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Control Digital Signage in an Emergency Scenario with Conductor

16 January 2020|Hannah Olson

One of the questions we are frequently asked is how Conductor can integrate with a school's digital signage system. During an emergency you may want to display evacuation routes or instructions. Even if it's a routine announcement, wouldn't it be cool to display an image of the speaker or an "Important Announcement" sign? The options are endless.

Below we describe just one example of how to accomplish this using a BrightSign digital signage player. The model we used was an HD210, which can be placed on the network, connected via RS-232 or GPI. Other models may vary. This example describes how to control it over the network. Here are the steps:

  1. Place the BrightSign on the network with a fixed IP address.
  2. Create an Interactive presentation, and create a UDP event that switches presentations.
  3. Publish your content to the BrightSign unit.
  4. Create a Trigger Script in Conductor to send a UDP command
  5. Add the Trigger Script to an Alert button.

When completed, we can press an "Intruder" button on Conductor to activate an audio alert while also interrupting any content currently playing on the digital signage to display the alert message instead. (With a second button, we can clear the state and resume normal presentation.)

Here's a quick video that goes along with the blog that demonstrates these same steps:

  1. To place the BrightSign unit on the network, you will first need to configure it properly. Using the version of BrightAuthor software that is compatible with your unit, go to the Tools menu and select Setup BrightSign Unit. In the setup dialog, choose Networked with Local File Networking and provide a fixed IP address. Remember to add the gateway if necessary. (Note, for some reason BrightSign recommends that you turn off Bonjour in the Networking preferences as well.)

    Write the update to the SDHC memory card, then insert it into the BrightSign unit and plug it in. The unit will update the settings during power up. You will then leave the card in the unit for local storage and to keep the settings.
  2. Create an interactive presentation in BrightAuthor. You will create two playlists. One playlist will be the standard media content, the second will be the emergency signage. Then drag a UDP Event over each playlist and enter a keyword, that if seen, will switch to playing the other playlist. In our example, if the BrightSign unit sees a UDP command "lockdown" it will switch to the lockdown playlist.
  3. Publish your presentation to the BrightSign unit by going to the Publish tab, selecting the unit, then pressing Publish.
  4. In FrontRow Conductor, create two Trigger scripts: one that sends a the "lockdown" command to the BrightSign unit, and another that sends the "clear" command to the unit. Note that in the Action dialog the UDP protocol is selected, the IP address of the BrightSign is entered, and it uses port 5000 for communication. When you test the action you should be able to see the command work. If not, there may be a firewall or routing issue so be sure there is a route between the devices and that port 5000 is not blocked for communication.

    The cool thing about trigger scripts is that they are also URLs, so these events could be triggered by a principal with their mobile phone using a bookmark from their home screen!

    Tip: If you have multiple BrightSign units, you may be able to send the command to the broadcast address (x.x.x.255) to change all the displays at once. Or, if the unit is on a separate subnet or VLAN, you can send the command to the multicast address that the unit is "tuned" to listen to, in order to get across subnets.
  5. Create an Alert button, then add your Audio Sequence, the Lockdown Trigger script, and an Email alert (process not described here) to the button. Make a second Control button that activates the "clear" script so that you have a way to set the signs back to normal. Now, when someone presses the Intruder button, everyone on campus will hear the alarm and see the emergency message on the digital signage. Emails and texts will go out at the same time (see my other blog article about how to send texts), so everyone knows what to do.

    Remember to test your implementation thoroughly, and to use proper emergency systems such as UPS battery backup and POE, data backups, and personnel training, so that communication goes out even if power is out.

We wish that no school would ever need to create or use this function, but we must all be as prepared as we can be./p>