19 Slices Of Raspberry Pi For Digital Signage

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Posts about using the $35 Raspberry Pi for a digital signage project tend to generate a lot of reader interest, and some work I’ve been doing has required me to poke around a bit to see what all is out there.

Turns out there are many I didn’t know about. So here’s a round-up of options, in no real order, for the end of the market that either has very tight budgets or people behind them determined not to use fully commercial software and hardware options:

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Screenly

WireLoad – which has developers in the UK and Sweden – says its Screenly content management service is free for open source developers and $10/month for a Pro version you don’t have to be a nerd to use. The tiny Raspberry Pi credit card-sized computers cost $35 at a base level, and once you deal with a memory card, HDMI cable, power adapter and a case you are at all of $60.

There is a full post on the product here: http://www.sixteen-nine.net/2013/05/03/screenly-serves-raspberry-pi-alternative-android-players/

Rise Vision

riselogoToronto-based Rise Vision doesn’t so much develop to Raspberry Pi as it offers its open source content management platform to the development community, and people try different things. If you pay attention to the very active user forum, you see lots of developers trying out the Pi and other devices. The big attraction to Rise is that it’s a solid, very established service running on Google’s App Engine, but free. Rise makes its money via Rise Display.

There are several individuals fiddling with the device and Robb Price of Rise Vision has written up a nice beginner’s guide on what to do.

 

aperture-diagram

Aperture

One of my finer moments in my career came this summer, when I met Bryan Crotaz in the London offices of Silver Curve, and briefly nodded off as we chatted. It was the byproduct of getting zero sleep on a red-eye flight, not Bryan or his product.

His company has spent some two years developing a graphics engine that can take a little device like the Raspberry Pi and render lovely, crisp motion graphics and smooth video.

The product is called Aperture, and is described as a graphics engine for digital signage that enables software vendors to run their software on a mobile phone chip instead of a PC. So Aperture is not a CMS, but works with software platforms to let them use what they already have on something less costly than a regular PC, without compromise on visual quality.

Normal digital signage players run on a PC behind every screen. This expensive, energy intensive and old-fashioned practice means that digital signage is a costly solution for any company looking to modernise their advertising.

Aperture runs on mobile phone chips rather than PCs, which don’t get hot, use less power than an electric toothbrush, and provide the same quality as the PC they replace.

Full post here: http://www.sixteen-nine.net/2013/07/12/silver-curve-puts-light-aperture-digital-signage-engine-raspberry-pi/ 

Concerto

concertologoConcerto is a long-standing open source digital signage platform developed and managed by students at one of the better known and respected engineering schools in the US, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

The project is the work of a skunkworks tech group associated with RPI’s Student Union, and has been in development for several years. Because it’s free and open, developers have been attracted to the software as a foundation for getting a signage project working with the Pis.

Here’s a Raspberry Pi forum that references Concerto and some GitHub projects. 

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Raspberry Digital Signage

An Italian company has developed Raspberry Digital Signage, what it touts as  the “best digital signage operating system for the Raspberry Pi.”

Raspberry Digital Signage is an operating system designed for digital signage installations on the Raspberry Pi, which can handle both web and multimedia content.

Web view displays HTML pages from an Internet or local area network resource; it has three different possible sub-views: you can choose between Mozilla Firefox experience, Google Chromium experience and the Midori experience; the last one also features Gnash support (Adobe Flash replacement): this is the only way to play Flash content on the Raspberry Pi.

Media view can display both a slideshow of images and a video player of Internet or local network files (http:// and https://).

Raspberry Digital Signage shows a full-screen view restricted to the web page or slideshow/video playlist specified; there is no way to escape this view but rebooting the machine. It is a hacker-proof secure operating systems for indoor and outdoor use. It is a port of Instant WebKiosk/Easy Digital Signage for PCs.

Interestingly, developer Marco Buratto is also raising money to build a different board with a quad core processor to run digital signage.

1080Dots

Dutch company 1080dots has a mainstream content management system and players for digital signage, but has been working on a version that uses ARM processors and would work with the Pi. Not much more available than that, but here’s a promo video:

 

ibeamer

Info-Beamer

German developer Florian Wesch has a product/project called Info-Beamer, and version that runs on Raspberry Pi. A propeller beanie will be helpful in reading his next bit:

info-beamer pi is a specially crafted version of info-beamer for the Raspberry PI. It is the most powerful digital signage player currently available for the Raspberry PI.

Hardware Accelerated: info-beamer pi is optimized for the PI. It uses hardware decoding for H.264 videos and JPEG files. The rendering is done in hardware using OpenGL ES 2.0.

Saves Energy: Running info-beamer pi 24×7 requires around 700mA (3.5 W). This translates to around 6€ per year.

Powered by Lua: There is almost no limit on what you can display. Everything can be customized using the Lua programming Language. Include realtime effects using accelerated GLSL shaders.

It looks like the sort of thing that would require some serious developer skills to use, and not something to hand to someone in marketing and say, “Here, get it working.”

There is a free version and tiers of commercial licensing.

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TargetR

Tonbridge, UK-based TargetR already had a nice product working with low-cost Android players. Now they have a Pi version in beta release.

Key Features: The TargetR Raspberry Pi Player uses the GPU to display full screen images and videos at up to 1080p at full speed. Using a custom Linux distribution the player auto starts when the Raspberry Pi is plugged in and automatically enters provisioning mode.

Reliability: The Raspberry Pi Player can handle network failure using locally cached content. The core player has built in safeguards to detect video or image playback errors.

Connectivity: The Raspberry Pi Player uses Ethernet or a Wi-Fi USB dongle to communicate with a TargetR server and CDNs. As the underlying operating system is a Linux based distribution, adding a simple caching proxy server configurations can be done both within the operating system or as part of the configuration of the player.

Remote Control: The Admin Interface allows you to monitor the status of devices running the player. A full health report is provided of of the device, allowing administers to diagnose issues and detect if a device is offline. Using the Admin Interface, the player can be configured to display image and video content based on advanced targeting.

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PiCube by FirstView

Finnish software shop First Technology has had a digital signage offer on the market for almost 10 years, and now has a version working with the low-cost Pis.

The interesting spin here is that the company will give away the Raspberry Pi player and cables as part of the deal in activating a monthly content management account using the FirstView DMS platform.

Order one PiCube for each screen you wish to change into a digital signage channel. You can use the PiCube with any digital screen with a HDMI or DVI input. The PiCube is attached to the screen and to the network, and voila! A digital signage system is up and running! After plugging in the player you just log in via Internet to your FirstView Manager user account, and start adding images and videos to your screen(s)!  

PiWall

Yes, there is a video wall management system using Raspberry Pis as the players.

The PiWall software package makes it possible to build video walls of arbitrary size by combining a collection of screens, adding one Pi per screen to drive the relevant portion of the wall, and a master Pi to rule them all. We have been busy packaging and documenting a free version of the code and have now made this available on the website along with instructions about how to build your own PiWall.

As a shining example of how loopy the digital signage market is, PiWall was developed by three engineers at a Nuclear Fusion research centre in the UK.

Here’s a demo video:

 

Tellystream

tellystreamThis is a streaming solution using XBMC and Pis.

Full post from earlier this week is here: http://www.sixteen-nine.net/2013/12/12/mash-up-from-oslo-uses-xbmc-and-raspberry-pi-to-make-digital-signage/

 

 

Pi Presents

pipic6This is a home-brew software package developed by a retired programmer/farmer in the UK.

Says the site:

Pi Presents is a presentation application originally  intended for Museums and Visitor Centres but has already found uses in hospitals, shops, and libraries.

I am involved with a couple of charity organisations that are museums or have visitor centres and have wanted a cost effective way to provide audio interpretation of exhibits  and slide/videoshow displays. Until the Raspberry Pi arrived buying or constructing even sound players was expensive. The Raspberry Pi with its combination of Linux, GPIO and a powerful GPU is ideal for black box multi-media applications; all it needed was a program to harness its power in a way that could be used by non-programmers.

 

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Solix DS

This Polish company has a Swiss Army Knife solution that seems to work on all kinds of devices, including Android units, Google TV and the Pi.

They say:

SOLIX DS is a web-based digital signage solution that makes it easy to control what is displayed on a remote screen. Multi-media content such as images and videos are added to a SOLIX DS channel and displayed full screen or embedded into a web page or application. Content can link to third party web pages making the platform ideal for advertising and engaging with customers.

Linutop

Linutop-kiosk-raspisAdd Linutop to the list of options for running digital signs using the teeny $435 Raspberry Pi micro-PC.

The French software company has made its Linutop Kiosk available for Raspberry Pi devices.

The software can handle secure Internet access Kiosks running HTML5 and digital signage systems using still images and MP4 video. The new version of the software also allows network remote controls for smartphones and tablets, as well as PCs.

All the details on how to use it are here ….

 

pisignage

An Indian company, Ariem Technologies, has launched a digital signage software solution that mashes up a couple of buzz heavy technologies – Google’s Chrome platform and the Raspberry Pi micro PC.

pisignage is a cloud-based Digital Signage Solution for Small Enterprises. The Signage Player is based on Raspberry Pi, an off-the-shelf credit-card sized Computer. The Cloud server comes with a simple Admin Panel, enabling you to deploy the solution in minutes. PiSignage on Chrome provides the same Signage Player features in a Chrome Application. By installing the app, you can experience the player functions in your PC/device and without the need for a Raspberry Pi.

To get started, you get an account, download the Chrome app and register it using a device ID displayed on the Pisignage website, then off you go.

The service is free for up to three players on a network. After that, you pay for more licenses and more storage.

I like that the platform is driven by HTML and lightweight code, and uses an HTML player that means while the product is position as a Pi thing, it can run on other devices with browsers.


UCVIEW

Raspberry_Pi_imageMost of the companies that have introduced digital signage solutions for Raspberry Pi have been start-ups or little teeny existing companies with no marketplace presence.

But now we have UCView, a long-running signage software company operating in greater LA, launching what’s called ARM Caster HD, which is powered by Raspberry Pi.

Says the company:

Known as one of the smallest media players available on the market; this portable credit-card sized player can accomplish a lot for its size. The media player not only has the ability of displaying full-scale digital signage for your audience on a daily basis, but is capable of engaging viewers with 1080p HD video. The new ARM Caster includes specifications such as 512MB RAM, an HDMI output, and newly added four USB ports for easy set up and connection.

The slim and portable ARM Caster offers a lot of benefits as shown below:

  • The ARM Caster, powered by Raspberry Pi, is the length of a credit card. The small device is practical enough to carry around and can easily be concealed away from view of your target audience.
  • ARM Caster HD offers superior 1080p HD playback which can be used to entertain people of all ages.
  • Despite its small size, the ARM Caster will not overheat. The product has been rigorously tested and can flawlessly run for days without having any complications.
  • The Raspberry powered device comes with a well-built and solid case. It’s tough enough to handle various conditions without failing.
  • The media player provides quiet operation. It doesn’t make any noise, allowing for you to work in peace.

The product is aimed at small businesses, as you might expect.

UPDATED – APRIL 2016 – UC View has launched a new hardware player, called the ARM Caster HD, that’s running off the new Raspberry Pi 3.

The Raspberry Pi 3, says UC View on its company blog, “is an exceptional solution for those who want to run a small-scale digital signage network without having to pay a high price.  This mini form-factor player is packed with cutting-edge components allowing for full-fledged functionality and a hassle free setup process. The ARM Caster HD, powered by Raspberry Pi 3, has up to 10 times the performance as its predecessor the Raspberry Pi 1. This unit runs with a 1.2GHz 64-bit quad cord ARM Cortex-A53 CPU, allowing for fast connection and powerful computing performance.”

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Saba Technosoft

Mumbai-based Saba Technosoft markets the SABA DSS package for remotely managing and controlling digital signage systems content. The software system contains management and player modules, and runs across multiple player types including Raspberry Pi.

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OOZO TV

Sao Paulo, Brazil-based start-up OOZO TV is marketing a digital signage solution built around social media and ultra low-cost Raspberry Pi 3-driven media players.

The company is touting what it calls a hyperlocal custom content solution that draws much of its content from real-time feeds from social media networks like Instagram.

There are three pricing plans – from free (with limited capabilities) to a $129 USD/month per player arrangement that gives users multiple social media profiles and hashtags to query and display, filtering tools, high frequency updates, support and various other things. The $129 includes the Pi 3 box, but $129 may well be more than the one-time capital cost of the unit.

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NEC

The European business wing of Japanese panel maker NEC has bucked the trend towards ARM-based System on Chip smart displays among its competitors, and instead released a new display line that includes slot-loaded media players based on the Raspberry Pi board.

 


That’s what I know about. Have your own project, or know of one I missed? Please add to the comments!

 

Dave Haynes

Dave Haynes

Editor/Founder at Sixteen:Nine
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for more than a decade. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He's based near Toronto.
Dave Haynes

@sixteennine

Decade-old blog about digital signage and related tech, written by industry consultant and shit-disturber Dave Haynes.
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Dave Haynes

15 Comments

  • Just FYI, I’ve played around with the Pi. (Got one for my kid for Xmas and set it up as a sign controller first…)

    My experience with several different software solutions is that the Pi can work, but shouldn’t be used. It’s slow, it’s laggy. You’re reading files off of SD cards. Slow. This was running static images on a 720p display. I can’t even imagine full 1080. The machine already chugs when it hits some JS or Dom programming… How is the HTML5 solution going to work?

    Furthermore, you have to take into consideration reliability. SD cards are notoriously unreliable. Pi systems are simply not designed to run 24/7, and even RP themselves recommends switching out the SD card every 12 months. This could be somewhat negated by booting via NFS. Hope you have a nerd on staff.

    A low end NUC is not much more expensive, and offers far greater power. SSD via PCIe is much faster and more reliable than an SD card.

    I love what we CAN do with the Pi, but let’s not forget that it was intended as a low-powered teaching aid. My testing reveals that it’s a sub-par controller. You also have to worry about future proofing. If you have a client that is going to go with another company or not do digital signage because they’re getting a $250 NUC instead of a $75 Pi, maybe they’re not ready for digital signage.

    https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/hEPfjVxlCREauqV698Iorg4ID75nEjA7nCLoN_IqR48?feat=directlink

    • Dave Haynes says:

      Thanks Jason

      I’d tend to agree except I have seen demos, via Silver Curve in the UK, of the Pi being used in ways that I would not have expected. The explanation I heard was that the Pi, while very entry-level in most respects, has very strong video capabilities.

      I agree on the caution that needs to be exercised with SD cards.

      I’m not sure I agree on the Intel NUCs. I have seen the low-end i3 ones in use and they really can’t do more than basic, basic digital signage. I’ve compared notes with others I trust and heard the same thing. And unless things have changed dramatically, a NUC is going to be north of $500 once you go beyond the barebones kit.

      Appreciate the comments!

    • Well, if a Core i3 can’t handle it, there’s no way a Pi will. I guess it depend on what you consider basic. The i3 is dual core, 1.8Ghz. The Pi is an Armv6 @ 700Mhz with 512 of Ram. And you can’t convince me that a Broad­com VideoCore IV beats the Intel onboard graphics. If nothing else I have to option to throw much more Ram at the Intel chip.

      Silver Curve has done some cool things with Aperture, and the reality is that many other vendors have NO optimization in their SW. The answer up until now has always been to throw more power at it.

      We use the i3 model, $159, $30 for 4GB of Ram, and another $60 for the SSD. $250. 17 watt TDP. Did you look at the Windows players or Linux? We use Debian in a very lean config, and it’s blazing fast. We can drive two displays at 1080p using the dual HDMI.

      This will all be moot in a year or so when someone figures out how to use the Chromecast. 🙂

    • Dave Haynes says:

      Wow, NUC prices have come down, probably out of necessity.

      Chromecast? Maybe not THAT device but what’s driving it – Marvell Armada – yup.

  • buzz says:

    I have used RPi to provide attendee information and presentation materials wirelessly at professional meetings, tradeshow and performance venues.

    These systems do not need Internet connectivity. They use Wi-Fi to broadcast internally hosted show content directly to visitor’s phones, tablets and laptops without the need for users to install apps, know passwords, or use their data allotments. The devices transmit PDF sales collateral and log usage by attendees.

    Another platform that may work even better than RPi as a wireless media server is the Cubox-i from SolidRun. See cubox-i.com.

  • buzz says:

    Dave another RPi based system you should list is artbox.io .

  • Jacek Jonca says:

    Great post! Thank you! You may also want to glance over http://elinux.org/RPi_Projects/Digital_Signage, in particular at Xibo listed there.

  • Alexis says:

    Just My Experience with Raspberry Pi with XBMC.

    That’s nothing related to digital signage but it can decode 1080p video from an usb key (an exemple video : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGUIePe32Bo).
    Based on this it should be capable to display a few image and text for digital signing if video hardware acceleration is used.

    GPU are under employed in desktop work.
    A project (Wauland Weston) aim to use them directly with an X server replacement :
    http://fooishbar.org/tell-me-about/wayland-on-raspberry-pi/

  • Steve says:

    While the Raspberry Digital Signage has “donation” buttons, the product is basically unusable in the “free” edition. While I have absolutely no problem with someone choosing to charge for their work, a manditory donation seems a bit disingenuous.

  • Ryan Cahoy says:

    Puritan Cleaners shared a couple photos of their installation using PI devices leveraging Rise Vision http://www.risevision.com/blog/raspberry-pi-digital-signage/#.UyL5oVFdWm0

  • You could add an new slice!
    Linutop kiosk is now available for Raspberry Pi:

    a powerful software to setup a:

    – Secure Internet access Kiosk (HTML5)
    – Digital signage system (jpg, pdf, mp3, mp4…)
    – Multimedia player local or via linutop.tv

    Security and Privacy for Internet access
    ( Public access, kids, online catalogue)

    This new version features a network remote control for smart phone, tablets or PC allowing:

    – Selection of a local playist
    – Direct display a text message
    – To select a linutop.tv channel

    Linutop kiosk is light and can handle a large number of display and/or Internet access needs, with minimal power consumption.

    Download “Install Kiosk RASPI” on raspian system
    http://www.linutop.com/download.en.html
    Install command: sudo bash install.sh

    Fred

  • A R Prem Kumar Arnasalam says:

    Hi, our company company looking for a device that can support all our samsung tv’s.below are our requirements.

    1) we would like to have build in timer (for example, the device must switch on and off on the time that we set.)

    2) we want it to auto play once the tv switch on.

    3) we have tv’s in more than 50 places.we cant go there 1 by 1 to upload the files.so we want to upload files, and control it from distance.

    Please advise us on the devise.

    Regards,
    Prem

    • Dave Haynes says:

      Hi Prem

      Most of the solutions listed here should be able to support what you need, though they will ask what connectors you have for the TVs, as well as whether connectivity will be by WiFi or LAN. Not all devices have the same output ports and connectivity set-ups.

      While someone may read this you are best to contact the companies. If you are in South Asia you may want to look at companies like Spotforge, which is in your region. I don’t know much about them, and that’s not an endorsement.

  • john lowery says:

    I signed up with UCView SaaS with their Raspberry Pi solution. It didn’t work well at all. I called their tech support and they were little help. They seemed to suggest that I am the only one that has trouble with this device and their SaaS (most tech support places want you to think that your’re the only customer having this issue).

    Once I got my “ads” setup, the ads would randomly disappear and not come back until the player was reset. I called tech support back and their phone system hung up on me. I called back and got their voice mail. I called to get an RMA to send this player back, and once they received the device, they didn’t send an email saying they received it and I didn’t receive a credit. 10 days should be plenty of time to get a response from them and get a credit.

    When I called, I was told they would have to research where my device was. I did end up getting credit a couple of days ago. A week later, I called back to make sure they were cancelling my SaaS subscription. No one answered so I had to leave a message. Its been a week now and still haven’t gotten a response. I cannot recommend this company to anyone.

  • Bryan Crotaz says:

    Several comments here about the low performance of the Pi. That entirely depends on how you use it.

    The CPU is very slow – but it’s only about 3% of the chip. The GPU is very very nice. Our Aperture engine (note it’s a graphics engine for signage, not a CMS) can run 25fps 1080p video and 1080p animation at 60fps with 20-30 layers on screen, all moving at the same time. We have tweened animation, layer transparency, multizone, live data feeds, all the things you need for signage.

    We have clients that use the Aperture engine within their signage players. Some of them run it within a C# player, the same player that they run on Windows with WPF.

    We also have a basic signage player for the Pi which we can tweak for you to talk to your favourite CMS.

    Advert over… but don’t underestimate the Pi’s graphics capability.

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