Custom Digital Signage
We have made it very easy to create unlimited custom Digital Signage displays.
While other systems require you to learn new proprietary signage authoring tools, we have created a simple DiscoverVideo Add-in for PowerPoint.
Seems that just about everyone knows how to use PowerPoint. Whether you are an expert with animations and transisions or just getting started, PowerPoint is used everywhere. Even Google Slides seems familiar because it looks and acts like PowerPoint, and you can even export Google Slides as a PowerPoint file.
PowerPoint has a ton of built-in templates and it’s easy to create your own. There are hundreds of fonts, colors and a huge library of royalty-free clipart. Animations are built-in. Transitions between slides is built-in and easy to use. And you can insert full motion HD video clips in your PowerPoint. You can record narrations, include audio, and you can record your own display time for each slide when you run a show.
Update and Replace
Imagine you create a PowerPoint for daily news and announements. Maybe the first slide is “Welcome”, followed by today’s schedule, news and updates, lunch menu, and the tip of the day. You spend a lot of time making it perfect: cool animations and slide transitions give it that professional “pop” to get the attention of your audience.
Tomorrow you open the same PowerPoint and just edit a few things. Maybe a new lunch menu. Maybe a new tip of the day. The edit only takes you a few minutes.
You publish it and the SignStick Digital Signage displays all change to your update. No logging in to the system. No adjustment of playlists. No drama. One click update.
DiscoverVideo PowerPoint Add-in
The PowerPoint Add-in is free to use for DiscoverVideo customers and you can get it right now here.
We even have a few simple PowerPoint templates for you, but can do a quick web search and find hundreds of free PowerPoint templates.
Simply install, enter some one-time settings, and you are good to go. The Add-in converts your PowerPoint to video and uploads it to your system with a single click! Use your new video anywhere you would use any video.
Put your PowerPoint video in a playlist all by itself or along with other live or VoD content. Mix it up with live TV feeds and web pages. Issue a Prioirty Alert to interrupt your signage at any time. And of couse you can update your PowerPoint content with a single click.
Not Just Signage
The PowerPoint Add-in converts your PowerPoint to video and uploads it automatially. While this is great for Digital Signage, it is also a great way to produce tutorial content too. You will find many uses, now that it is one-click easy to do.
High Speed Cellular Streaming
Most of us are used to having Internet access anywhere and anytime. Some of us even seem to have withdrawal symptoms when out of WiFi or cellular range! When connected, we can stream live video from our smartphones to social media services as long as there is enough uplink bandwidth.
Using Facebook, YouTube, and other apps, live streaming is pretty simple.
Using the free Streamsie for iOS, we can stream or record to DEVOS, Arcus, and other services.
But cellphone cameras are not ideal for more professional events, and when you want to use multiple fixed cameras. For more sophisticated streaming, you can use software on your computer such as Streamsie or OBS. Of course, the computer must have adequate Internet access to send the stream. Streaming from your laptop allows you to bring in HDMI, SDI, DVI, Composite and other audio/video sources via USB adapters.
To get a computer to access the Internet via cellular, you can pair it with your smartphone.
Or you can pair it with a stand-alone cellular “hotspot”.
But the bandwidth you get is only what the one cellular connection can provide. For many use cases, this is enough. If you have a good connection and LTE service, your uplink bandwidth can exceed 1 Mbps. You might even get 3 Mbps or more. But you might not. And worse, you might get variable uplink speed where it can burst to higher speeds but only provides reliable uplink speed under 1 Mbps.
Using a consumer-class cellular hotspot presents other challenges. You will likely want to monitor your broadcast too, and connecting another computer to the cellular connection will consume even more of the limited bandwidth.
To be clear, you can be completely successful using such a setup. In fact, we do it all the time. But out of practical necessity, the streaming rate used must be limited, typically under 1 Mbps. To provide a decent quality, you will want to reduce the resolution and lower the frame rate. This is often just fine for “talking head” video streaming. But what about higher quality streaming via cellular?
You know that multiple cellular connections are possible: just look anywhere there are two or more people! Chances are they are looking down at their cellphones. Each smartphone has their own account and each is independently and simultaneously sending and receiving data.
Imagine if you had multiple cellular accounts and you could spread you data across each one. Rather then sending data packets on one cellular connection, you could send packet 1 on cell 1, packet 2 on cell 2, packet 3 on cell 3, packet 4 on cell 4, and so on. Of course, you would need to somehow mark the packets so that they could be reassembled in the right order. But now the amount of data needed to be sent on each cell is reduced, and the total data sent and received is increased. It is more complex than this, but you get the idea.
If you could send 1 Mbps on one cellular connection, you can send 2 Mbps on two connections, and 4 Mbps on four connections.
This is called “bonding” and was first popular for ISDN landline connections. Today it is a great way to provide high-speed streaming over cellular connections.
The bonding system had four Verizon cellular connections, pre-configured by the factory. A quick speed test showed about 5 Mbps of Internet access.
Spider was configured to push five streams. One stream for each of the four video inputs, plus one stream for the “Program” which is the processed output showing each input and picture-in-picture effects.
Simply plug-in the Ethernet and Spider gets an IP address. Pushing the stream button on Spider started the streams. The result was flawless live video with no noticeable difference between streaming via landline or cellular.
All live streaming solutions, whether hardware encoders like Mantis and Spider, software encoders like Streamsie, or 360 cameras like Insta360, perform best at high streaming rates. Mobile streaming, whether actually moving (like reporting weather from a moving car) or from a fixed location, is easy to do.
With bonding, higher speed, higher resolution, HD and 4K video is available virtually anywhere, anytime. Cellular bonding eliminates the drama of over-subscribed local WiFi networks, and in some cases may be more reliable than fixed wired connections. And in cases where it absolutely must not fail, it’s good to know bonded cellular is there for you.
Streaming does not have to be the “one to many” model. Playing the stream on one computer, or on one Set Top Box, is a great way to provide a simple and cost effective remote-to-studio feed where the output of the Set Top Box is the local soruce of the live remote video feed.
I remember debating which protocol would dominate networking. Would IBM embrace IP over their SNA and Token Ring? Was Netware, then the dominate network system, going to support IP? Was Banyan Vines going to become more popular outside of certain government networks? Would ATM make the WAN and LAN distinction irrelevant? When IBM selected IP, the die was cast. And when the Internet became public, 25 years ago on April 30, 1993, the protocol debate was settled.
In 1993 no one thought the 4 billion possible IP addresses would be exhausted in their lifetime. The early pioneers snatched up millions of addresses just for their own use because they could, and no one really seemed to worry, there were billions of unused addresses. IP addresses themselves did not cause a goldrush.
With the evolving use of subnets and lower cost routers, one public IP address could be used to support a network of 10’s of thousands of users. So there was not a lot of worry about running out of addresses, even though work was proceeding on the next generation, IPV5 and IPV6.
But as the Internet exploded, so did the IP address use. By 2010, only about 10% of the addresses remained. And by 2016, we were pretty much out. No new addresses could be assigned. That is, an organization such as your ISP could not get any more to assign to you. They had to make due with the block of IP addresses they had already been assigned. The initial Internet vision of every host having it’s own IP address became impossible with IPV4.
With the Interent of Things, mobile devices, OTT streaming video players, tablets, and even vacum cleaners, toys, and toasters, IP addresses are in demand and there simply are not enough to go around, In fact, there are no more. Well, there are some more but they are second-hand. Harvesting unsued addresses from large organizations (MIT, IBM,and other early Internet pioneers), and carefully reusing existing inventory has allowed the IPV4 addresses to continue. But we are coming to the end and we’ve know it for a long time. That’s why there is the IPV6 address space.
At a recent Connecticut Educational Technology commission meeting, we talked about IPV6 migration.
Bascially, we’re out of IPV4 addresses for the Connecticut Education Network (CEN) where I’ve played a role since its inception. And we are teaching network users how to migrate to IPV6.
IPV6 (IPV5 existed but never materialized) provides more address space than there are grains of sand in the desert. In fact there are 2 to the 128th power (340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456) IPV6 addresses. That’s 340 undecillion addresses. If you could scan a million addresses per second, it would take about three times the age of the universe to hit them all.
There are many reasons to switch to IPV6, including easy subnetting, easy filtering, no need for NATs, security is built-in, and much more. There are only two disadvantages that I can think of:
- I don’t think I can remember one (I can easily say “192.168.1.100” but not “2601:199:c200:aeb0:203c:de8e:d9bc:438c”)
- I have to learn something new
And of course, all of my network gear has to know how to work with IPV6.
As I write this, my ISP (Comcast) has provisioned my router with an IPV6 address. It never needs to change, so I will never need “DyDNS” or similar tools. My DNS provider supports IPV6 so any domain I own can be reached with an IPV6 address. Windows and Linux both support IPV6. And we’ll be adding IPV6 support to the DiscoverVideo appliances soon. Maybe you are already using IPv6 at home but didn’t relalize it.
If you are not already using it, brush up on IPV6. It’s not difficult.
SignStick® Makes Signage Easy
As its name implies, SignStick® is a small “stick” form-factor device that plugs directly into any modern TV or monitor to display digital signage. The SignStick connects to your network via WiFi or via the included Ethernet adapter. You configure the SignStick with a server address and the code for a Digital Sign.
The SignStick then displays your sigange, which you control from the server. The server may be a DEVOS or DVExpress system on your premises or in the Cloud. Or your server may be the inexpensive Arcus service.
Because SignStick “calls home” to your server, it can be located anywhere:
- Front Lobby
- Employee Enterences
- Hallway Intersections
- Remote Offices
- Customer Locations
- Lunch Rooms
- Conference Rooms
- Post Offices
- Government Departments and Agencies
What To Display On Digital Signage
The SignStick displays the content you have added to the server. It may be:
- Live videos (e.g. a TV feed, security camera, lecture, etc.)
- Video-on-Demand videos
- Web Pages
The layout of the display is set by selecting simple templates on the server. This may be:
- Full Screen video, images, web pages
- Side-by-Side video and images
- Video plus text and RSS feeds
- Google Slides
So you simply create a playlist of your content, select a template, and your signage is ready. You can change your playlist and templates at any time and the SignSticks will automatically update to your new settings.
Many customers love to use Google Slides for part of their Signage strategy. Google Slides is very much like traditional PowerPoint, but it is purely online. You can modify your slides at any time from anywhere, and the changes are reflected in your Digital Signage display without futher action. Mix your Google Slides with live and on-demand video, images, and web pages in the system “Mix” template and you can have any layout you wish.
Unlimited Unique Displays
Each SignStick displays the signage based on the code you entered. All SignSticks can have the same code, or they can all be different. The system places no limits on the number of variety of signs you may create. Show the lunch menu in the cafeteria while others are showing your welcome or news signs.
Time of Day Schedule
SignStick supports time-of-day scheduling, so you can show one sign in the morning, another at noon, another in the afternoon, and another in the evening.
Whenever you wish, you can cause one, some, or all your signs to change to display an emergency video, text, or web page. Or use Priority Alert to display breaking news or live ‘Morning Announcements” at any time. You can even use Priority Alert to announce transportation schedule (“Bus 1 is ready now”).
Not A Flash or Web Player
While DEVOS also allow you to display Digtial Signage in a web browser, I think you will agree a browser is not ideal for reliable operation. Running any broswer 7 x 24 with or without Adobe Flash is a problem, and eventually it will crash. SignStick plays your Digital Signage content directly without depending on browsers for display of video or images.
SignStick automatically caches your Video and Images and intelligently manages storage. The first cycle through your playlist, the content is played via streaming from the server. But all subsequent playouts are from cache, unless you change somethng. Live video is of course, live and not cached. This arrangment means minimum bandwidth usage. Plus, signs continue to play even without a network connection!
The Priority Alert system is built-in to the DiscoverVideo media systems. Priority Alert delivers live or recorded video, text messages, or web pages to viewers desktops and cell phones without the viewer needing to take any action. It simultaneously displays your alert on selected Digital Signage displays.
This is seriously cool.
Most of us spend our day facing a computer screen, walking the halls of a building, or at least carrying a cell phone. The best way to notify people in an emergency is to show the information where they are looking. People may not read email in time or at all or they may be away from their desks. Phone calls take time and often go unanswered. And audio public address systems may not be available, may not reach everywhere, or may be inappropriate for the situation.
Let’s explore some use cases, starting with the most obvious:
Educational organizations, companies, and government agencies and departments today need to alert everyone in a security emergency. The information people need may be fluid and unique to the situation. During such an emergency, an authority can press a button. The button may be a web page button, a physical “panic button”, or an existing 3rd part alarm system triggered by existing procedures. When the alert is initiated, one, some, or all computer screens show a live video of an authority giving instructions. Or showing a prerecorded video, or a color-coded large text message. If the organizations has a special web page that give information, that may automatically appear.
At the same time, one, some, or all Digital Signage displays switch to the same announcement.
To be sure the alert is widely distributed, groups of people can receive a text message on their cell phone. The text message headlines the alert and displays the video, text, or web page, the same as the desktop alerts and the Digital Signage displays.
When the alert ends, desktops automatically close the alert and Digital Signage displays return to their normal operation.
It can be frustrating when announcements don’t reach the intended audience. A teacher in a classroom may be distracted with other duties at the appointed hour and can’t “click” on a video to show the class. A busy employee may miss the CEO “Town Hall Meeting” despite email alerts and calendar invites.
When a live video event is scheduled to begin at 7:30 AM, it might not start until 7:32 AM and everyone would prefer to just start to watch when it actually begins, right?
Just create a Priority Alert for only your intended audience. Traders can receive the “Morning Call” broadcast while the IT staff does not. The middle school gets their “Morning Announcement” and the High School gets theirs.
If there is an immediate weather emergency, such as a tornado, alert everyone to seek shelter. Provide a recorded video reminding them what to do.
Early closing because of snow or other events is displayed everywhere.
Fire / Drills
Fire alarm systems are pretty loud, and flashing strobe lights help to inform those who may not hear it. Augment your alarms with Priority Alert and you can also provide specific instructions like “Use the South Exit, not the North Exit”.
Priority Alert is well suited for “Paging” uses. Simply send a text alert “Mr. Jones please call the office” to desktops and Digital Signage displays.
- Inspire your sales team with instant, fun notifications of wins.
- Broadcast local sporting events and alert interested parties
- Many more uses…
The Priority Alert video system uses multiple protocols. It can scale to deliver live video to any number of viewers via IP multicast. If multicast is not available, the system automatically rolls over to three different unicast protocols. This gives you the best chance of reaching your audience in virtually all circumstances. The network load is very small and there is minimum dialog before, during, and after an alert is active.
Easy To Deploy
We’ve taken special care to make it easy to deploy. Users can install Priority Alert on their computers. The desktop .msi installer can be pushed to desktops and everything is setup automatically so the user need do nothing. You can even prevent the user from making any changes.
Easy To Trigger
In an emergency, you don’t want to spend time logging in to a system and navigating to trigger button. You can trigger an alert several ways:
- From a logged-in web page
- From a desktop App single button press
- From a desktop App and a USB physical button or foot switch
- From a Web API
- From a dry-contact closure
Priority Alert has been completely redesigned and improved in our DEVOS system (V4.8 and above). We are excited about it and all of the new features. The DiscoverVideo Priority Alert system has been serving our customers for about a decade, and it is now better than ever.