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3 Cool ScreenCloud Hacks

How IT Manager David uses ScreenCloud….he’s got a lot of ideas that you’re going to want to hear!

IT Manager ScreenCloud

This is a guestpost written by Dave Harris, IT Manager at PET-Xi Training Ltd. Find out more about Dave on his blog:

I’ve been using ScreenCloud for a while now and have been highly impressed with both the functionality and the ease in which we can now control our digital signage. I initially looked at many different solutions and compared the costs, features and simplicity, ScreenCloud was the clear winner by a long shot.

I currently have a mixture of commercial TVs and smaller monitors, all wall mounted and connected to Amazon Fire Sticks running the ScreenCloud app. Each screen has its own schedule and playlist. Initially, I added social media, news, weather, video apps etc, but I soon realised that I could create my own content and so I spent some time playing around with that.

1. Room Bookings

Every room in our head office has its own Office365 calendar and all staff can book the rooms easily using Outlook. This saves any double bookings and ensures that rooms are available when required. I thought it would be a nice touch to add a daily list of all bookings to the reception screen and so with a bit of PowerShell, SQL and C# magic, I wrote some scripts to retrieve all the bookings from Office365 and save them locally in a SQL database. I then wrote a few .NET pages which are hosted on an internal IIS web server which takes this information and displays it in a nicely formatted table along with the staff photo of the user who booked the room. I added in some code to highlight the rows where the booking was active and some flashing text with “Starting soon” where the booking was starting in the next five minutes.

I also mounted a screen above the meeting room door which displays only the bookings for that room, and also shows if the room is booked or available.

I then also created some similar pages  to display upcoming staff birthdays, random staff bios and staff work anniversaries, all of which, retrieve user information from Active Directory.

2. Alarms and Notifications

When the ScreenCloud API was released I got quite excited, as this opened up a whole new world of possibilities. Communication is key in the workplace and it seemed like I could use the digital signage to provide important information to staff and guests.

I already had an agent which I had previously created in C# that ran on all machines and so I added a screen control option to this, locked down to a specific security group. Whilst the GUI isn’t going to win any design awards, it’s fairly simple and provides easy control for users.

For example, when a fire alarm test is about to take place, the facilities department can press the “Fire Alarm Test” button which automatically changes all screens to display this and then automatically sets it back to its original playlist after three minutes. Likewise, when the sandwich lady arrives, the screens can all be set to show this. I also created an option to allow marketing to add a welcome screen for guests, or any other message with ease on the screen of their choice, or they can throw a URL to any given screen.

The welcome screen is just another .NET page that accepts a query string parameter of the message text and displays it in bold text over a corporate background with the company logo.

3. Door Entry

At this point I started getting a little carried away, but it does bring a smile to the faces of both staff and guests! I had already installed a door entry system that allows staff to use their printed ID cards to securely enter the head office building. This system already logged all the events in a SQL database and so I simply created a trigger which, if it was the first time that day that the user had used their card, called a script to takeover the reception screen with another .NET page to display a greeting based on the time of day along with the name of the staff member and their photo. The username is passed in via the query string from the PowerShell script that runs from the SQL trigger. The commercial TV in reception also has the volume locked to 10% and so I added an applause sound clip to greet them on their way in. This screen takeover displays for a few seconds and then the screen reverts to its original playlist.

If time allows, I plan to update this a little, so if it’s the users birthday it’ll display a special birthday background and play a happy birthday song!

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