Jan
4
2012

Using Apple TV as Digital Signage

When I was at a conference a few weeks ago I saw a very novel idea, the venue where the conference was being held was using Apple TV’s as digital signage for their building. It looked great and it was cheap! Below you will find a guide on the workflow I use as well as how we use it in our buildings.

Overview: Basically all we are doing is creating images using Keynote, Google Docs, or Powerpoint and sharing them with the Apple TV. If you have music available you can also play that as well. Note: This setup only works if the computer that is set to be the host is on so I would pick a permanent computer if possible. We used the principals laptops which may not have been the best choice. My next plan is to move it to a server that is permanent in the buildings and make changes there.

 

Hardware: For our setup we used 1 Apple TV 1 32″ Dynex from Bestbuy 1 Macbook (you can use any mac computer I have not tested with PC)

Getting Started: To get started connect your Apple TV to your TV and mount your device where you would like it. We mounted ours to the back of the TV using Velcro:

Turn on your Apple TV and go through the setup process. While is setting up navigate to the computer that will control the device.

Creating Slides:To get started open your presentation creator of choice (or photo editor of choice) and layout your slides. In most presentation editors such as Keynote and Powerpoint you have the option to export your slides as images I will show you how to do it in Keynote:   Step one is to create your slides. After they are created click File -> Export…

 In the export pain choose images at the top toolbar. Set everything like the screenshot below:

Click next and choose where you want to save your images. I usually just choose the Desktop:

You should now see your images on your desktop:

Now that we have our images created we are going to configure our Apple TV and our computer to talk to each other.

Turning on Home Sharing:

Computer Setup:

On the computer you are using open iTunes and click “Advanced” and than “Turn on Home Sharing”

 On the next screen enter your Apple ID and Password:

When you have entered your information click “Create Home Share”

Next we will setup Home Sharing on the Apple TV (I apologize for my poor pictures I was in a hotel room when I took them.)

Apple TV:

To turn on Home Sharing on your Apple TV you click over to computers and choose “Turn on Home Sharing”.

In the next few screens you will be asked for your login information. Enter the same info as you did on the computer. Once you have logged into iTunes you will see your computer listed where “Turn on Home Sharing” used to be.

Click on your library name. And you should get a list of things that are available to share:

Once we see this we can head back to the computer to tell the Apple TV what photo’s we want to share.

Back in iTunes,

Click “Advanced” and than click “Choose Photos to Share”

First check the box that says “Share Photos From: ” Click the dropbox and select “Choose Folder” and navigate to the folder that you created earlier in your presentation creator. After you choose your folder click the “Apply” button.

Back to the Apple TV:

On your Apple TV move over to home sharing and choose your library. On your Apple TV choose pictures from the drop down. And choose the slideshow and your slideshow will start. 

Tips:

Add screenshots from widgets such as local weather.

We added our wind turbine stats so visitors could see how much energy is being generated.

Change settings (next to slideshow) to get different transitions.

Add a QR code that links to a video about your building or location.

Other Thoughts:

I did think about using the photostream functionality of iCloud to automatically pull in slides and not depend on a computer. I am testing this out and I will keep everyone posted!

What do you use for digital signage in your school / business?

About the Author: TJ Houston

TJ Houston is the Director of Technology at Shelby City Schools and New London Local Schools for Epiphany Management. TJ leads professional development in all areas of technology and loves developing ways to make teachers, students, and staff's lives easier with the use of technology. TJ also loves photography and his portfolio can be found at http://www.tjshots.com. All of the views on this site are his own.

  • http://twitter.com/gadnur John Rundag

    Right now, we only have one TV being used for digital signage. I placed a laptop in the ceiling and ran a 25 foot VGA cable to the TV. I use VNC or RDP to place the content on the laptop.

    • Kim

      Wow, i reply to a post that is one year old… lol :D

      Btw, been using apple tv all the way since Apple TV first come out, it works very well, have set it up to display on 32 tv`s at the same time. Works very well with an HDMI splitter.
      Only minus, you have to start it every morning.
      But now the new imagestream u can use as well, works even better.

      • http://www.tjhouston.com/ TJ Houston

        Lol. Not a problem! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Pingback: Using Apple TV as Digital Signage « TJ Houston.com | Technology Ideas | Scoop.it()

  • Xavier Forcadell

    Hey you are almost to save my project, im almost done but i need to get low cost for the clients to rent rear projection, i just want to ask you if this could be done with movies too?

    • http://www.tjhouston.com/ TJ Houston

      You could do movies just not actually embedded right now. Sorry for the delay!

      Thanks
      TJ

  • Bwgunner

    I’m looking into Apple TV for use as Digital Signage in a Corporate environment. The one flaw I see is that to get new content to show you have to stop and restart the TV manually. Even with Photostream. Is this your experience too? Any way around it? 

    Thanks!

    • http://www.tjhouston.com/ TJ Houston

      The only way around it I could think would be streaming directly from an Ipad but there would still be a start and stop. You could technically send a movie but for new content there is still the start and stop. So as of right no I would say no sadly :(

      Thanks
      TJ

      • Dan Wilson

        I think I’ll be able to solve this problem by putting the AppleTV’s on a lamp timer and basically having them “reboot” once a day. This works for us because we’re using the screen saver function to display the slides and 2 minutes after reboot the screen saver will resume without manual intervention. As long as the internet connection is working, the ATVs will pull the new content when the screen saver kicks in.

        We’re also using Flickr to deliver the photos to the screen saver… I suppose we could use Photostream but I can post to Flickr from anywhere… and to use Photostream I’d have to set up a dedicated Apple ID and maintain a separate user on my Mac to keep from cross pollinating it with my personal photos. Plus, we need the pics in different orientations for different screens (some are vertical, some are horizontal)… and that would require a separate Apple ID for each set of photos. With Flickr I can just set up different sets and point each ATV to the appropriate set.

        My biggest remaining concern is a reliable internet connection. Our application will be set up in a mall… this mall has free wifi but it isn’t very reliable and it requires a web page sign on and I haven’t yet tested to see if the ATV can handle that at all let alone unmanned. I guess I’ll have to see if any of the nearby stores will let me leach for a small fee.

  • TuLL

    Any idea if Apple TV has been tested with touch screen technology.  I would like to incorporate touch screen into our digital signage solution.

    • http://www.tjhouston.com/ TJ Houston

      As of right now no. BUT it is IOS so I would expect some improvements soon… 

    • Brian Gunning

      No, but http://brightsign.biz/ has this solution and it’s relatively easy to set up and use. 

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  • Brian Gunning

    I’ve been playing around with this system some more, and the good news is you CAN get instant updates. Not through the Photostream Slideshow, but through the Screen Saver (makes no sense, but it is what it is). I have left the screen saver running and taken photos with my phone, which have shown up mere minutes later. You can control the gallery through MobileMe.com and there’s a PC utility to upload and manage this as well. 

    So yeah, it works. 

    If you want more control and you’re still cheap, look at http://www.brightsign.biz I’m playing with that system right now and finding it quite good at precisely what we’re talking about, but much more complex than AppleTV.

    • http://www.tjhouston.com/ TJ Houston

      I thought mobile me was going away in favor of the photostream option? Also can you control the slideshow or is it just the falling pictures. I can say I havent messed with the screensaver… What about setting up Flickr as the source for the images? 

      Also I am playing around with this: http://mediasignage.com/ and jailbreaking an Apple TV and just using the browser on the apple TV to access the signage.

      There is also a wordpress theme used for digital signage you can find here: http://nathangjones.com/flatscreens/So many options so little time :)ThanksTJ 

  • Colin

    Nice article, we are going to implement digital signage in our school. Do the settings allow for a constant loop/continuous play?

    • http://www.tjhouston.com/ TJ Houston

      The slideshow will continue to play it’s on a loop by default if memory serves.

      Thanks
      Tj

  • Alexandra Juhre

    Can you manage multiple (8-10) AppleTV devices all from the same Mac server?

    • Brian Gunning

      Alexandra, it’s not quite like that. Each device is independent, and can be controlled, one at a time, from an iPhone or iPad on the same network, if all are running under the same Apple ID, which means there’s a limit of 10 devices (you’ll want a new Apple ID for each installation, of course, and likely a dedicated iOS device to “manage” them).

      i.e the iOS Cloud is the “server” but hang on, it gets more interesting.

      But the easiest way to get these things working is to use PhotoStream to manage the content and set all of them to display a PhotoStream as a screen-saver with no time-out. Then you’re managing all of your devices from a Mac, or a PC, or an iOS device, just pushing and deleting content to your PhotoStream.

      Interestingly, and I have not tried this, new Apple devices can subscribe to other people’s PhotoStreams. This means you could then have “zones” of devices (again, up to 10) on different IDs but running the same Photostream. I’m anticipating future “upgrades” to PhotoStream, which could further complicate this.

      If you don’t mind the one-time task of managing them device-by-device to “tune in” to content, much like using an IR remote to change a channel or input on a TV, then AppleTV is a remarkably flexible and useful signage solution.

      • http://www.tjhouston.com/ TJ Houston

        I foresee some management in the future. Right now you can manage the devices (disable things and set permissions) with tools like configurator. Right now there is no MDM solution (manage devices over the air OTA) that will manage apple tv’s. Brian says it best above!

        Well said.
        TJ

  • Kevin He

    For more info about digital displays/digital signage, pls visit http://www.yangwin.net.
    We offer both of Android version and Windows version products which are more easy use and lower cost for advertisement displaying.

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About Me:

My name is TJ Houston.
I am the Director of Technology at Huron City Schools. I love integrating technology into the classroom and helping teachers find the way on the information super highway. Things I love: My family, My awesome Girlfriend, Technology, Education, and Photography.

I run PD sessions twice a week and run community training the first Saturday of the month. I love teaching people new things.

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