As a board member of the Belgian Information Worker User Group (BIWUG) one of my jobs this year was to find a cheap digital signage solution for our local SharePoint Saturday. The goal was to be able to show all the details of the conference sessions just before the start of the sessions, welcome our visitors & show general information.

At first my quest for an affordable digital signage solution wasn’t very successful until I bumped into YoDeck. YoDeck is a small startup that offers a digital signage solution for free as long as you only use it just on one screen. The technical platform consists of 2 main components: a website that allows you to configure the schedule and upload all of the assets and on the other hand a tiny OS running on Raspberry Pi to retrieve the schedule and show it on the connected screen.

Yodeck is free if you have just one Pi configured to consume the schedule. If you want to add other displays, each one adds a cost of 9$/month.

The platform supports a large set of file formats including images, video’s and webpages. If you upload a PowerPoint it will be converted to a video that can be played on virtually any screen ratio. If you want you can refer to YouTube movies or other video streams if you want to. Once you have your resources in place you start with the creation of playlist. A playlist is just a sequence of various resources which you combine. Our visitors were welcomed by a welcome playlist. The playlist looped continuously through 3 different resources: a PowerPoint deck containing a few welcome slides & guidelines, an image of our sponsors and a webpage that contained our twitter wall.

Once you have these playlists the next step is to create shows. A show is a combination of one or more playlists (or just plain assets) on a screen. Composing a screen has been made really easy with a drag-and-drop interface where you add each of your screen components.

Now the only thing left to do is specifying which show you want to show when by adding it to the schedule, an agenda like webpage that contains all of the shows that need to be displayed.

A nice feature of the system is that it can easily work offline, without a connection to the platform. You just need to connect once and make sure the device is able to download all settings & resources. What is really powerful (and proved to be necessary during our event to adjust to unexpected events) is that you can change schedules & resources on the fly using your phone or tablet and push the changes again to your devices. Off course you have to be online if you want to use this kind of functionality.

The result

I have to say that I was pretty pleased with the result! Yodeck proved to be easy to use and the tool met all of our requirements. I had just one issue: I manually reconfigured the WiFi settings to connect to the conference center WiFi. The box connected as expected, but shortly after it disconnected again. This was due to the fact that the WiFi settings can also be set on the web platform. These still pointed to my home WiFi. These settings were pushed to the device which caused it to go down.

What about more complex scenario’s?

Yodeck can easily handle video’s or derived resources like PowerPoints. If you need more dynamic components like the twitter wall on our event, the only option (for now) is to setup the required functionality on a public website. Lot’s of services offer you twitter walls & instagram visualizations so you don’t need to write any code. Most of these services however require a login first. At the moment this is still a restriction on the YoDeck platform: your site needs to be publicly available or it will not show. A scripting is on the roadmap which should allow you to login or change the behavior of the site on the fly. I opted for a WordPress plugin (WP Twitter Wall) that showed tweets on my site. With just a few modifications I was able to get this result!

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Yodeck is ideal for many events where digital signage could give that extra ‘flare’ to the event. It proved to be very stable and highly suited for our event. You can use it as well for announcements in public buildings, company halls and in many other occasions!

Links

  • Yodeck – www.yodeck.com
  • WP Twitter wall – https://nl.wordpress.org/plugins/wp-twitter-wall/