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Signage With Siri: How to Build a Voice-Activated Smart Screen

Voice assistants aren’t only for personal tasks. With Apple Shortcuts, Google Assistant workarounds, and Zapier or IFTTT automation, you can put Siri and Google on your digital signage.

ScreenCloud Post Image

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. On behalf of…”

And you’re off. Your tray table’s stowed away, your phone’s in airplane mode, and there’s little to do other than listen and look out the window. On a flight, an audio update is perhaps the best way to let everyone know what’s going on.

That works in an office, too. Stand on a chair, shout for attention, and spiel. You’ll distract everyone, pull them away from what they’re doing, but sometimes the event—landing a new deal or launching a new product—calls for a cinematic pause in the workday that brings your team to their feet.

Just not every day. Shouting’s easy for you, hard for your team who needs to get stuff done. Even a Slack or Teams @channel is too much for most messages. You need a more passive way to tell your team something—which is where digital signage shines—but also need sending that message to be as easy as shouting “Hey everyone!”

So whisper “Hey Siri” instead, and get your voice assistant to update your team’s digital signage with the latest numbers and news. Here’s how, with Siri and Shortcuts, or Google Assistant and Zapier.

Start with a sign

ScreenCloud digital signage with a message from Siri
You can say anything to Siri and send it to your ScreenCloud Signage

It all starts with digital signage that you can update easily. For as ScreenCloud has found through helping thousands of teams build out signage, when content is hard to update, people don’t update it. If you have to sit down at a computer and update signage manually every time, odds are your team will see the same slides over and again.

But it doesn’t have to be so hard. ScreenCloud’s digital signage software makes it easy to put anything on your company’s TVs and screens. Its GraphQL API lets you change what’s showing on a screen or turn off a screen—which means you could tell Siri to turn off a screen for a smart signage remote control. And for dynamic signage that updates whenever you tell Siri what to show, a ScreenCloud Playgrounds screen is just what you need.

In Playgrounds, you can code custom signage in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. You also get a webhooks URL to send data to your signage. With a simple PUT command, you can send anything to your ScreenCloud signage and update it on the fly.

If you’ve never built a ScreenCloud Playgrounds dashboard before, first check out our guide to Playgrounds and Webhooks. Build your first sign, using an application data variable to show text on your sign (we’ll use a ScreenCloud chart dashboard built from our Chart.js tutorial as the example). Copy the Webhooks URL—and then you’re ready to start building Siri-powered smart signage.

ScreenCloud digital signage with a graph and message shown from data sent via Siri
Our example signage that will show the number of sales you tell Siri to show

How to Add Siri to ScreenCloud

Siri’s not the smartest. On its own, it’s best for starting timers and skipping songs. But it comes bundled with one of the best automation tools, Shortcuts, and that’s the key to a smarter Siri.

Shortcuts works similarly to other automation tools like the macOS Automator app and web automation tools like Zapier and IFTTT. You start with a trigger—tapping a button or saying a keyword to Siri—then Shortcuts will start a Rube Goldberg machine’s worth of software automation that you can tweak as you want. It can, if you want, turn your most recent video into a GIF, transcribe your most recent voice memo recording to text, or start a pomodoro timer. It can also send anything you say to Siri to your ScreenCloud signage.

Here’s how.

Screenshot of setting up Siri with Apple Shortcuts to send data to a Webhooks URL
Have Siri ask you for a number or text, then have it PUT data to ScreenCloud’s Webhook URL

Open Shortcuts on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, and create a new Shortcut. Add a name that’s easy to say and won’t get mixed up with other things you often say to Siri (I named my shortcut ScreenCloud, which worked perfectly). Then add your first action.

We’re going to have our Shortcut listen to what you tell Siri, then put it on your sign. To do that, first add an “Ask for Input” action to get Siri to ask you for the text to send along. Select either the text or number data type, then add a question that you want Siri to ask you, such as “What’s the number?”

iOS Shortcuts add Data from provided input
Select the Provided Input variable to send the Siri text to ScreenCloud

Then, add a “Get Contents of URL” action (which you can find by searching for “URL”). To get it working with ScreenCloud:

  • Paste your ScreenCloud Webhook URL in the action’s URL field, then tap the down arrow to add the settings.
  • Choose the PUT method, add a Header key of “Content-Type” with “application/json” in the text field, and select a JSON request body.
  • In the JSON body, add a new field, select the dictionary type, and name it “data”. Tap that, and add a new text field with the field name your ScreenCloud dashboard uses (we’re using “number” in our demo workflow).
  • Finally, tap the Text section of the field, and select the “Provided Input” variable that Shortcuts will suggest right above your keyboard.
Allow iOS Shortcut to connect to your Webhooks URL, then tell Siri what number to send along
You’ll have to allow Siri to send data out the first time—and then in the future, you’ll be able to run your Shortcut without any extra work, even on your Apple Watch.

And with that, Siri is ready to update your signage for the first time. Say “Hey Siri, ScreenCloud” or substitute in the name of your Shortcut. The first time you run it, Siri will ask you to allow Shortcuts to access your ScreenCloud URL. Allow it, then Siri will ask you for your value. Say the number or text, and a moment later your ScreenCloud signage will show the new text you told Siri.

The next time you want to update your signage, just say “Hey Siri, ScreenCloud” then respond with your number when it asks, and your screen will update.

You could use that in all kinds of unique ways. We used it to update our signage with the latest sales numbers in this demo—and that works great, since when you say a number to Siri, it will send the actual number, not the text, to ScreenCloud. You could get Shortcuts to send multiple numbers if you want—just add multiple “Ask for Input” actions, and link them all to your URL’s JSON data. Or, you could say a whole sentence to Siri and have it sent to ScreenCloud, for a way to send a detailed message to your whole team anytime you want, like the boss announcement sign earlier in this tutorial.

Run Siri Shortcut from Raycast
Trigger your Shortcut—and update your ScreenCloud signage—from your Mac’s keyboard, with Raycast

Your new Shortcut will work anywhere Siri works: On your Mac, iPad, iPhone, and even Apple Watch. It also works in 3rd party tools like the Mac search app Raycast, where you can send a new value to your shortcut right from your keyboard. 

How to Add Google Assistant to ScreenCloud

Google Assistant, the search giant’s voice commands tool that’s built into Android devices and available for download on iOS, is another great way to update your digital signage. There’s only one problem: It works with decreasingly few 3rd party integrations. That means advanced Google Assistant workflows today require workarounds.

The best way we’ve found to use Google Assistant to update ScreenCloud digital signage is via email. Literally, ask Google Assistant to email something to yourself—then you can use an automation app like Zapier to pull out the text and send it to your screens.

Screenshot of Zapier monitoring Gmail for a Google Assistant message
Have Zapier watch Gmail for a Google Assistant message—or make a new ScreenCloud email

First, you’ll need a contact to email. You could have Google email yourself, then add a Zapier Gmail Email Matching Search action that watches the following search phrase: “subject:(Email from YOURNAME via Google Assistant),” replacing YOURNAME with your first name. Or, you could start by making a new Zapier workflow, add the Email by Zapier trigger, and make a new unique email address for ScreenCloud—then save it to your Google Contacts with an easy-to-say name (“ScreenCloud” could work).

Use Google Assistant to add data to your digital signage via email
Google Assistant can’t update ScreenCloud directly—but it can email you.

Now, grab your phone, say “Ok Google, email ScreenCloud” or tell it to email your name or whatever you named the new Zapier email address. Google Assistant will ask you what to say, so tell it the number or text you want to send to your signage, and confirm you want to send.

Using Zapier Formatter to extract a message from a Google Assistant email
Finish setting up your Zap, first with a Filter, then with a Webhooks step to send the cleaned up data to ScreenCloud

Back in Zapier, if you chose to watch your Gmail inbox, you will need to add a Filter step to clean up your email, since Google Assistant by default adds a “Sent using Google Assistant” footer to your message. Choose a text filter, then either choose to Extract Number if you’re sending a value to your sign, or to Split Text if you’re sending text. For the latter, have Zapier watch for “---”, to separate your message from the footer. You can skip that step if you used Zapier’s email app to make a new address, as it automatically removes footers and signatures from emails.

Finally, add a Webhooks action, and set it up to PUT the cleaned up JSON text to your signage, just as in our Webhooks tutorial.

Turn on your Zap, then try it again. Pull out your phone, say “Ok Google, email ScreenCloud” then tell it the text to send. Then moments later peek at your signage, and you’ll see the new message you told your phone, now being broadcast to your whole company.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

With automated, voice-activated signage, there are so many more ways you could automate your signage.

Shortcuts on Mac supports Terminal commands, which means you could have Siri on your Mac use ScreenCloud’s GraphQL API to build new playlists, turn off displays, and more. Or, you could use a Zapier JavaScript Code step to use the GraphQL API from Siri on iPhone (just have your shortcut send data to a Zapier Webhook URL, then have Zapier pass the data along to ScreenCloud) or Google Assistant on Android (where you’re already using Zapier to run your signage anyhow).

Zapier opens even more possibilities. You could add an OpenAI step to write text from a prompt, to build AI-powered signage that’s triggered by your voice. You could use Zapier’s Giphy integration to find a Gif that matches what you say, then send the image URL to ScreenCloud to update your signage with dancing babies or confetti on demand. You could even use Zapier to look up recent tasks, tickets, trends, or other data from your team’s software, and send it to your signage.

All you need to do is think of the things you’ve wished you could quickly push to your company’s signage, then think through what you could tell Siri and any other automations that’d be needed to get that working. Odds are, anything you can think up, Siri and Shortcuts and ScreenCloud can do for your team’s signage.

It’s time to go start building new smart signage for your team.

Header image based on photo from Matoo.Studio via Unsplash.

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