There is money to be saved
Digital information boards have in recent years become an increasingly popular way of conveying information in more and more industries.
One of the benefits of digital information boards is the ability to quickly and easily get new information out.
With a classic information board, the content must be printed and assembled by a person on site, which can be both time consuming and costly. With a digital information board, the information is updated with a few simple clicks on the computer.
With a digital information board, it is often also possible to display dynamic content such as time, date, weather and news.
The price for digital information boards has dropped significantly in recent years and today it is possible to get a digital information board for approximately 5 000 kr. In this guide we will tell you how.
What is needed for a digital information board?
Simplified, one could say that a digital information board consists of three parts:
- Hardware: A display with good brightness and ideally is made to be able to run "24/7" (around the clock, every day of the week).
- Media player: A web browser or any other type of application that can display content. The media player is either built into the display, or externally connected (eg via HDMI).
- Content provider: Any form of external software to update the content shown on the display. Some content providers are free (such as Apartema) and some cost money.
Public display are specially made for use as digital information boards.
What mainly characterizes public displays is that they usually have a higher brightness, that they can be run "24/7" (around the clock, every day of the week) and that they often have smart energy saving functions such as light and motion sensor.
Public displays are manufactured in a variety of sizes and different designs by companies such as Samsung, LG and Philips.
Mounting a digital information board is just like wall mounting a TV.
For the handy, this is quite simple, and if there is electricity nearby, it is possible to save quite a lot of money on carrying out the installation yourself.
Otherwise, it is something that it is possible to hire any electrician for.
Two different types
There are mainly two different types of media players:
- A browser which displays a website in full screen mode.
- An app which downloads and updates the content.
For the sake of simplicity, we will from now on call the two different types of media players "web-based" and "app-based" (although it is simplified).
A media player can then be either built-in to the display or externally connected (eg via HDMI).
The "app-based" media players usually have better support for external hardware such as tag reader or card reader.
"App-based" media players are therefore quite common for displays used for e.g. booking or ordering, as they often use external hardware.
When it comes to pure information boards (which we focus on in this guide) however, there is no significant difference between "web-based" and "app-based" information boards.
Functional differences can of course occur between different content providers, but the two types of media players have the same ability to display content.
Network & internet connection
Digital information boards are usually connected to the internet and therefore require an internet connection.
If you do not already have an existing network with an Internet connection, there are cheap mobile broadband plans that are well suited for so-called IoT devices (Internet Of Things).
These subscriptions usually include a smaller amount of data than "regular" subscriptions, but they often also have a lower price.
(Price from Telenor and Hallon was checked on 28/6 2021)
Ask the content provider how much data per month is recommended for their service.
(For Apartema's information boards, we recommend 0.25 GB of data per display.)
To create a wireless network (WiFi) that the monitor can connect to, you need a wireless router and a 4G modem.
We recommend the D-Link DWR-920, which is a wireless router with a 4G modem built-in.
As usual with a purchase, you should consider whether you can accept a lock-in from a specific provider or not.
In the same way, you should also consider this when choosing a content provider. The degree of lock-in largely depends on the type of media player used.
The media players that are least dependent on content provider are the "web-based" ones.
Although "app-based" media players can in some cases work for several different content providers, they are often made for a specific content provider.
If you are going to use an "app-based" media player, it is therefore good if it is externally connected.
A display with a built-in "app-based" media player risks creating a very strong lock-in to a specific provider, as all displays then risk having to be replaced, if you wish to change content provider.
Our recommendation is therefore to either choose a "web-based" media player (built-in or external), or a externally connected "app-based" media player, so you can change content provider without having to change all displays.
For a "web-based" information board, we recommend the display Samsung QM32R.
Benefits of Samsung QM32R
- It has a built-in browser with support for modern web technologies, which means that it has very good support for various content providers that use "web-based" media players.
- It also supports Samsung's own (built-in) "app-based" media player "Samsung Magic INFO". This built-in "app-based" media player is supported by several content providers.
- It has an HDMI input, for connecting external media players.
- It has a slim design (only 3.48 cm deep).
- It starts quickly and has good performance.
- It has several smart energy saving features (including light and motion sensor, which adjusts the screen brightness automatically).
- It is made to be able to run "24/7" (around the clock, every day of the week).
- It is relatively easy to handle, even for those who are not so technically savvy.
Connect a web-based information board to Samsung QM32R
The instructions below should also work for Samsung's other public displays with a model name beginning with the letter "Q".
We assume here that the display is mounted on the wall and connected to an electrical outlet.
- Power on the display.
Connect the monitor to the internet, either with network cable or via WiFi.
To connect via WiFi, press "Menu" on the remote control. Then select "Network" in the menu that appears on the screen and then "Open network settings". Then follow the on-screen wizard.
- Click "Source" on the remote control.
- A list of different sources is displayed. Go to "Web Browser" using "left arrow" or "right arrow" (but DO NOT click on "Web Browser" yet).
- When "Web Browser" is highlighted, press the "up arrow".
The "Settings" option is now displayed above "Web Browser". Click on "Settings" (with the button in the middle, between the different "arrow buttons").
Make sure "Start page" is set to "Personal" and that "Personal" is then set to the URL (web page) you want the display to show. You get the URL from the provider of the information board.If you use Apartema's information board, the URL will be displayed in the admin interface.
- Click "Close" (settings are saved automatically).
- Now click on "Web Browser". The display should now show the digital information board.
- Use the arrows on the remote control to move the mouse pointer up to the right corner, where you will find a "zoom level" slider. We recommend that you set the zoom level to 100% (by default it is set to 125%). You of course freely choose which zoom level you prefer.
- Menu bar and mouse pointer are automatically hidden after a few seconds of inactivity.
- Done! The display automatically uses the last used source when it starts (which is the browser, unless you manually change it to another source).
Do you already have one or more existing monitors, which do not have a built-in browser, but which have an HDMI port?
In such a case, it is still possible to connect these to a digital information board. However, this is quite advanced and requires a fairly high level of computer knowledge and is nothing for the technically inexperienced.
Raspberry Pi is a cheap single-board computer that we will use as an external "web-based" media player.
In this (advanced) part of the guide, we assume that you as a reader know how to assemble the parts needed for a Raspberry Pi, and that you are able to install Raspbian Lite on your own.
Make sure you have a fresh install of Raspbian Lite.
- Log in with user pi and password raspberry.
- Run the command:
- Localisation Options → Select your preferred locale, timezone, and keyboard layout.
- System Options → Configure WiFi (or connect a network cable).
- System Options → Boot / Auto Login → Select "Console Autologin".
- Quit raspi-config but do not restart.
Download Apartemas setup script
The script is made to setup a Raspberry Pi for an Aparatema information board, but feel free to modify the script after your own needs.
sudo chmod +x setup.sh
sudo ./setup.sh test abc123
Replace "test" with the name of your platform and "abc123" with the code of the dashboard you wish to show. A third parameter specifies language (with a two letter ISO code) and is optional, e.g. sv or en. Default = sv.