If you run a website or blog, there’s a pretty good chance you have some exposure to WordPress, the open source online publishing platform used by 60 million-plus of companies, organizations and individuals.
This site runs on WordPress, for example.
It’s a powerful tool with a vast developer community that feeds into it, developing templates (what WordPress calls themes) and plugins that add new functionality to the ever-evolving core platform. There are stats plugins, editing plugins, spam management plugs, commerce, and on and on.
There are also, now, digital signage plugins, as at least two companies – and probably more – are using WordPress as the foundational platform for commercial digital signage CMS products. Going down this path essentially means a user is showing a web page, in full-screen mode on the playback device’s browser.
Here’s the background on each:
Based in central Italy, D-Board is the product of a small team of web developers that has been refining a slideshow signage product based on WordPress for at least a year. The idea, however, traces back about 10 years, when D-Board’s Fabio Fraticelli was in university.
The product started as a theme, but is now its own installable plugin for WordPress. I spoke with Fraticelli last year and got an update a few days ago, with him saying the screen builder has been simplified and made more powerful.
As you can see from the video below, the set-up is built somewhat around a slider – functionality that bring content on and out of view in a layout.
Fraticelli says the company has hundreds of active installations, and says the user base is split between IT guys within big organizations (such as hotels or universities) and small agencies that use their knowledge of WordPress to provide a new service to their customers.
The six-person team, including three developers, plans to have device management capabilities ready for Q1 of 2017.
D-Board is still in beta mode. Users can get it in two ways: as a standalone product or in a software as a service arrangement at 7 EU for month per device.
Digital Signage Press
Based in Germany, Digital Signage Press is a 12-person start-up that is going primarily after the small to medium business market with a plug that gets added to a basic install of the WordPress CMS platform.
The plugin opens up within WordPress and operators can select from layouts and even do basic video walls. The plugin has a playlist editor, multi-user management, a WYSIWYG editor and a calendar for scheduling functionality. There is some higher functionality that only gets turned on in more expensive service tiers.
Though it is browser-based, the company says there is some device management capability. The plugin reports on whether devices are online or offline, and whether a device is showing the latest content update. There is also a device status dashboard.
CEO Jens Lodahl says his company started with the idea of digital signage via WordPress and does not otherwise have a background in it (they were not, like many companies, developing commercial themes).
Lodahl says there is a very obvious business attraction to WordPress as the signage platform, given how many companies already use and know the CMS because of their online marketing and communications. “Why not let them use their known platform, and also manage their displays and digital signage with it,” he reasons. “They are happy not to learn another software tool.”
The company is now working on integrating with Samsung’s Smart Signage system on chip displays, and also looking at the other all-in-one options on the market.
He concedes the platform is no match for some of the powerful pure-play digital signage CMS platforms available on the market, but says there is a very large potential user bases of small business who just want to build something simple, and web design and interactive agencies that already design web pages for clients using WordPress, and could through this plugin also deliver digital signage.
A Chicago designer developed a WordPress theme about three years ago, and it is available as a free download. However, the GitHub page has not been updated for a year, so it looks like development has stopped. The theme is large based on a slider – some WordPress plugin functionality that slides images into and out of view on a page. WordPress regularly updates its version, and sometimes those updates can affect how older themes function and behave. The most-used plugins tend to update pretty much in parallel with the core platform to remain stable.
The UK firm ScreenCloud has a website promoting its plans to integrate its platform with WordPress, with launch some time in 2016. Like D-Board, it is tightly tied to a popular slider plugin.
I wrote a couple of years ago about a project that used another blogging CMS, Joomla, to deliver signage, but that page seems to have disappeared.
The teams behind these initiatives understandably argue that what they are developing and marketing is a valid option. I’ve not tested them, so I can’t do much more than note they exist. Certainly, these are very simple systems when compared to native platforms that represent years of development, refinement and real-world torture-testing.
The guys in Germany and Italy both say large organizations are using their plugins on large networks, but more practically this is the sort of product – like many cloud-based CMS products on the market now – aimed at the very large small business market that just needs to get some messages on screens, and would never use all the sophistication of the top-tier software companies out there. And frankly, the top-tier guys aren’t set up to sell to and support gazillions of small accounts. They want “whale accounts” like Fortune 100s.
Interesting to see where this goes, but certainly there’s an argument to be made that if WordPress is regularly used around the company, and all that’s needed on screens is a few slides messaging to staff or customers, this is pretty much all that’s needed (particularly if the tools are there to manage the devices and screens).