Up North Digital Network: Digital Signage for Beaver Island

 

 What’s the Up North Digital Network (or UNDN)?  It’s a network of flat panel displays on Beaver Island and across at the ferry terminal and the airport.  They show event information from the WVBI/BIC Center Community Calendar and other community and visitor information.  They also show information specific to the location of each display.

How can I get information about my event on the UNDN? That’s easy.  Just post your event to the BIC Center/WVBI Community Calendar.  If you have non-event information for the UNDN, send an email to info@biccenter.org with the information.  We’ll be in touch about getting your information on the network.

How can I get a UNDN Display at my establishment?  That’s easy, too.  All you need is (1) a flat panel display with an HDMI input and (2) a small PC that can mount behind or near the display (we find Intel Compute Sticks to work best).  You’ll need two power outlets within reach of the display (one for the display and the other for the PC) and internet access (by Wi-Fi is easiest). You buy these and we’ll create the content, including a reasonable amount of custom content for your location.  This might be your menu, your schedule, product information or other content you’d like to show.  Plus, you’ll be identified as a UNDN member on all displays on the network and you will receive occasional display time for your business across the network.

What if my location typically doesn’t have visitors to see a display?  You can sponsor a display for use at another location where people gather and receive recognition and display space on the network.

Could I put one of these in my rental cottage?  Sure. You could install a dedicated display, or use an extra HDMI input on the house TV.  The display could show “house rules”,  information about how to use things and nearby activities. Of course, it would also let your guest know about all the great things happening on the island to help assure they have fun and come back to rent again.

I have public use PCs at my location. Can they display the network? Yes!  They can be setup with a screensaver that displays the network while the PC isn’t being used for something else. You can see an example of this setup at the Beaver Island District Library.  A great thing about this option is that there is no equipment cost (because you already have all the equipment you need).

What does is cost? All you need to do is provide equipment.  Through the end of 2019 the WVBI and the BIC Center will create content (including reasonable updates to your content) and operate the system that delivers it to your display.  Beginning in 2020, there may be a charge to participate in the network to help pay for a person to develop content and operate the network.

How about equipment costs? The cost of equipment depends on the size of display you need.  For most locations an LCD TV between 32″ and 50″ diagonal is appropriate.  Good quality units can be purchased for between $150 and $350. You’ll also need to purchase the PC (about $130) and, likely, a wall mount for the display ($15 to $30).  You will need a mouse and keyboard for the computer.  You can use pretty much any existing PC equipment that has USB connections.  Wireless works best, and a new set can be had for about $30.

Aren’t these things hard to maintain? They are pretty easy.  Every so often the PC may need to be reset, but generally they have proven to be trouble free.  If you have an older display, you may find that you have to restart the PC if you turn the display off, but that is as simple as pushing the power button on the PC twice. We’ve had a few instances where operating system updates have caused problems, but if you use a COmpute Stick for your PC, we have pool units to swap out for updates if that happens.  It’s been rare so far.

OK, I’m in.  How do I get a display set up? Please touch base with us before you purchase equipment so we can confirm your participation in the network and be sure your equipment will work.  If possible, we’ll ask you to send the PC to us for configuration and testing.  You’ll need to install the LCD TV at your location.  This may be as simple as setting it up on a table or counter, but in many cases you’ll want to mount it on a wall.  Please contact us if you need assistance with installation of the TV.  Once the TV is in place, we just need to plug the PC in, connect it to WiFI and you’ll be part of the network.

What makes the UNDN work?  If you mean what software do we use, the answer is XIBO.  XIBO is an open-source digital display system with a central server and multiple clients.  We run the server (in a secure hosting facility) and the display PCs run the clients.  The software on the display PCs checks in with the server every 10 minutes or so to check for updates.  It doesn’t need a constant internet connection, so it keeps working even if the internet is down.   If you mean how do we get it all done, the answer is a group of volunteers dedicated to promoting Beaver Island as a great place to live, play and work.  If you’d like to help out, we’d be glad to have you join us.  Just send an email to getsignage@undn.info.

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