Zen & the Art of Smart Signage

04 November 2014
Simon Ward
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According to MediaTel, “Digital-out-of-home (DOOH) ad revenue jumped 30% in Q2 2014.” Seeing the rise of digital signage usage, we realised that many brands were limited to running stand-alone campaigns per display screen. Seeing that digital  signage displays were rapidly becoming an important tool in the creation of digital experiences, we set-out to radically improve how this channel would be managed.

We began by investigating the new Samsung smart signage platform (or SSSP if you like tongue twisting acronyms) which is their latest foray into the world of digital signage utilising large format displays with built in (or at least easily attachable) touch screens. The new trick up Samsung’s sleeve was an integrated media player & SSD removing the need for an external PC in order to provide content.kmblog-post-image-1

Samsung had already created MagicInfo which, “Allows users to custom build your digital signage using Samsung’s professional design templates and script wizards. You can embed audio, video and text, set various resolutions and screen modes, edit animations and objects using drag-and-drop tools, organize content using a timeline to create interactive and creative digital signage.”

For one-off digital signage campaigns, MagicInfo provides an excellent solution. However, we know from working with our clients and prospects that there is a fast growing need for brands from a vast array of industries from FMCG to financial services to be able to control digital displays in real-time from publishing content, to personalising experiences to collecting data and accessing analytics.  Essentially, what early adopters have orchestrated across (omni) channels now includes digital displays.  To meet this growing demand Cognifide endeavoured to create a way to integrate management of digital signage directly into Adobe Experience Manager (AEM).

Several years ago we uncovered a need to accelerate web development, particularly for launching new campaigns. Some of our FMCG clients have had such fantastic digital experience success with our Zen Garden accelerator (used in conjunction with AEM) that we decided to use the same interface for our new solution “Zen Display” to will allow all of the feature rich content available when creating a site with AEM.

First we started with the additional functionality Samsung provides as part of the firmware installed on their LFD’s called the ‘URL Launcher’. This functionality is designed quite literally to call to an entered URL when launched. This can be used to open a default website through the built-in browser or alternatively it can be pointed at a server to download an application package.

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It was these downloaded application packages that we were interested in. An integral part of Cognifides Zen Garden is the Creative Exchange functionality. This allows a website built in AEM to be exported as a package of HTML, CSS & JavaScript. The main purpose of this is to make it easier for Creative Agencies to take content entered via AEM and then apply themes and functionality to them without the need to be experienced in the use of AEM.

However, our team realised that structurally a Samsung Smart application is basically just a package of the same with a few bells and whistles attached. Cue the creation of a modified version of the Creative Exchange export functionality and we had Zen Garden allowing you to generate a site within AEM using the standard Zen Garden components, then export that content and style it however you so wished. Add a pinch of JavaScript to allow the interface with the Samsung LFD Touchscreens to work and suddenly you have a fully functional CMS generated Zen Garden Website running as an application on the Samsung Smart Signage Platform.

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This means that you can control the content on multiple display devices from a central location so whenever an update to content is required you update it as normal within the Zen Garden CMS instance, export the package to the central server and then just update the individual devices via the URL launcher.

Due to the modifications to the Creative Exchange Export also updating the version numbers and file sizes of the exported applications config file the update will be recognised by the URL launcher and the new application will be downloaded.

In addition as these packages are still fully functional exported sites they can easily be handed off to creative agencies for any required CSS or JavaScript changes and then simply uploaded to the server again.

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As a proof of concept of this functionality Cognifide have created several applications to demonstrate the functionality including ones for Bentley & Ford Mustang and are continuing to develop the functionality to fully integrate the touch screen experience across the digital signage concept.