Nowadays, more and more stores are trying to attract new customers with a screen in their window.
A few years ago, it was a big challenge for companies and a lot of them had to choose expensive solutions to build a decent digital signage solution.
Today, I’ll show you how you can create this easily on Raspberry Pi with a $50 budget and a Raspberry Pi.
Screenly is a software that allows you to install and manage a complete digital signage solution in your browser. Screenly exists in an open-source edition, available for free, that you can install on Raspberry Pi
And the goal of this post is to introduce a little more Screenly, show you how to install it and how to use it on a daily basis.
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What is Screenly?
Let’s start with a short introduction about Screenly
Even if we’ll mainly see the open source solution today, Screenly is a company
They started their activities in 2011, a few months before the Raspberry Pi official Release
At first, the main goal was to build a cost killer solution in the digital signage market
They started to build the open-source solution (probably to test it and improve it quickly), and they quickly identified a need in the market for a cloud solution at low cost
That’s why they expanded their offers to add hosting and support plans
Today, Screenly allows thousands of stores to use digital signage at low cost
If you are interested in this integrated solution, you can check the pricing on their website
The software part is really simple to use
Everything is in your browser, you can select a screen, add a new “asset” (image/video/…), and schedule this for the day or for an event
The best thing I can do to explain to you how it works is to give you this short presentation video
Screenly Open source
If you want to try Screenly for free the open source solution is still available
And it’s free forever, even if you are a company
In the open source version you don’t have the deployment and management tools for all your screens, you have to manage them one by one
The monitoring solution is not available directly in the free version, you have to build it yourself if needed
So the free option is a good way to try it, or for small structures. At home, it’s perfect 🙂
But for larger companies, with a lot of stores, the Screenly Pro cloud solution is definitively worth it
Your IT and marketing teams will save a lot of time in installation, management and support
Install Screenly OSE on Raspberry Pi
Let’s look at the installation steps now
Download Screenly and create a new SD card
The first thing to do is to download the image corresponding to your Raspberry Pi model and create the new SD card
- Download the latest image available on GitHub
There are a few files available, make sure to download the first one (image *** .zip)
- If needed, download and install Etcher
Etcher is my favorite free tool to flash SD cards for the Raspberry Pi
It’s available for any operating system
- Start Etcher
- You’ll get a screen like this:
- Click on “Select Image” and browse to the zip file you just downloaded
- Insert the SD card in your computer, Etcher will detect it automatically
- Then click on “Flash!” to start the SD card creation
A few minutes later, Screenly is ready to install
There is nothing else to do
There is not really an installation process 🙂
The awesomeness of this kind of tool is that everything works immediately after the SD card creation
Insert the SD card in the Raspberry Pi and start it
If you’re plugged with a network cable, there is nothing else to do
You’ll get directly the IP address to use on the screen and you can move to the next section
In Wi-Fi, it’s very well-thought-out, as the Raspberry Pi will reboot in access point mode if there is no network available
- You’ll get a screen like this:
- On your computer, connect to this Wi-Fi Network
Click on it in the near wireless networks available and connect
Enter the password
- You can use your phone to do this if you don’t have a computer with Wi-Fi
- On my Windows computer, I had an issue with the password
Windows asks me to enter a PIN code, but you have to switch to a pass phrase key for the connection to work
- Then on the interface at screenly.io/wifi you can configure your wireless settings
- Submit the form, your computer should go back to your usual connection
If not, enter your Wi-Fi settings and connect to your SSID again
- On the Raspberry Pi screen, you’ll now see the current Raspberry Pi IP Address
- Finally, a Screenly demo will start with basic features
At any time, you can change these settings on the web interface (once in the store for example), it’s just to test with your current environment
First access to the interface
If you noted the Raspberry Pi IP address after your installation, you can open that URL in your browser
If not, restart your Raspberry Pi to display it again, or use my post on how to find the Raspberry Pi IP Address
- Open the web interface URL
It’s something like http://A.B.C.D, in my case it’s http://192.168.1.17
- For the first time, you have now a view of the Screenly schedule tool
- On your first connection, the web interface looks like this:
- The first part shows your current assets, and the second part is for inactive assets
What Screenly call an asset is basically something you want to display on the screen (any format)
We’ll get back to the interface utilization in the next section
Getting started with the Screenly interface
In this part, I’ll show you how to configure the basic stuff on Screenly
Screenly allows you to display a lot of different formats on your digital signage screen:
- Images: it supports most popular images formats like JPG, PNG or GIF
- Videos: You need to encode videos with H264 MPEG4, but I think it supports any quality (1080p for sure) and size
- Videos feeds: Screenly also supports camera feeds (for surveillance or illustration screens)
- URL: And this is the magic about Screenly, you can display any website URL, so it’s unlimited
So you have a bunch of possibilities for your screen
The common usage will be to use an image or a URL to display your prices or sales, but you can be more creative and think of other usages
If you are not creative enough, I’ll give you more ideas at the end of this post 🙂
When you upload a new asset for example, the image goes in the Inactive Assets section with default values
- Click on the Edit button (middle button)
- You’ll get a screen with all configuration options:
- Asset name
- Schedule duration in days/weeks/month
- Or by entering a start and end date if you prefer
- And duration on screen
If you want to display this one only, put a very long duration here (like 86400 for one day)
It may be useful to refresh it more often if you change the image on the disk sometimes
If not, one day is ok
- Fill all of this and click on Save
- Now your asset is ready, you can click on “On” to enable it
In the next rotation, Screenly will display it
If you have several active assets (like with the demo assets), Screenly will rotate between all assets
It’s perfect to show an image of your current products for example or to use it as a photo frame for a home usage
If you want to display only one thing on your screen, remove the other assets
On the Screenly website you’ll find a list of ideas you can implement with their software
But to sum up, everything is possible
Here are a few creative examples you can try:
- Dashboard in your open space, with sales or best customer agents
- Screen with current weather and occupancy status for beaches near the hotel (with live cameras)
- Current drink costs in a bar with moving prices (depending on the day, the hour or how many sales you already made)
- Display your daily or weekly Google Calendar on a wall at home (you can even switch between both every 30 seconds)
I hope you’ll find the perfect idea for your business
Please share it in the community with a picture, it’ll inspire other people!
Is there other alternatives for digital signage on Raspberry Pi? Yes, a lot! If you’re interested in this topic, I can write a few more guides about this, but basically you’ll find every solution with Google
Which screen do I need to buy for Screenly? Screenly recommends professional digital signage screens like NEC P Series and V Series. But for an extremely lower price, any screen with an HDMI input or thin borders can do the job. Here are a few examples of the best screens for each size: 43″ 4K TV, a 55 inches TV and finally an example of a good 65 inches OLED TV
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That’s it, you already know everything needed to use Screenly on a Raspberry Pi
There are a few more options in the settings if you want to check, but it’s very intuitive (user authentication, audio, Wi-Fi settings and backup)
I recently tested and posted a review of the RasPad 3, which might be a good fit to use with Screenly if you don’t need a huge screen. You can display your backend information, calendar or promotions on this nice10″ screen.
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