Distributed Announcements With ChromeOS and Chrome Sign Builder

chrome_sign_builderProblem: You work at a school or business and want to a cost-effective and simple to deploy solution for distributing information to displays across your campus or enterprise.

If your organization uses Google Apps for Education or Google Apps for Work, you are in luck!  Chrome Sign Builder is a great application for accomplishing this.  In this post I will outline how I used this tool to distribute daily announcements (via Google Slides) to multiple locations throughout our building.  Using our existing wireless network for connectivity, I was able to put 65″ LCD TVs in multiple locations for $1,133 per location ($929 of which was the display itself).

Breakdown of products purchased:

What it looks like:

chromebox

Dell’s Chromebox comes with a VESA mounting plate that is the same footprint as the device.  This display didn’t have a place to mount the plate (most don’t), but because the Chromebox is very lightweight I was able to use mounting tape to secure that plate to the back of the display, then “drop in” the Chromebox onto the mount.

Suggestions for lower cost implementations:

  • Use a smaller / less expensive TV – We used 65″ TVs because these were going in large rooms and we wanted students to be able to see the information at a distance.
  • Use a Chromebit instead of a Chromebox – I used Chromeboxes because I was familiar with them and wanted the ability to secure the device using a security cable.

Chrome Sign Builder Initial Setup:

  1. Enterprise enroll the ChromeOS devices you are planning to use so that they show up in your Google Admin Console.  The ChromeOS devices need to be managed for this to work, hence the ChromeOS Management Console License included in the Chromebox purchase listed above.
  2. Create a device OU in your Google Admin Console for your signage devices. You’ll need one OU for each configuration, but multiple devices may have the same configuration.  In my situation, I have several displays, but they all display the same content, so I only needed one OU.
  3. Move your newly enrolled devices into the applicable OU.
  4. Using an account hat has access to devices in the Google Admin Console, go to the Chrome Web Store and install Chrome Sign Builder.  (Note: You do not need to do this on the signage devices – your normal computer will work just fine)
  5. Launch Chrome Sign Builder.

Setup a Schedule:

You should have a default schedule under “My schedules” and a calendar shown at right (as seen below).  In this example, I am going to show how to loop a single presentation, forever (other scenarios are supported, see here for other use cases).  Below you’ll see how to automatically re-load the presentation so that changes made to the slide deck are reflected on the displays automatically.

  1. schedule12Select the schedule you would like to use from the left column (or create a new one).
  2. Click in the “all-day” row of the date you want to start displaying your content.schedule3
  3. Paste the URL of the Google Slides file that contains your content into the URL box and click the “Open Advanced Drive Configuration” option that appears.schedule456
  4. Set your options for your presentation.  In my example, I turn all of these on.
  5. Set the amount of time you want each slide to be shown.  In this screenshot, it is set to 3000ms.  1000ms = 1s, so 3000ms is 3 seconds.
  6. Click “Done”.schedule7910
  7. Check “Show forever” to repeat this schedule every day moving forward
  8. Click “Advanced…”
  9. Check “Automatically reload url” and provide a value for how often the URL should be reloaded.  Note: Using this option is important if you want modifications made to the slide deck to reflect on the displays.  I reload mine every 10 minutes.
  10. Click “Save”schedule1112
  11. You should now have an entry in your “all-day” row.  Click it to make modifications if necessary.
  12. Once you are satisfied with your configuration, click the green “EXPORT” button.
  13. Name and save the policy file in an easily accessible location (like your desktop).

Deploy Your Configuration:

Once your export file is saved, you should be directed to log into the Google Admin Console.  If you aren’t sent there automatically (or want to revisit your deployment settings later), you can find it under Device Management > Chrome Management > App Management > Chrome Sign Builder.

  1. deploy15In the “Kiosk settings” section, select the OU you created that contains your signage devices.
  2. Turn on both “Install automatically” and “Allow app to manage power” (if the parent container does not have these settings applied, you’ll need to click the “Override” hyperlink under each switch first).
  3. Click “Upload Configuration File”, then select the file that contains the configuration file you exported in the previous section (if you don’t see this button, you’ll need to click the “Override” button beneath “Configure”).
  4. Click “Save”.
  5. Click the “device settings page” hyperlink.deploy67
  6. In the left hand column, select the OU that contains your signage devices.
  7. In the “Kiosk Settings” section, select “Chrome Sign Builder” for the “Auto-Launch Kiosk App” drop-down list.
  8. Make sure to click “SAVE” to apply your changes.

Congratulations – you’ve just told the devices in that OU to launch Chrome Sign Builder as a kiosk app and configured them to display your content automatically!  Go turn on your ChromeOS device(s) and enjoy your distributed content!

If you have questions about this process or have a tip on Chrome Sign Builder, please leave a comment.

Useful Links:

7 thoughts on “Distributed Announcements With ChromeOS and Chrome Sign Builder

  1. Hello Blatti
    Thank you very much for these explanations that I finally ended up finding through your super article.
    One question remains to elucidate, do you think that it is possible to display information that automatically update (example: weather, time, rss feed info)?
    thank you in advance

    cordially

    Laurent.B

    • I’m not aware of any existing solution to that, however Google Slides now supports Google Apps Script. You could definitely write a script that runs on a schedule and uses a fetch command to gather data from a website, then use the Slides API (https://developers.google.com/slides/quickstart/apps-script) to get that content into your presentation. I’ll try to write a simple example sometime and will link to it here if I do so.

    • In my example, I am applying settings to an OU in the admin console. So all you would need to do is simply drop the device into the OU you have configured for this purpose.

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