Automatic DIgital Sinage: Store OPEN/CLOSED sign using Neutis N5 dev kit


#1

PROOF OF CONCEPT

DIgital Sinage: Store OPEN/CLOSED sign using Neutis N5 dev kit

Neon is bright and visible, but very binary and hardly adaptive:


Something more than the traditional OPEN/CLOSED sign was required.

This particular store is open in the morning and afternoon, so customers need to be aware the the store is closing for lunch. When arriving during the lunch hour, they also need to be aware that the store is opening soon. Also, if customers arrive early in the morning, they should be assured that they don’t have to wait long before the store will be open. And of course, customers arriving late should be prompted to hurry along their purchase because the store is closing soon.

Some simple tiles were drawn up that show:

  • CLOSED
  • OPENING SOON
  • OPEN
  • CLOSING SOON

A schedule file was made up using a simple format where y means year, m means month, d means day, and o and c are opening and closing times in 24-hour format. It looks like this:

y2019
m01
d01
o0700
c1100
o1200
c1600


d31
o0700
c1100
o1200
c1600
m02
d01
o0700
c1100
o1200
c1600

A bash script was written which read the schedule file and displays the appropriate tiles on the screen. “Opening soon” and “closing soon” tiles would be displayed prior to opening or closing. Currently it is set at 15 minutes prior.

Here are the tiles as they would be displayed for a typical work day at this store, which is 7am-11am and 12pm-4pm. Note the time displayed in the upper right corner of the pictures:


More about the setup:

The Yocto built image has a /dev/fb0 framebuffer device. The PNG image tiles were able to be displayed using fbi, the framebuffer image viewer program.

In addition, a small c program was written to draw directly to the framebuffer to display current time to the 1/10 of a second. The screen refresh rate is about 17ms, so the time could be displayed in 1/100 second divisions, but 1/10 is already distracting enough. The displayed time is accurate because it is being pulled from another Neutis N5 dev kit that runs a stratum 1 NTP server. Time is received from GNSS satellites via an Emlid Reach RS+ GNSS receiver.

The signage is totally automatic and needs no user interaction except for access to a schedule of business hours. The tiles could be of a more polished design and they could incorporate more digital signage elements, like rotating information such as news, weather forecast, specials or advertisements.

Human interaction could be incorporated in that an employee could confirm that the store is open/closed. That could be through a switch which signals a GPIO pin, or it could be though an employee login on the store’s intranet, etc. With the confirmation that the store is actually open/closed, the current disclaimer that the store is “scheduled to be open now” could be swapped for “open”, and that information could also be relayed to the company website for display on the header of the home page.

An older monitor was repurposed for this job. There was no problem with using a DVI/HDMI adapter to convert from the DVI (or VGA) inputs that were available on the back of the monitor. This monitor also has a built in FM radio which outputs to a typical 1//8" jack. It could easily be plugged into Neutis’ 1/8" line-in jack. PulseAudio or something more light-weight could be used to serve the FM radio station broadcast over the local Intranet.

In conclusion, the Neutis N5 has proven to be a good candidate for a digital signage project. This small experiment only scratches at the surface of its capabilities.


#2

Here are some pictures of the test installation:

The Neutis N5 dev kit is hiding behind the wall. The cable requirements for the install location were: 1 AC power cord and 1 ethernet cable. Neutis is being powered by a lithium USB power bank which is kept charged with a 1A USB/AC power adapter. The USB power bank serves as a miniature UPS device.

Going in, readablilty issues were expected in the bright sunlight, expecially behind a glass window. The first two pictures are not blank. They are taken in the middle of the day and the colour of the displayed text is almost totally washed out. In the second two pictures it is getting closer to sunset and the text is very readable.

Really, a different monitor with newer, brighter display technology should be used for this kind of installation, perhaps some anti-glare film on the window, and darkening of the area around the display. Although, for testing purposes, the daytime readability should be improved by substituting the dark display tiles for tiles with a white background.