Digital Signage Advances Education

In all levels of education today, from pre-school to K-12 and through higher education, digital signage plays a vital role in communicating with students and parents as well as faculty and staff. Display.Works offers a cost-conscious way for educational institutions to take advantage of the benefits of digital signage without busting their budgets.
 

Let’s take a look at why digital signage is particularly beneficial in the education environment and some of the ways that schools are using digital signs today.

 

Digital Information for Digital Natives

Today’s students, from pre-K through college, are digital natives. This means that the vast majority of them have been using technology since early childhood. For instance, a Pew Research study found that 93 percent of K-12 school children own a laptop and 78 percent use social networking sites.

 
For Generation Z, digital content is an everyday part of their world. And as many parents and teachers already know, it can be difficult to get them to pay attention to anything that isn’t on a screen!

 
This is why digital signage is particularly important and impactful in today’s schools. Digital signs grab students’ attention in a way that posters, fliers and other traditional media simply can’t. If you want students to notice announcements about upcoming events, tomorrow’s lunch menu or reminders about the dress code, you need a digital sign.

 

Spread Information Quickly and Cheaply

Another major advantage of digital signage in an educational environment is that it allows information to be spread throughout a school or campus quickly and inexpensively. The Display.Works device on each digital sign links that sign to a website that you have selected. So, if you have five signs all linked to one website, all you have to do is update the information on that website once and the information will be displayed on all five signs.

 
Think of all the time and money that will save compared to printing dozens of fliers and spending time posting them all over the school and later taking them down! If you have us link your Display.Works devices to a website capable of supporting a slideshow, you can use each sign to display multiple screens of information, which can be easily added to, edited or deleted when no longer needed.

 

Keep Faculty and Staff Up to Date

 In addition to communicating with students and parents, digital signage can be very helpful for keeping faculty and staff informed and up-to-date. These audiences can be targeted by placing signs in areas such as teachers’ lounges, staff break rooms, the mailroom and administrative offices.

You’d simply need to have the Display.Works devices for these signs linked to a separate website, one specifically for faculty and staff. Then whenever you need to send information specifically to your employees, you can just update the faculty and staff website.

 
Again, this allows you to spread information quickly and easily—and even reach those faculty members who never check their emails!

 

How Are Schools Using Digital Signage?

Digital signage has a wide variety of uses in educational settings. Some are more obvious than others.

 
First, you can use digital signs to make announcements about upcoming events. These visual reminders can help reinforce reminders given in the classroom. Whether it’s Field Day or Prom, digital signs can help students remember when and where important things are happening, as well as what preparations they need to make.

 
Another common way that digital signs are used in K-12 schools is to display lunch menus and nutrition information. This can help students make healthy choices about their diet or avoid known allergans.

 Digital signs can also be useful for giving directions. Need to help those incoming freshmen figure out where their classes are? You could post a map of the school on the digital signs in your hallways for the first week.

 
Another use for digital signs is displaying videos. Display.Works can stream video from your linked website. If you want to show highlights from the weekend’s football game or speeches from student government candidates, digital signage can do that too.

Displaying student work is an important practice that’s emphasized a lot today. A digital sign linked to a slideshow of student work can be a great way to give students a feeling of pride and ownership in their school. And it looks good when prospective parents or district administrators come to check out your school!

 
Speaking of prospective parents and district administrators, digital signage can improve your school’s image overall. Good-looking, current digital signs relay that your school is forward-thinking and up-to-date with the latest technology.

 
Finally, digital signage can be used to communicate effectively with faculty and staff. It can be used to display reminders about faculty meetings, data about student test scores, duty assignments and more. It’s a great way to make sure this information gets to the people who need it without having to announce it publicly over an outdated PA system!

Contact us to learn more about Display.Works

IoT Network

Increase Security by Putting IoT Devices on a Separate Network

The use of Internet of Things devices in homes and businesses is widespread and growing. These IoT devices can be extremely useful, but they can also create a major security risk.

One way to alleviate that danger is to put your IoT devices on their own separate network. That may sound complicated and difficult, but it’s something we can easily set up for you along with an Eero mesh Wi-Fi network.

 

What is the Internet of Things and Why is It So Dangerous?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is made up of all the everyday devices that are connected to the internet. We’re not talking about things like laptops and smartphones, whose primary function is computing and connecting.

Instead we’re talking about devices like refrigerators, thermostats, light bulbs, door bells and wearable fitness trackers that connect to the internet. People love the functionality and convenience that connecting these devices to the internet gives.

Unlike your smartphone or laptop, these IoT devices often don’t have much in the way of built in security features. That makes them extremely attractive targets for hackers.

You may be thinking, so what if somebody hacks into my light bulbs? Are there really people interested in hacking for the sake of turning people’s lights on and off?

Well, there probably are some folks who’d think that was pretty entertaining. But that’s not the real danger.

The real danger is that someone will hack into that light bulb, use it to get into your network, and from there, be able to break into other devices connected to your network, like your laptop or server.

Ever handle banking on your laptop? What if a hacker used your connected refrigerator to get on your network and spy on your banking information? Now you see the problem.

 

Keep it Secret, Keep it Safe

So, you want to keep hackers from getting to your network through your IoT devices. How do you do that?

There are several steps you can take to help protect your network from the risks created by IoT devices. For instance, don’t connect any IoT device that you don’t actually need to have connected.

Sure, your toaster may be able to connect to the internet to track your toast-making habits, but do you really need it to do that? If not, just turn off the Wi-Fi connection and make your toast the old-fashioned, unconnected way. That’ll be one less backdoor for hackers to try to break into.

Next, use strong passwords for your devices, and do NOT leave the factory-default password set. Hackers can get those factory-default passwords and screen the internet for devices using them. Come up with your own passwords and use a different one for each device.

But one of the best things you can do, which we strongly recommend, is to set up a separate network just for your IoT devices. Your laptop, smartphone, servers and other computing devices will be on a completely separate network.

That way, if someone breaks into one of those IoT devices in your home or business, all they’ll be able to get to is other IoT devices. That will help to keep the sensitive information on your laptop, etc. safe and secure, away from prying eyes.

 

Creating a Separate Network with Eero

We use the Eero system to set up mesh Wi-Fi networks that can provide fast, reliable Wi-Fi networks with coverage that extends throughout your home or office.

The Eero system can form a guest network in addition to the regular network. Once we’ve set up this guest network, we can connect your Internet of Things devices to it.

That way anyone breaking into those IoT devices will only be able to see and potentially access other devices that are connected to the guest network. Your regular network will stay safe and secure with no unnecessary backdoors.

The Internet of Things is a fact of modern life. It comes with risks, but also has great potential. We can help to manage those risks by thinking carefully about what we connect to the internet and how we connect it.

Using a separate network specifically designated for IoT devices can help to keep the rest of our networks safe and secure, protecting sensitive information and avoiding potentially costly attacks. Investing in managing your IoT network now could save you a lot of money and hassle in the long run.

Security Matters!

Imagine this: One morning, you sit down at your laptop with a cup of coffee and log on to your favorite social media site. To your surprise, you find the name of your business is listed as a trending topic. Hundreds, even thousands of posts about your business have been made in the last few hours.

At first, you’re excited. After all, going viral is every social media manager’s goal. But why have you gone viral now? What is everybody talking about?

You click on your business’ name and that’s when you make a terrible discovery. Overnight, someone hacked your network via the cheap security camera you just bought online. The hackers got into your customer files, installed ransomware on your workstations and found the digital sign on your storefront or in your lobby. Instead of showing the daily specials or educational marketing information, that digital sign is broadcasting explicit adult content to everyone who walks by!

So, pictures and videos of your hacked sign, in your business, are spreading across the internet like wildfire. Think that sounds like some far-fetched science fiction story? It happened to a digital sign outside of the Chipotle restaurant in Washington, D.C.’s Union Station during the afternoon rush hour last year.

Similar horror stories are easy to find online, from a digital billboard in Atlanta, whose regular content was replaced with the picture of a man’s naked posterior, to digital road signs in Dallas that were re-programmed to display vulgar messages rather than important safety information.

It’s a nightmare no one ever wants to experience because there really is such a thing as bad publicity. Digital signs can be incredibly useful tools for businesses, but they’re also a point of vulnerability. Malicious hackers seek them out ,not only to play highly visible and potentially destructive pranks, but also in search of backdoors to break into your business’ network.

That’s why the security of digital signage matters—to protect both your business’ reputation and its systems. And that’s why in designing and supporting the Display.Works device, security is our top priority.

Any digital sign, security camera, thermostat, doorbell connected to the internet becomes a part of the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things is the network of millions of “smart” devices that connect to the internet and share data, from televisions to toasters to exercise trackers.

The vast network created by these products is extremely vulnerable and the source of a lot of headaches for people concerned with protecting privacy and security. While nothing can ever be perfectly secure, the Display.Works system includes features that make it more secure than most Internet of Things (IoT) devices available today.

To begin with, Display.Works is a single-purpose device that is designed and hard-coded to do one thing and one thing only: Connect to the Display.Works server and display one specific webpage that you have chosen.

Unlike the laptop or desktop computer you might have used to run your sign before, the Display.Works device cannot be easily redirected to another site with the click of a mouse. And the single-purpose device doesn’t contain anything else, like financial information, that hackers could access through it.

The Display.Works device runs on Linux, an operating system less frequently targeted by malware than Windows. When running a digital sign off of a PC or Mac, one of the major headaches is the need to make sure you’re keeping current on security updates as they come out. If you miss an update, your computer and signage become extremely vulnerable, since the updates themselves act as notifications to malicious hackers of weaknesses that exist.

You can set your system to auto-update, but what if it tries to update in the middle of business hours, when you need your sign working? Display.Works takes care of this issue for you. The monthly subscription fee includes regular security updates done outside of business hours. That way you can feel confident that your system is up to date and protected without the hassle of managing it yourself.

The monthly fee also includes monitoring of your sign and notification if it goes down. That helps to ensure that if there ever is a problem with your digital signage, you’ll find out about it before it hits Facebook!

Ultimately, security matters to every business. Digital signs need to be secured just like any other important system. With the Display.Works device and monthly subscription, you get a highly secure device with the updating and monitoring necessary to keep it secure.

And that will help to ensure that when your business gets a lot of attention, it will be for all the right reasons!

Case Study: Conditioned Air Solutions

The Display.Works device and support provide businesses with an inexpensive, reliable and secure opportunity to enhance communication with both customers and employees using digital signage.

One Huntsville-area business that has taken advantage of that opportunity is Conditioned Air Solutions. Let’s take a look at how Conditioned Air Solutions is using Display.Works-powered digital signage to help their business run better...

Business Profile
In business since 2004, Conditioned Air Solutions provides both residential and commercial HVAC services to the Huntsville and Madison, Alabama, region. Services include installation of new systems as well as maintenance and repair.

Conditioned Air Solutions emphasizes providing excellent, professional service; done right the first time without cutting corners. Thanks to this commitment, they’ve earned an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and the Super Service Award from Angie’s List every year from 2009-2017.

Conditioned Air Solutions’ approximately 40 employees are based at their office and warehouse in North Huntsville, but serving customers at home has many of the employees coming and going throughout the day. This can be a challenge for internal communication.

The CEO of Conditioned Air Solutions, Keith Lowe, has a background in electrical engineering and a strong interest in using new technology to improve his business procedures and the quality of service they can provide to customers.

How Conditioned Air Solutions Uses Display.Works
While many business owners think of digital signage only as a way to communicate with customers, the Display.Works-powered digital signage at Conditioned Air Solutions’ headquarters is used for internal communication.

One way these digital signs are used is for security. In his office, Lowe has a digital sign that constantly displays the feeds coming from several of the office and warehouse security cameras. This allows him to supervise employees as well as keep an eye out for any security issues that might arise, even while he’s using his computer for other things.

In order to display these feeds, the Display.Works device is actually programmed to log in to the website that the security cameras feed to, then automatically click through to select the specific cameras that Lowe wants to see. As part of its programming, the device also automatically logs out and logs back in every night to prevent login from timing out during the day.

In another executive’s office, the Display.Works-powered digital sign displays a different set of security camera feeds—again, chosen by the individual and pre-programmed into the device. As part of the monthly subscription fee for the device, these selections can be re-programmed securely if needed.

These security camera feeds stream constantly, demonstrating that Display.Works has the ability to handle streaming video, with a single device displaying the feeds from six or more cameras at a time.

In addition to keeping an eye on security, Conditioned Air Solutions also uses Display.Works to communicate information about performance to their employees. A digital sign displaying Key Performance Indicators allows employees to check that their performance is meeting the expected standards.

Another digital sign located in the breakroom continually streams the feed from the software that keeps track of every job. This allows all employees to see what work is coming in and getting done, as it happens.

Finally, a fifth digital sign in a manager’s office displays the schedule of all Conditioned Air Solutions’ installers. This schedule is posted and updated as a Google spreadsheet, which the Display.Works device is programmed to link to. This allows the manager and others to see at a glance where installers are currently working as well as their availability for scheduling.

Why Conditioned Air Solutions Chose Display.Works
According to CEO Keith Lowe, the most important factor in choosing Display.Works is security. So many devices have almost no security, but the programming and support of the single-use Display.Works Linux-based device give him confidence that it is as secure as possible, particularly with the monthly subscription that includes regular security updates.

Additionally, Lowe cites the reliability of the Display.Works device, saying it compares favorably to every other option out there, being significantly more reliable than plugging in an old laptop or using a USB drive.

And finally, there’s the issue of price. Lowe points out that a basic flat-screen television can be purchased for as little as $100. The Display.Works device can turn that basic TV into a reliable, secure digital sign that can be programmed and adapted for a wide variety of purposes. Considering that purpose-built digital signs can cost thousands of dollars, that’s a major cost savings.

The cost-effectiveness of a Display.Works-powered sign includes the cost of electricity too, as the monitor and device combined use less energy than a single 100-watt light bulb. Thanks to this low overall cost, Lowe is able to use multiple digital signs throughout his offices and experiment to find the most effective ways to use them.