Expanding Chrome devices for use in Video Walls with USB HDMI adapters

Expanding Chrome devices for use in Video Walls with USB HDMI adapters

One common issue with the majority of the Chrome devices on the market today is the limitation of built in video outputs or Chrome device expansion for video walls. Devices like the ASUS Chromebit and the AOpen Chromebox Mini are limited to a single HDMI video output. Higher end Chromebox like the AOpen Chromebox Commercial, ASUS Chromebox CN60/62, or the Acer CXI2 have an additional video output in the form of a DisplayPort output which can be connected to the majority of modern displays either directly through the DisplayPort connector or via an adapter to convert the DisplayPort output to HDMI.

In Chrome OS R45, support was added for DisplayLink USB adapters that allow HDMI or DisplayPort outputs to be added to Chrome devices. https://bugs.chromium.org/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=238785 The initial implementation only worked with DisplayLink USB 2.0 adapters, however Chrome OS R51 added support for USB 3.0 adapters. https://bugs.chromium.org/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=572763

Various other bugs relating unified desktop mode and surviving reboots prevented utilizing these features for digital signage. https://bugs.chromium.org/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=467193

https://bugs.chromium.org/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=540606

USB HDMI chrome device expansion for video wallsWith the advent of USB DisplayLink adapter support in Chrome OS, we’re now able to add more video outputs to a Chromebox where we were limited before. This means that technically single output devices like the Chromebit and AOpen Chromebox Mini can drive more than one monitor. USB display adapter support was still limited, and only allowed multiple displays to be unified in 1 row. This limitation kept us from using the feature except in a few special use cases. 

Finally in Chrome OS R64, arranging external displays in unified desktop mode was fully implemented. This will allow Chrome OS Kiosk and WebUI apps to arrange and rotate as many displays as the hardware will support. With this feature fully implemented, multi-monitor video walls will be possible without using an additional video wall controller, matrix switch, or monitors with built in video wall functionality.

Video wall controllers scale and split a single video input for output to multiple monitors, this results in a loss in quality. Using a Chromebox with the built in video outputs and additional outputs via USB adapters, means that full resolution can be achieved on each monitor.

Arreya Tests on Chrome Device Expansion for Video Walls:

Asus Chromebox for Digital Signage and Kiosks

In our tests, we verified the display arrangement feature functions properly in Chrome OS R64 and we were able to create a 2×2 matrix of 1080p monitors. After unifying the four monitors, Chrome recognizes all four monitors as one 3840 x 2160 display that our kiosk app can display on as if it were one monitor.

A simple performance test was performed with an ASUS CHROMEBOX2-G015U Chromebox with the i7 processor. Playing a 4K video across the 2×2 video wall resulted in smooth playback. A higher end Chromebox with at least the i3 processor is likely going to be required for optimal playback across 2 or more screens.

This method of creating video walls without using an external video wall controller is still in the early stages. Currently, a higher end Chromebox required to run 3 or more displays in a video wall configuration isn’t cheap. As processing power increases and hardware costs continue to decrease we will see video walls become easier and more cost effective to implement for a broader range of clients.

Read more about Arreya Chrome integration on our website.

 

The Difference Between Arreya Digital Signage and Chrome Sign Builder

The Difference Between Arreya Digital Signage and Chrome Sign Builder

chrome sign builder          Arreya Creative Studio in Action

 

We get a lot of questions about how Chrome Sign Builder different from Arreya Digital Signage.  With a free tool called Chrome Sign Builder you have everything you need for Chrome Signs, right?  Not quite. The name Chrome Sign Builder implies that you can build digital signs, but the reality is quite different.  Chrome Sign Builder has one primary function – Scheduling existing content that is already hosted online. I think It would be a better fit to call it Chrome Sign Scheduler.  With this in mind, you have to ask – if it only schedules, how do you create and manage the content?  Keep reading to see more about how the Arreya experience is different from Chrome Sign Builder.

Arreya VS Chrome Sign Builder

One easy way to spot the difference between Arreya and Chrome Sign Builder is to look at their core features.  In the chart below you will see that Chrome Sign Builder has one core feature – scheduling content. If you look at the documentation for Sign Builder they list 4 main functions –

  1. Creating a schedule
  2. Setting a default URL
  3. Exporting the schedule file
  4. Deleting a schedule

Need to do more than that?  Then Chrome Sign Builder isn’t going to cut it.  Want to edit your existing schedule? Nope, that option hasn’t arrived since being requested back in 2015. Every time you want to make a change to your existing schedule you will need to start over completely.  There’s also some issues with the core feature of Sign Builder that will throw a wrench in your signage once it’s up and running – like this one where schedules are off by a day every new year.  But, it is free.  Sometimes you do get what you pay for.

Arreya on the other hand, provides you with a complete easy-to-use package with Templates, Arreya Creative Studio, Scheduling, Management, Analytics, and more.  Of course, this package wouldn’t be complete without our outstanding support and training that is included with every subscription. Take a look at the chart and compare for yourself.

chrome-sign-builder-arreya-digital-signage-chart
Why Arreya?

If free is your primary motivation and you are willing to spend time creating a system to manage the content, Sign Builder may be a good fit.  It’s great for DIY folks and technical people like IT or developers that understand the Admin Console, policies for kiosk apps, and have a handle on how to create and host their own content – along with the time to do it all.  It will be up to you to generate policies and apply them to the correct OU to perform an update to your signage. Keep in mind though – time is money. You will be spending an unknown amount of time piecing together parts to create a system, not including the time it will take to keep it running day to day.So, who would use Chrome Sign Builder if all it can do is schedule content?

If you are concerned with ease of use, saving time, and in turn saving money – then Arreya is your best choice.  Arreya provides all the tools you need for your digital signage system in one easy to use web interface. Let’s take a look at some of the standout features Arreya provides that are missing in Chrome Sign Builder –

  • Templates

Arreya provides a library of pre-made templates that cover our most common use cases and variations.  This includes different industries like Retail, Healthcare, and Education. There are also different formats within each category like Portrait, Landscape, and Interactive.  Templates can be modified by you for any look and feel, nothing is locked in stone.

  • Design Program

One of the biggest features Arreya provides, and that sets us apart from other solutions, is the Arreya Creative Studio.  The Arreya Creative Studio gives you a web based tool to create your content. While the main interface is similar in layout and features to other presentation and graphics programs we have enabled advanced tools like transparency, drop shadows, layers, and filters.  Combine these tools with our widgets for Sheets, Slides, Calendar, YouTube, Twitter, and many more. You have complete control over your design and we give you the tools to easily integrate content from the web.

Arreya Creative Studio in Action

Content Management             

Arreya makes it easy to bring in almost any type of file.  We make it easy with automatic conversion, and we support transparency.  Photos, Documents, etc. Videos? No problem. We convert everything automatically.  Even things like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator documents, and CAD files. Already have media assets in another service like Dropbox, Drive, or Facebook?  We can import media from almost anywhere, saving you the time and hassle of moving files around. If you are on a device with a camera attached you can also record photos or video directly in to your Arreya media library.  Need to make changes to an image? Click edit on an image and we embed the Adobe Creative Cloud photo editor. Crop, Resize, Rotate, Touch Up and add Text, all within your browser. Nothing to download, no files to manage.

Arreya media library

Analytics

What good is content if you don’t know how well it performs?  Arreya includes real time analytics. With Analytics you can tell who is interacting with your content, what content they interact with, where they are at, and what device they are using.  When you combine this with interactive content and the ability to share via your Arreya URL you can actually see which content is most popular and how users interact with your content.

Arreya digital signage analytics

Security

Arreya also supports private content.  Yes, you have a public URL, and yes, you can make it private too.  Many private organizations are successfully using Arreya for their private, internal communications – office digital signage, call center digital signage, employee kiosks, multiple location and enterprise digital signage – even for remote employees.  If you need to keep your Arreya Channel private, just change the switch from public to private. Under strict rules to keep content on your internal Network? Arreya can still work for you. Using our RSS and website widgets we can pull data from Local URLs so sensitive content never has to leave your network.  Images, Videos, Text, Data Tables, Lists, and more.

Arreya private channel

Support

Check it out – we even share our phone number – 319-294-6671.  Have a question? Give us a call. You will talk to our team and get direct answers to your questions.  Of all the feedback we receive, our outstanding support is #1. We’re here to answer questions before and after the sale.  Need training? We record 1 on 1 training as part of your onboarding, but if you need more, contact us and we can set up a custom training session.

Automatic Updates

We update Arreya every week.  Sometimes it is big new features, sometimes it is little fixes.  Our automatic update system makes it so we can respond to your feedback quickly.  Arreya is always up to date. Nothing for you (or your IT team) to manage or worry about.  Have a new feature request, or want to report a bug? Contact us here – support@arreya.com  Want to stay on top of the latest developments?  Check out our release notes blog here.

Arreya can schedule too, right?

Of course!  This is one area that is similar to Chrome Sign Builder.  Arreya has a similar schedule interface, allowing you to schedule what presentation shows on your channel.  We also give you a preview of your content and a quick link to open it in the Arreya Creative Studio.

TL;DR – Chrome Sign Builder doesn’t do anything more than scheduling.  If you have content and understand the technical nature of how to use it, it might work for you.  Arreya packages everything in one easy to use web interface – sign up, create content, and deploy it.

Start with our 30 day free trial and see if Arreya is right for you

[SIGN UP NOW]

AOpen Chromebase Mini for Digital Signage

AOpen Chromebase Mini for Digital Signage

Aopen Chrome Devices for Digital Signage new Chrome OS based Chromebox Mini and Chromebase Mini have a lot to offer for the digital signage and kiosk industry. These two products are AOpen’s first commercial Chrome devices targeted to a lower cost market. From a user standpoint, here are some thoughts, specifications, and how we plan on utilizing these two new devices released in 2017.

AOpen Chromebase Mini – Not a Tablet

AOpen’s latest addition to their Commercial Chromebase line of products, features a great looking 10.1” touch screen. The very first thing we noticed about this device was the weight, at 2.7 lbs this is not a tablet! The Chromebase mini is built for a commercial environment, an all metal enclosure makes it an admirable alternative to a cheap tablet for a high traffic, high use environment. Another feature differencing the Chromebase mini from a cheap tablet is the lack of an accessible power button to limit tampering with the device. We see this device being used for retail end-cap displays, conference room displays, calendar/scheduling displays, wayfinding, and many more use cases.

Aopen Chromebase Mini

The touch screen features 1280x800 resolution and supports up to 10 point multi touch. Overall the screen looks great and is a big win for this device. The Chromebase Mini shares most hardware specs with the Chromebox Mini and has similar processing power. Standard VESA mounting patterns on the back of the device make finding a mounting solution extremely easy. The HDMI output on the device is great to see for multiple monitor displays. The metal case makes it perfect for commercial use, or affordable enough for consumer use.

Our Pros:

  • Build quality, durability
  • Touch screen

Our Cons:

  • Non-standard 1280x800 screen resolution
  • Accessing the I/O ports can be cumbersome

Specs:

  • Panel: 10.1” 1280 x 800 250nits AHVA
  • Touch: 10 point multi-touch; pinch to zoom
  • CPU: Quad-Core Cortex-A17, up to 1.8GHz
  • DRAM: LPDDR3 Dual Channel 4GB
  • Storage: EMMC 5.0 16GB
  • FHD Webcam (2MP)
  • Built-in Dual Digital MIC and Stereo Speaker
  • WIFI+ BT4.0: 802.11 b/g/n/ac + BT4.0 x 1

AOpen Chromebox Mini

AOpen’s latest offering in their line of commercial grade Chromeboxes, is the aptly named Chromebox Mini. Just under 6″ x 1″, the device undoubtedly has one of the best form factors we have seen in a Chromebox. The Chromebox Mini comes with WiFi antennas which can be rotated to your desired angle, this inherently increases the footprint of the device but in tight environments, the built in ethernet connection can be used instead. The processing power of the Chromebox mini seems to be on par with similarly priced devices, although hardware specs are noticeably cut down from the rest of AOpen’s commercial Chromeboxes. Built in video output is limited to just one HDMI port. The Chromebox Mini also has a connection for a external power switch in the situation where the power button won’t be easily accessible.

The Chromebox Mini’s form factor and other features make it a great choice for someone looking for a powerful box for a traditional screen/player combo. The form factor of the device makes it easy to mount in existing enclosures and new installations. 

Our Pros:

  • Great form factor, easy mounting capability
  • Price: Just $189.00 USD MSRP
  • External power switch connector

Our Cons:

  • No mounting tabs or brackets out of box
  • Limited to 1 video output

Specs:

  • Fanless/non venting hole design
  • CPU:Quad-Core Cortex-A17, up to 1.8GHz
  • DRAM: LPDDR3 Dual Channel 4GB
  • Storage: EMMC 5.0 16GB
  • WIFI+ BT4.0: 802.11 b/g/n/ac + BT4.0 x 1
  • Dimensions: 5.75 x 3.8 x 0.94 in

QUESTIONS? We are here to help. 319-294-6671 or e-mail us directly at info@arreya.com

 
 

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Video Wall and Multiple Screen

Video Wall and Multiple Screen

Multiple Screen Signage and Digital Display Walls

Signage Success Guide

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

There is no one size fits all answer when it comes to multiple screen signage displays. If you’re starting from scratch with brand new screens, you can make your digital signage management a seamless process by purchasing the right equipment and hardware.

When it comes to multiple screen displays, there are several scenarios to consider when you are implementing digital signage.

A Complete Plan for Success

Arreya software is an easy fit for multiple display projects. It can be sized to fit any configuration all within 1 channel. Where multi-screen installations go wrong is with the hardware. To implement a multi-screen digital display, thoroughly thought out hardware should be planned prior to purchase.  problems arise when screens have been purchased and installed without prior thought to configuration, orientation, interactivity or even dynamic content.

Not all hardware is created equal when it comes to multiple screen displays. While sometimes it’s as easy as  purchasing an extra piece of hardware, others can take hours or weeks  of troubleshooting only to come up with imperfect results.

Once you know what capabilities your screens will need and how many will be in the display, you can test Arreya software with a free 30 day trial.  Arreya offers you the capability to span as many screens as you need, as long as the screens can be set in a configuration that allows them to share data.

Shop for hardware that fits all your needed criteria. Buy and test all hardware prior to installation. Since Arreya is agnostic, it works with most hardware. As a Chrome Partner, Arreya recommends Chrome devices because they provide easy integration for most displays, even if you’re seeking touchscreen capabilities.

The Latest and GreatestDigital Signage with Multiple Screens

If you are starting from scratch with digital signage, Arreya is a great fit. Our technical support team can assist you in finding the best hardware for the exact scenario you are hoping to create, and even test it so you know it will work.

  • Multi-screen display side by side with portrait positioning
  • Multi-screen display side by side with landscape positioning
  • Multi-screen stacked on top with landscape positioning
  • Multi-screen stacked on top with portrait positioning
  • Five or more screens tiled on one wall
  • Double Screens with the bottom tablet being a touchscreen that controls the larger screen

Any of these scenarios can become complex if you don’t research the capabilities of the screens that you are buying before you make the purchase. A commercial grade TV screen or computer monitor will more likely provide options to sync up the display with ease, but make sure the ones you buy are meant for 24/7 commercial installations.

Save Money

Displays not functioning correctly or completely dark can affect your sales or visitor experience. Time is money – especially when you are paying a company for tech support or trouble shooting. Purchasing the wrong hardware for your digital signage display may result in adding extra hardware that costs extra money, and may cause more technical problems.

Well planned multi-screen displays can save money, time and the end result will be an amazing dynamic experience for your audience.

At Arreya, we are happy to help you find the best digital signage hardware for the display you are planning, even if you choose to shop prices for the hardware and purchase it from a different supplier. In the end, we want you to have the best possible experience with our software.

If you have hardware already, and want to use Arreya Digital Signage Software, our technical support team are available to speak with you about possibilities.

Correct Hardware = Simple Signage

Correct Hardware = Simple Signage

Make Digital Signage Easy With the Optimum Equipment

What comes first? The chicken or the egg? The same might be asked of selecting digital signage hardware and software, and deciding how it will be used.

Are you tempted to buy the cheapest screen at your nearby big box store?

STOP!

Think about the Difference – Commercial vs. Consumer

The difference between commercial screens and consumer televisions are broad, and different screens are manufactured for different uses and conditions. If you use hardware in a scenario that it is not built for, your warranty will be void, and the manufacturer can deny replacement or repayment. Commercial screens typically include a 3-5 year warranty with onsite replacement, but if you get the consumer special you will likely pay extra for a limited warranty.

Buying the wrong screen for your kiosk or video wall may lead to technical support issues that are billed hourly, or require an extra piece of hardware adding up the costs to your digital signage project

5 Considerations When Choosing Digital Signage Hardware

Will Your Signage be Placed in a Hot or Cold Climate?

Consumer televisions and computer screens are not manufactured to withstand heat or extreme cold. Hardware that is not rated for the climate that you put it in will have a shorter lifespan. Many commercial screens are manufactured for outdoor climates or to withstand sun, and they often have a management system that monitors the system to make sure it doesn’t overheat.

Are You Placing Your Screens in a High Traffic Area?

Most consumer grade smart TVs have buttons and logos in visible areas. If you don’t want visitors turning off your signage or touching screens that are not meant to be touchscreens, you will want to have them secured. Commercial screens will have controls on the back, and offer the ability to disengage the buttons so only the display manager will be able to turn it on or change the volume.  They are meant for 24/7 usage and are more robust for continual use.

Are You Planning to Use Screens in Portrait Mode?

Some screens are not manufactured to be hung or used in portrait mode. If they are not meant for that use and the screen seems to have defects or stops working, the manufacturer’s warranty will be void. If you want to use your display in portrait mode, it is best to purchase a commercial screen with portrait capabilities.

If you are planning to have multiple screens in portrait mode, having screens that can be set to “talk to each other” for this purpose will save you time and money in troubleshooting and extra hardware.

Will Your Signage Be Integrated with a Touchscreen Display?

It it is the screen will need to have touch capabilities. Depending on where the screen is located and the conditions it will be used, the actual touch technology may be important. If your visitors will possibly be using your kiosk as they come out of the cold, you may want a screen that will recognize touch even if they are wearing gloves. However, if the display will be in direct sunlight, some technologies will have a shorter life or may not work as well on a sunny day. If you need certain touch capabilities, do your research on touchscreen technology.

Does Your Company Already Use G-Suite?

If G-Suite is already a part of your company’s workflow, Chrome devices are a natural fit for digital signage equipment. Chrome devices lock monitors into kiosk mode to keep visitors from bringing up websites and any unwanted content.  As a Chrome Partner, Arreya software will integrate with your workflow and your Chrome devices for seamless remote digital signage design and management.  If you already have equipment it may be possible to use a Chromebit or Chromebox to retrofit your older hardware to new digital signage software.

At Arreya, we try to make digital signage easy and affordable for the end user. If you have questions about which equipment to purchase or how to make your current hardware work with Arreya, contact us.