Building a cheap Digital Signage device is easy, but building one which can be deployed and managed at scale is the key to success. ChromeOS allows you to do exactly that with the right set of tools and knowledge.
I’m going to show you how to build a simple signage app which would show ChromeOS Update tracker using the ChromeOS management features. This will allow you to deploy this app across 1000s of devices in a few seconds.
- A Supported ChromeOS device which can be managed by Google
- ChromeOS Enterprise Upgrade license
- The ChromeOS device needs to be “Enrolled” into the domain you would be managing from
- Read more here on how to do this if you are unfamiliar with this process.
Basic Digital Signage Setup
- Move the test device to a new “OU” (Org Unit) where you should do the test before you apply it to rest of the devices in the fleet
- We are going to use the “Kiosk” policies under “Apps & extensions” to setup the application
- There are multiple ways to setup Kiosk. If you have existing apps on “Chrome Web Store” or “Google Play Store”, feel free to use it.
- But I recommend a significantly better option using Web pages (“Add by URL”)
- Once its added, you need to add it to “Auto-launch” section. “Auto-launch” will automatically start up the app when the device boots up the next time. This is completely automatic and doesn’t require anyone touching the device at all.
- After you test it you should be ready to either setup this app on your primary OU where rest of the devices are, or you can move the devices to this particular OU.
Recommendations for an efficient setup
Setting up the app is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are my personal recommendations on how to do this right.
- I recommend using a Web based URL to deploy your Kiosk App.
- This is the easiest to manage and update as you as a developer will have full control over the update process.
- The drawback is that you would have to maintain a server somewhere to keep this content
- I also recommend converting the URL to a PWA app.
- This will allow you to cache HTML content locally which will work beautifully even in the case the network goes down or the server providing the content is offline.
- Don’t use a Chromebook. Instead use a low powered Chromebox instead. Get a Celeron based device if you can.
- Lower powered devices will save you a bundle on power if you intend to run it 24/7
- Disable power management such that the devices won’t sleep/shut down after being idle for a while.
- You can find these settings under the “Power settings” in the Device Settings.
- Recommend setting up “Reboot after uptime limit” or using “Scheduled reboot” to ensure devices are periodically getting rebooted
- This is important because OS updates won’t apply unless devices get rebooted
- And if the device doesn’t get OS updates for a long time, it would loose its ability to be managed remotely
- Enable device reporting in the settings – This is going to be critical to monitor status of the devices remotely from a central location.
- Test how your device will behave under power outages. Most Chromeboxes will switch on automatically when power returns. This is going to be critical for Kiosk devices. Test and verify that your Chromebox, the screen and the network do power up automatically.
Digital Signage is one of the most powerful and under-valued features of ChromeOS. To visualize its capability one would have to use the ChromeOS Enterprise Upgrade license which requires slightly more investment than just buying a Chrome Device. However, compared to the alternatives this is a significantly cheaper infrastructure if you are planning to deploy 100s or 1000s of Kiosks in remote locations.