a presentation in .WMV format.
The other module is the Show & Share portal, which will allow (at one point) each campus to upload or even stream live video throughout the district. At this time, we are only posting videos in our digital library. The content server is located at central administration building and can reached  (intranet) by the server address (Cisco Digital Manager). The Show & Share can be accessed by any campus to add to the video library. We have a two digital media encoders, one hooked up to our satellite cable, where we can choose to play live, cable TV and another “portable” encoder to record live video, which will store the content on the server and  eventually upload the content online. 
Response #6 - Panasonic and Haivision (via THE Journal)
Panasonic and Haivision have combined efforts to create four bundled digital signage solutions that have the ability to drive multiple displays through a variety of networks, including DSL, satellite, LAN, and 3G.The new solutions, the TH42LF20CSMNT, the TH47LF20CSMNT, the TH42LF20CS, and the TH47LF20CS, consist of Haivision's CoolSign software, a Panasonic F20 series LCD display, and a pre-configured media player PC.


Response #7 - Texas Digital's Vitalcast - http://www.txdigital.com/
PDF available online.


Response #8 - Firecast EasyStart - http://www.simpledigitalsignage.com/
Sometimes, questions are focused on more limited digital signage, such as what is described below:
For our new campus, we are planning on having TVs mounted in various locations for displaying announcements and other messages. I am in need of suggestions for ways of controlling the images on these TVs.
One small district reports success using Firecast EasyStart for digital signage solution.


I hope this blog entry helps those of you who are trying to find digital signage answers from year to year! I'm grateful to the Texas and Oklahoma technology directors who responded to their peers and shared information.

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

1 comment:

Mark said...

You might consider doPublicity Digital Signage (http://www.dopublicity.com/) that offers free and paid versions from $99. Some of the versions include over 650 customizable templates that simplifies the task of creating content.

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