Digital Signage/ Meeting Room Status/ Busy Box

macsound

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Jun 15, 2018
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San Francisco, CA
So I just got an ad for BusyBox. It was advertised as a digital sign that was about 4x7, used an iOS app to allow manual signage control and be able to import calendar events as well. Touted as an automatic "On Air" sign that would coordinate with a calander event that said you'd be live streaming or "Meeting" if you were in a meeting.

It got me thinking, does anyone know of an iOS app that makes iPhones or iPads these type of single use displays?

I could see buying or repurposing some old iPads as signs for meeting rooms to display what's happening inside, clocks, on-air, countdowns, anything! But it would need some sort of server or service to make it happen.

Thoughts?
 

macsound

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Jun 15, 2018
Location
San Francisco, CA
Here's an example, not my probably usecase, but a real world example.

At my dayjob, my department is in what's called the annex. A separate but adjacent 2 story building next to the main building. Everyone in my department has their offices located in the annex, but everyone else has their offices in the main building, which means that's where all the meetings are held, because that's where all the other staff and conference rooms are located. Also, all the other staff have 13" PC laptops because they do office type work but I work with designers, so we have Mac Pros and iMacs.

What happens is we walk across the sidewalk, through the front doors of the main building, wait ages for the elevator, ride up to the 5th floor to our usual conference room, only to find no one there and no idea why. You text someone, they're sick today. Call someone else, oh they're in some other meeting.
Back down the elevator, across the sidewalk, up the stairs, password into our mac, open outlook to realize oh. Meeting got moved 15 minutes.

Or you open the door to a conference room, slip quietly in and sit down with 35 other people, watch 10 minutes of a presentation and realize this meeting isn't for you...
 

almorton

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Dec 17, 2014
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Caterham, Surrey, UK
Each of our meeting rooms has a large screen monitor on the wall for presentations, zoom/teams etc. When it's not displaying meeting content, it displays a calendar of who currently has the room booked, and if it's currently unoccupied, who next has it booked, so if you "borrow" it for an impromptu meeting you know you'll be evicted in 5, or you know you've arrived at the correct room for your meeting. I can see an app for a tablet mounted outside the room relaying this sort of info being useful, as it automatically updates when someone in the building books or cancels a meeting. I think it's integrated with exchange server, but I wouldn't swear to it.
 

spiwak2005

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Nov 21, 2004
Location
Utica, NY
Extron makes a pretty decent version of this. The 5" touchscreen model costs about $1000 (7" & 10" models also available), mounted on the wall or door outside the room, receives power and communication via ethernet cable, combined with Extron's free room scheduling software which integrates with Microsoft, Google Calendar, etc. Reservations can be made on the touchscreen or through computer/mobile device through the calendar program. Pretty slick system.

https://www.extron.com/Room-Scheduling/prodtype-85
 

AlexDonkle

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Jun 24, 2012
Location
New York, NY
Screen cloud appears to do what you’re looking for: https://screen.cloud/apps/meeting-room-software
Appspace has some of this integration, and plays nice with Crestron systems, but I’m not sure if it can do exactly what you’re describing.

However, iPads aren’t meant to be run 24/7 like this and I’ve heard several stories of iPad batteries exploding and reliability issues from exactly this use case. These got popularized when the iPads first came out FAR cheaper than commercial AV touchpanels at the time, and FSR was one of the first to create a “POE to USB” power adapter specifically for this application, but the drawbacks have become more obvious over time. Professional and semi-professional touchpanels designed for 24/7 use have also dropped a lot in price since then.

Extron, Crestron, and AMX all make the premium version of these room scheduling touch panels, usually the go to solution if you have a lot of their other hardware solutions installed, however there’s a lot of specialty brands selling android displays for this application as well. Examples would be Reserva, Evoko, Arrive, and Schedulla. If you just Google “room scheduling touchpanels” there’s a lot of companies making these, all cloud hosted services.
 
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macsound

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San Francisco, CA
Haha $1000 touch screen. While I could see this being spec'd, I'm trying to think of a solution using the tech that already exists.
And the idea that I could take this concept and use it at a small church or 4 office business or in a multi-building office or a convention venue, because I can use any new or existing iPad or iPhone for a 1 day event or "permanently" because all the app is doing is polling a shared calendar.
 

MNicolai

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Sarasota, FL
What you're asking about is pretty common in the corporate world, but it's bloody expensive and there simply isn't much in the way of free/cheap options. There are a bunch of different apps that do some version of this, but most everything I've seen comes with a monthly fee.

Alex's point about iPad's turning into spicy pillows shouldn't be underestimated. If you are going to try to use repurposed iPad's, I think you'll end up spending quite a bit of money on mounts, wiring, and possibly the apps to do what you want to, only to have the iPad's blow up within a year or two. Not so bad if you only want to do it for a couple more important rooms -- but it doesn't work very well when you want to scale up to lots of rooms because it's an investment that keeps on extracting cash from your wallet.

One option I have seen used for this before though is that if you pay for one Zoom Room license ($50/mo), you can do unlimited "Scheduling Only" rooms. Not so bad if you're already bought into the Zoom platform but questionably worthwhile if you're only using it for scheduling panels
 
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macsound

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San Francisco, CA
I get that devices have certain actual purposes and us fudging them into others isn't the best, but I've deployed hundreds of cash registers and register customer displays that are just iPads and iPhones and sure, after a couple years the battery doesn't last if removed from the stand, but hell, I have a Macbook Pro sitting in my living room with a swollen battery and it was always used for it's manufacturer intention.

I can't remember how many corporate shows I've worked where the sign for the meeting room was a 32" TV mounted on a stand with a Dell desktop PC sitting at the base with a keyboard and mouse. Every day or if a room changed, a PA would walk around with a USB stick to update the powerpoint show that had the room assignments. The rental on that TV, PC and stand had to be expensive, and to be able to use anything in place of that would be brilliant.

The zoom thing seems great depending on the use case!
 

macsound

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San Francisco, CA
Yea there was See Note too. I bought into the kickstarter and it never happened. But at $100 see note was super cool. $600 for Joan is kinda in the same boat as the Extron thing.

Maybe someone should be making apps for Kindles since it's really the eInk type display that makes the most sense for this super static information. Also if something like the See Note had a 2 month battery, wouldn't have to worry about constant charging like an iPad.
 

macsound

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San Francisco, CA
if you just have them open to a web browser with the default web address as the home page.
You can "live stream" a powerpoint presentation... there are references on the interwebs, but I havn't done it myself
Well now that would be an interesting thing to try. Obviously not for multiple meeting rooms because you'd need a bunch of servers, but an interesting thing in any case.
Found the Microsoft support doc https://support.microsoft.com/en-us...audience-25330108-518e-44be-a281-e3d85f784fee
 

jtweigandt

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Moline Il
Well now that would be an interesting thing to try. Obviously not for multiple meeting rooms because you'd need a bunch of servers, but an interesting thing in any case.
Found the Microsoft support doc https://support.microsoft.com/en-us...audience-25330108-518e-44be-a281-e3d85f784fee
Your bunch of servers could be a stack of virtual box machines all on one pc. Or bypass PowerPoint altogether and have an Apache server and one web site with multiple sub pages for different rooms. Would need to be conversant in some flavor of web page builder but there are some simple tools out there

while I’m riffing. Could also VNC to a VM or multiple VMs playing a PowerPoint or libre office slide show. Linux and libre VMs are free and the memory and processor load can be light.
 

jtweigandt

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Moline Il
OK I did a little more web surfing.. the simplest most direct method would be an Apache server with Wordpress loaded. Wordpress lets you edit page content fairly easily.. even remotely within the facility so the apache server could be headless. Wordpress even has an available “slideshow” plugin. There is a step by step tutorial for Apache/wordpress for the Raspberry pi, and I’m sure they are out there also for an Ubuntu or Linux mint host that could be a VM running on your pc.. Then from the ipad(s) you just tune in to the the proper web page, and can set it as the home page for that room for that ipad... Then you can push updated info page or slideshow, without having to be present at the location of the ipad signage... or any old pc, rasp pi, android tablet. Users could even be given the address for each room and look up the info on their phone... http://192.168.1.15/roominfo/room1.php http://192.168.1.10/roominfo/room2.php
 

Calc

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Jan 26, 2004
Location
Mid-Michigan
If you've got displays that can open a URL, look in to RiseVision. Digital signage company we used- there used to be a free version for simple stuff- not sure if that's still the case or not.

To use it without the app, make your presentation and use the Preview URL. There were parameters you could adjust in the URL to hide the title bar.

We switched to a larger university-wide Visix system. I miss RiseVision.
 

Ben Stiegler

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Aug 3, 2017
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Sf Bay Area
The ZoomRooms approach (the app is free, if you have a ZR subscription) is successful for one of my clients - scheduling about 5 spaces. They use a POE-to-lightning power supply which comes with a sleek lockable case - both wall flush, tabletop, and wall-angled models. I've been in the building at all hours, and haven't ever seen the ipads go dark or explode yet - tho sometimes at off hours I notice the display is 180 degrees rotated and dimmed - perhaps a screensaver feature.
 
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Ben Stiegler

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