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When Tim Cook unveiled the first Apple Watch in 2014, he framed it as several products in one: A precise timepiece, a new way to communicate, and a comprehensive health and fitness companion. The latter quickly became the key feature driving Apple Watch—and other smartwatch—usage.
A $20 Casio is a precise enough timepiece. Your phone is, frankly, a better way to communicate than a watch. But health and fitness—and the sensors to track heart rate, distance, acceleration, altitude, skin temperature, and more—were enough to make it worth adding another screen to your life.
Sensors, screens, and actionable data. That’s the recipe that could apply to your company’s digital signage as well.
Build a connected restaurant with kitchen signage that shows the number of people in your restaurant, latest orders, and ingredient stock levels. Make your office a smarter, healthier workplace with temperature, PM 2.5, Co2, and humidity visible to everyone. Share top-selling products with store customers, or show promotions when someone walks by for a smart retail store. Replicate the fully automated Amazon Go stores, even.
It’s all possible, with the right sensors.
Teaching your digital signage to see, hear, and feel
Odds are, your workplace already has sensors galore. Digital thermostats. Air purifiers, with their air quality data. Temperature sensors left over from the pandemic. Keycard data as employees come into the office, or entry and exit stats compiled by people counting tools.
If there’s something you’d like to track, there’s a sensor to track it with both commercial and consumer-grade products. A Nest thermostat or smoke alarm, for example, not only keeps a room cozy and beeps audibly if smoke is detected. It also sends temperature and air quality data to the Nest website and app to keep track of the temp and carbon monoxide over time. Newer smart HVAC systems from Honeywell and more offer similar features aimed at the workplace, with an API to use thermostat data in internal apps.
The same goes for security cameras. Consumer-grade cameras including Ring doorbells and Yi IoT cameras can notify you when they detect motion—good for security when away, also potentially useful as a way to show when people enter a meeting room, say, or monitor traffic in front of your office.
Today’s IoT sensors work off-the-shelf, often without a hub controller required. Each device connects to the internet on its own, streaming data to an app or web dashboard, or sending webhook, email, or push notifications whenever something changes. That makes it far easier to turn sensors into a smart workplace than it used to be.
You can buy and assemble sensors for anything you need. Temp, humidity, air and water quality, chemical or gas sensors, smoke detectors, and more can report on the environment around you. Cameras along with motion, proximity, weight, and pressure sensors could monitor security—or note when someone’s nearby, or estimate inventory. Smart plugs and switches can turn devices and lights on and off—or let you monitor what’s currently running. Levels, accelerometers, gyroscopes, and magnetic sensors can indicate if something’s moved, while acoustic sensors could note if an alarm goes off or if another common noise is detected.
There are also more industry-specific sensors on the market. Rain gauges paired with weather sensors that detect wind speed and direction could help build a smart farm. Laser, weight, and image sensors can, together, support quality control in a factory. Bluetooth low energy sensors and smart price tags can show where people walk most in a store for smarter retail.
And you might find that the sensors you need are already in your pocket or sock drawer. Smartphones include accelerometer, GPS, altitude monitor, gyroscope, and other sensors, so you could repurpose an older phone into a smart sensor platform with apps like SensorLog for iOS or this Android IoT mobile phone project from IBM.
Turning 1s and 0s from IoT sensors into smart signage
With sensors in hand, it’s time to put their data to use. You likely already have a direct use for your sensors, with smart HVAC turning on the AC or lowering smart blinds when a room’s too hot, or water sensors turning on a sprinkler system when a field or lawn’s too dry. You can also put that data to double duty and use it to power digital signage and let your team know what the sensors have found.
ScreenCloud’s digital signage software makes that easy. Its built-in apps let you build smart digital signage to anchor your business to the real-world with weather, transit times, news, and more. Send your sensor data to your screens, and your team will always know what’s happening.
In a factory with a traditional digital sensor setup, you might buy individual sensors, connect them to a programmable logic controller from a supplier like Siemens, then centralize and graph the data with industrial connectivity solutions like Kepware.
For advanced sensor needs, that can be a great setup, one that can work equally well with digital signage. You could run Kepware on a thin client then stream the thin client data to ScreenCloud’s signage. Or you could use Kepware’s API to build a custom ScreenCloud digital signage app to show assembly line uptime, total production quantity, defect stats, and more on factory signage.
But you likely don’t need to go to that much effort to build a smart store or office today. Instead, with IoT sensors, the heavy lifting is done for you. Unbox the device, follow its directions to connect to WiFi, and create any needed accounts to track data from your device.
Then open its app and see what options you have. Your sensor will likely show either boolean data—to say something’s on or off—or numeral data to show changes over time. Often, you can set thresholds to get notified when something changes or when a number goes over a threshold, then could:
- Customize email notifications, to get an alert whenever the sensor detects something new. You could set those emails to be sent to an automation app like Zapier or Make, which can extract the relevant data and send it to your signage.
- Use webhook options or built-in automations in the app, to push sensor data to ScreenCloud Playgrounds.
- Scrape the data from an IoT device’s web page, using web scraping to pull individual values or ScreenCloud Dashboards to copy graphs and data from IoT sensors’ apps and display them on signage.
IQAir’s AirVisual Pro, for example, supports IFTTT and has an API with JSON output to get Co2, PM 2.5, temperature, and humidity data—either of which you could use to monitor air quality on a dashboard with ScreenCloud Playgrounds. The Aranet4 device works with a built-in Aranet Cloud app, or can connect to the Homey hub which could log air quality data to a Google Sheets spreadsheet—and from there, you could use ScreenCloud’s Google Sheets app to display data or make graphs for your smart signage with Google Studio.
IoT sensor hubs can be a handy way to both centralize data and turn into dashboards for signage. With consumer-grade IoT sensors that work with Apple Homekit, you can run Homebridge on an office computer then push any Homebridge data out with webhooks.
The solution for each sensor will vary. With a bit of tweaking, though, you should be able to get IoT sensor data out of your apps and onto your ScreenCloud signage.
Building a smarter, sensor-driven workplace
All that’s left is to think through what you can build with a combination of sensors and signage.
You could have signage update when someone walks by, pairing a camera or motion sensor with ScreenCloud’s GraphQL API to update signage playlists. You could build an environment stats board, with dashboards and playgrounds showing temp, humidity, Co2 levels, and more.
You could use signage to boost team health, showing a team Strava dashboard—powered by existing sensors in team members’ watches and phones—to encourage employees to exercise.
And you can make a fake sensor with signage plus a QR code. Imagine you want to determine which parts of your store customers walk through the most. Put digital signage in each section of your store, with unique QR codes on each sign perhaps offering product details or a discount for filling out a survey. Then check your data and see which sign got the most results—and plot out the data to build a heat map of your store.
All you need is some ScreenCloud-powered signage (with a free 14-day trial if you haven’t built out signage yet), new or repurposed IoT sensors, and a few minutes to tweak. And one sensor at a time, you can build the smart workplace that SciFi dreamed of decades ago.