Introduction to Digital Media Applications
A digital media application (app) created with Appspace’s Signs extension is a collection of layouts and widgets that can be programmed to run at a specific time, duration, and location. The wealth of content creation tools available in Signs means that designers are limited only by their imagination in creating and managing an app.
Each app is designed to cater to a specific media location and purpose. An app can have multiple layouts and functions, with interactive elements such as widgets, live stream data, and news feeds. Some common use for displaying digital signs are at the main entrance of an organization, the elevator lobby of a hotel, at currency exchange boards or at a tourist information hub.
Application Use Cases
The following are just a few of the many examples of how Signs apps can be tailored to match any business, commercial, or organizational need.
Digital Sales Brochure
This interactive app aligns with an enterprise’s current marketing strategy to showcase the latest products and services. Sales and marketing teams can publish new content directly to the app, ensuring customers consistently have new, attractive, targeted experience. Touch-enabled screens allow users to browse and compare their options. A contact details option, as shown below, gives users an added choice of choosing to receive updates and promotions via email.
Dynamic Information Display
Information displays are a versatile and effective solution for welcoming visitors and presenting any organization’s branded information in a dynamic and engaging way. Integration with calendar systems from Exchange, Lotus Notes, or Google Calendar also makes it possible to display dynamic event boards.
Using Signs apps for video walls makes it possible to showcase ultra-high-resolution content at up to 12 megapixels across multiple displays, in any configuration, with just one player device. Video walls are ideal for large conference rooms, main lobbies of corporate headquarters, universities, upscale hotels, and convention centers, as well as large shopping malls and street facades.
The video wall app is applicable only to approved video wall-capable media player devices.
The framework of a Signs application is an XML document that contains all required information to detail the display, behavior, and schedules of an app. The media player downloads the application’s XML file, and the software on the media player renders the app on the screen based on data in the XML file.
The organization of the XML file is as follows:
Application – The root of the document is the Application Node. This contains sub-properties such as the application ID, name, and resolution. Schedules – Every app by default contains one schedule that is active all the time. If layout scheduling is enabled, each layout playlist will be contained within a schedule. Layouts – Each schedule contains a collection of layouts. Widgets – A widget is the basic building block of an app. Widgets provide the look and feel of the layout as well as the functionality of an app. Certain widgets such as the Media Zone widget can link their content to other widgets in different apps. Visual – determines the look and feel of the widget on the layout. Content – defines the data set or media files that populate a widget. Actions – defines any user-defined action scripting on the widget to exhibit dynamic and interactive behavior. Permissions – defines a list of rights for specific users to view or edit any properties of the widget. Application Properties – List of system and user-defined key value pairs for non-visual app properties such as screensaver time.
Device Sync Workflow
All media player devices registered with Appspace contain a software module called the Download Manager. The Download Manager maintains content synchronization between the media player and any app updates made in Appspace. The below is a description of its functions:
Content Check – The Download Manager queries its Appspace instance every minute by requesting the app timestamp value. If the timestamp value returned by Appspace is equal to the value stored on the media player, then the app is considered in-sync.
The Download Manager idles and repeats the check at the next minute. If the timestamp value is different, the media player is considered out of sync with the app on Appspace. The Download Manager then begins the next process, Content Download.
Content Download – When the Download Manager determines that a media player is out of sync, it begins the content download process by requesting a file listing from Appspace. The Download Manager compares data and determines the new files that need to be downloaded and the old files that need to be removed.
Once the download is completed, the Download Manager validates the files against the file list to ensure there are no corruptions. Once all new files are validated, the media player software is notified to display the new content. Concurrently the Download Manager will send a “content in sync” status message to Appspace.
Media Player Architecture
Signs apps are designed to be agnostic to a variety of media player hardware and technologies by being defined as a neutral XML document. However, a specific media player hardware and technology must be able to interpret the XML document and render the app visually. This is achieved using the Appspace media player software that is installed on media player devices registered with an Appspace instance.
All media player software contain the same basic components responsible for implementing content synchronization, scheduling logic, application logic, and visual presentation. The details of each component are as follows:
- Download Manager:
- Checks app timestamps between the media player and its registered Appspace instance.
- Performs content downloads and content validation.
- Reports content synchronization and network status.
- Optionally reports proof-of-play metrics.
- Schedule Manager: Evaluates scheduling properties defined and determines correct content for playout based on schedule rules and device time.
- Business Logic: Implements user-defined action scripting rules and conditions for dynamic and interactive app behaviors.
- Presentation Logic: Renders the visuals of an application using technology-specific implementation of the media player software.
Appspace currently supports media player software developed in Flash Action Script 2.0, allowing it to be run on devices such as the Cisco DMP 4310 and Edge 340. A DirectX-based media player allows it to run on PC-based video wall players, and an HTML/HTML5-based media player allows it to run on browser-based devices such as the Cisco DMP 4400 and smartphones.