Digital signage — those screens you see in school receptions — is an industry that’s been ripe for disruption for a decade. Receptions screens are great to show off your school’s achievements, display a timetable, or make announcements, but generally installing them is really expensive, they’re complicated to update, and
But now Google has stepped its toe in the digital signage pond and is making bit waves. Using a standard TV, a cheap Chromebox, and Google Apps to tie it all together you can now put together a digital signage solution for your school simply and at a really low cost.
What you need:
- A standard HD TV or screen with an HDMI input.
- A Chromebox — cost is usually around $160.
- A Google Apps management license — cost around $40, contact an official Google partner.
- Chrome Sign Builder app — free on the Chrome web store.
…and that’s it!
Connect your Chromebox to the screen, enroll it in your school’s Google Apps domain, and you can manage it remotely like any other Chrome device.
Chrome Sign Builder
The key is the Chrome Sign Builder app. This lets you create digital signage presentations right from your browser window. You can build displays using Google Slides presentations, YouTube videos, websites, and pretty much anything you can display on the web. But if you want to display something that’s not already online, just upload it to your Google Drive, share it, and away you go.
Because you can use Google Slides to create content for the displays it’s really easy to share access to the screen. For example, I created a Google Slide presentation for each of our school departments and then shared access to it to people within the department. As teachers take photos they can then immediately update them on the slide and it’s shared with the rest of the school on the displays.
How it works
Google Sign Builder lets you create displays using
You can schedule
As with many newly released Google products, Chrome Sign Builder works, but is a little clumsy and missing a few features. Having said that it’s a system which is really simple to manage, cheap to setup and install, and lets you share management.
You can divide the screen up into 4 individual sections which can sit on their own or be overlaid. So, you could have 4 equal boxes, a news ticker along the bottom and two, or a logo overlaid on the top corner. It’s a little awkward to setup, as all the work is done through a calendar screen but it works. A nice GUI would be appreciated.
As the Chromebox has WiFI built, as long as you have a power socket near by.
There are also options within the Google Apps admin console which will alert you by SMS or email if the Chromebox gets powered down or tampered with.
At the moment — as far as I can see — if you update the display schedule you have to reboot the Chromebox. This is a bit of a hassle, and I can’t find any way to do refresh the screen remotely at the moment.