Digital Signage / Information / Waypoint Screen

As the cost of LED screens comes down a lot more people are installing them in reception areas etc. as replacements for noticeboards.  They look smarter and allow for more accurate and engaging information to be displayed.
So, you've purchased a simple screen (with no in-built digital signage software - which would have increased the cost) and you've connected it to the old PC left under a desk no one was using.  How do you display information on the screen?  Most people will usually just display a PowerPoint presentation as this is something they know BUT you could do so much more!

In one of the Schools I work with I've been trying out a FREE solution to display their information.
This Canadian company have been developing software for digital signage since around 1992.  Rise Vision is a FREE solution that does have some add support but these are only ever displayed to the administrators / editors and never the public.  To be honest, I expected (like most of you will) for it to have hidden costs or limited features.  Nope - currently it is all free, the only warning about cost I've seen to date is the media library.  At present it is free but it warns you that it might not stay that way and that you'll be given a 30 day warning to either self host the images or pay.  Access is via a Google account - so no need to remember yet another account either.

How it works

Rise Vision allows you to design and edit your digital signage information online. It allows a team of people with different levels of access to edit and publish content and allows you to schedule presentations for different days and times.  You can integrate gadgets such as twitter / news  / RSS feeds and you can deliver this to many screen all at once.  You can even have an email if the computer driving the screen stops responding.

You start out by creating a presentation (think of it like a slide as you can display multiple presentations in a loop on a schedule for any screen if you wish) that is the correct resolution for your screen.  Within this you start placing object areas.  Each of these can contain one or more components.  For example we have the following objects on our main slide:
  • Background Object - single image always displayed
  • Title Object - single image always displayed
  • Left Side Object - single static text box always displayed
  • Right Side Object - presentation(s) - this allows simpler editing for distributed staff (I'll explain later)
  • Clock Object - Displays date and time
  • Ticker Tape Object - Allows scrolling text across the screen


The Right Side Object is a nested presentation as this allows separation from the main template but also allow simpler addition of temporary notices.  This generally doesn't change that often. This nested presentation is (at present) made of one object but it has multiple components within it, e.g. photos and text. These are then looped through automatically and you can define how long each component is displayed.  Each component can then also have times and days set and start and end dates.  E.g. you could say only display for 5 seconds each loop and only on Mondays between 08:45 and 10:00 between 5/2/14 and 25/3/2014.

Once you've done all this you can save it as a revised version and then publish once you're ready.

So how do you get it on to the screen?  Well once you've designed your presentation(s) you need to set up a screen profile.  This will then give you an installation file for the computer controlling the screen.  This uses the Google Chrome Kiosk function where you are automatically put straight into full screen mode and the mouse is hidden.  Each instalation file is unique as it allows the computer to report back to your account what resolution it is displaying, when it last refreshed and more.  It also allows you to remotely update the software and reboot the computer.
We've noticed changes to the presentations only take 3-7 seconds to take effect.

Negatives?

Yes unfortunately there is one, and it could be a big one for some people.  The user interface takes a while to learn and get used to.  Most will pick it up quickly but others might struggle - especially if your objects contain multiple components. I guess greater functionality is the trade off at this stage.

Summary

This really is a great way of managing your digital signage, especially when you need to look after multiple screens and / or allow multiple people to edit the information across multiple sites.  Having all of this for free is amazing and hopefully will last.

If you have any questions or would like to recommend alternatives please comment below or tweet me @tim_smale - all feedback welcomed.

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