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A Networked Signage System for a Community College, Part 2

Apr 26, 2010 6:37 PM, By Bennett Liles

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Now, do they divide up the control as to the channel that they’re on and certain people can control that, or how does that work?
Yeah, in every case, every building has their own assistants that really are in control of the channel for that building. When I say the channel here, let me just clarify because sometimes we think of the screen as being the channel, but I’m just talking about the media that’s being served out to the displays. In some cases, there is only—depending on where the building is located—there’s only one channel, but in the building, there may be three, four, five, six, or eight displays. [Timestamp: 7:00]

OK, how do they control who gets access? I mean, what’s the security situation on this? Is it part of the computer network security, or do you have your own sort of security and access hierarchy in the software?
Yeah, there’s a standard user name and password protection that’s employed up front just like on the Windows program. User credentials are associated with permission levels that vary from an administrative control of all functions on all screens to only monitoring access of screens on specific buildings or departments, so there’s an overwriting system that is only in control of a few administrators and that we use through the server, but individual departments gain access to their section of it through the MediaZone editor. [Timestamp: 7:50]

Can this system, say, send out email notification about various things?
The InfoZone server does send out emails. However, the emails it sends are basically for monitoring purposes. So for example, if there was a screen that went down, the server would know it within a few seconds. It would inquire to the monitor. In other words, it would actually try to turn the monitor back on. It does that automatically. It even reboots the player after the player says, “Hey, I am working fine,” and then it tries to turn the screen on. If all of this fails, then the software will send an email to the administrator letting them know that one of the screens is down. So all of the emails that we support are basically for the support of this system. They don’t go out to the public. [Timestamp: 8:40]

OK, and all of that goes over the serial connection to the monitors. What is that, just a standard three-conductor-line interfacing at the display with a 9-pin D-sub connector?
Yeah, right. It’s standard RS-232 ...

... at that point from the monitor. But the RS-232 is read back into the individual players, and then the players have a small client that runs on them, and then that’s what communicates to the server, and that’s all done over the network. [Timestamp: 9:07]

OK, you said they had several, 20-some odd monitors already in the display network when you came in and started this. How long did it take you from, say, the concept when they came to you and said this to the completion of where you have it right now?
I’m not exactly sure how long JCCC wrestled with the concept internally, but I would say at least a year from the earliest talks with us to full implementation. [Timestamp: 9:36]

So what’s been the reaction so far, I mean, from the users?
The benefit of working directly with a digital signage company is there’s a steady stream of tweaks along the way, and it’s all about getting everything just right for them. There’s certainly a learning process to determine—what they want to do and how they want to do it—and that’s evolving over time, so their goals change as they go, and we’re changing our software to make sure that we can meet their goals. The overall reaction, though, of course, from them has been extremely positive, and one of the things that we have noticed is the degree of ownership between the individual departments and they’re absolutely taking full advantage of the screens in each department and pushing out information. I think they love the idea that they no longer have to publish and print all this information but that they can get it out in such a quick and timely fashion. [Timestamp: 10:36]

Yeah, like we were saying before, I think once they see it in action, everybody kind of wants to get a piece of it.
That’s right. That’s correct.

Does Keywest have any kind of plans for doing this again down the road or what’s up on the horizon for doing these things?
Well, yeah, absolutely. I mean, the MediaZone product, and when we combine it with our InfoZone server, it really does give us the ability to provide some really really powerful management tools and features and abilities for significantly sized networks. But this whole design concept has redundancy built into it, which we really haven’t talked about, and so we can ramp up not only the efficiency of different operations within the center of getting the information out and for communications but also reliability. Reliability is really important to people as well. And that’s one of the things that a lot of people have hesitation on with digital signage is that, “OK, this is all well and great and it’s cool, but we're really concerned about the reliability of it.” So we’re trying to address the reliability issue with the InfoZone server, and that’s why we built some of this artificial intelligence into it so that it can automatically do some diagnostics and things like that—automatically alert the administrators and these types of things. So we’re really expecting to announce here in 2010 some additional contracts that will actually make the JCCC installation look fairly small. [Timestamp: 12:00]

All right, sounds good David. David Little with Keywest Technology and the installation of the campus-wide digital signage network for Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kan. Congratulations on the success of the installation David and more success to Keywest.
Thank you, Bennett, and I really do appreciate the opportunity to discuss it.

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