Need to display a video in your shop window? Want to show off the facilities of your school or church to visitors? Perhaps there’s a promotional video you want to share? Whatever the case, you don’t need to setup a PC to play it back, or even pipe it through an overlong HDMI cable.
All you need is suitable display, a Raspberry Pi, and some digital signage software. Get started with these five projects, ideal for all skill levels.
What a Digital Signage Project Should Feature
The possibilities for a digital signage project are potentially endless, so it’s difficult to list every eventuality. However, remote access is particularly vital, because it lets you make changes without being on site.
In addition, you’ll need to decide whether the project has a requirement for input from the viewer. If so, ensure a keyboard and mouse are connected. If the Pi and the display are to be installed in some sort of locked case, consider a touchscreen display.
Before proceeding, be aware that the terms “digital signage” and “kiosk” are often used interchangeably. They both refer to using the Pi in a locked-down mode. This can prevent your audience from doing anything other than viewing or using a single app.
Prepare Your Raspberry Pi Digital Signage Project
The digital signage projects listed below differ in scope and size. Some are complete disk images to replace Raspbian, while others are simple applications.
For your digital signage project to work effectively, configure your Raspberry Pi with:
- Reliable power supply
- SSH or VNC remote access
- Disabled screensaver
- Wireless connectivity
- Automatically boot to desktop
Remote access, and automatic booting to desktop may already be configured if you’re using a downloaded disk image. However, if you’re installing the project yourself, take steps to ensure these don’t disrupt your digital signage.
You’ll also need a Raspberry Pi. While any model can be used, and the Raspberry Pi Zero might be considered particularly compact, the new Raspberry Pi 3B+ is recommended.
If you’re new to the Raspberry Pi and have no prior experience of setting up a digital signage project, piSignage might be the solution for you.
A paid service, piSignage offers a downloadable Raspberry Pi disk image that can be remotely managed with a dedicated user interface. Media files can be added and grouped into playlists to ensure your digital signage project continues to playback audio and video content.
Advanced schedule is available, while adverts can also be included.
Unlike other projects listed here, piSignage is a premium product, with a single license available for $25. Other payment options are available, depending upon the scale of your signage project.
A more polished and feature-packed option is PiPresents, described on the website as “a toolkit for producing interactive multimedia applications for museums, visitor centres, and more.”
It’s a flexible tool that includes support for Python scripts. These might be used for graphical overlays, for example, or executing other software. A list of successful applications for PiPresents has been compiled on the home page, including a permanent presentation in a hospital, and a tool for displaying photos sent via email.
PiPresents can be fiddly to setup, and requires a full installation of Raspbian to work; you’ll struggle to get it running on Raspbian Lite.
Head to the PiPresents home page to find out more about this Raspberry Pi digital signage tool, and check GitHub for installation steps.
A full Raspberry Pi operating system (based on Raspbian) that must be downloaded and written to SD card to install it, Raspberry Pi Digital Signage (RDS) is useful for displaying various types of information.
Among the projects this software can be used for are electronic signs, time management systems, and Google Slides-based presentations. A web admin interface lets you configure the project, with support for video and sound, and SSH is enabled. The Chromium browser (the open source version of Google Chrome) can be used to display your digital signage project, with settings controlled in the RDS admin screen.
A version of WordPress has been bundled with RDS to enable a simple website experience.
At the other end of the spectrum is this project, which displays a slideshow with date, time, and local weather information.
Python Slideshow is easy to install and can be configured with your own slideshow images. Weather, date and time information is easily configurable. However, before running it’s a good idea to increase the video memory to 256MB in the Raspberry Pi Configuration screen. This will ensure that the slideshow doesn’t overwhelm your Raspberry Pi’s resources.
One thing to note: the script will play any images within the subdirectory, not just the pictures folder. While you can easily add your own, four odd photos (presumably of the creator and a friend) have found their way into the project, so it’s a good idea to remove these before you start using it.
5. Just Use Chromium
If you don’t want to add any extra software, the Chromium browser (preinstalled on Raspbian Stretch) makes an adequate replacement. By manually disabling the Raspbian screensaver, you can ensure the digital signage is displayed uninterrupted. Meanwhile, you should edit the Pi’s desktop environment start-up file to ensure the correct web page is loaded.
Chromium can handle video and other media files, making it ideal for basic signage projects with comparatively low requirements.
Check Dan Purdy’s guide to using the Raspberry Pi for digital signage (referred to as a “kiosk screen”) to find out more.
Build a Raspberry Pi Digital Signage System Today
Although there are many other options for setting up your Raspberry Pi digital signage, we’ve listed a selection to cover all types of project.
We’ve given you five options to choose from. You should have a Raspberry Pi digital signage project up and running within minutes. Choose from:
- Python Slidshow with Time and Weather
- Raspberry Pi Digital Signage
- Or simply use Chromium
Once you’re done, your Raspberry Pi will be ready to display signs, videos, timetables, and more. Looking for other uses for this little computer? Check our list of the top Raspberry Pi projects.