5 Simple Ways to Get Your Dashboards on a Wall Mounted Display
We’ve already talked about the importance of selecting an appropriate BI tool to visualise the data in a previous blog (here). One thing we are commonly asked about is how to best display the visualisations within communal spaces, to avoid them becoming hidden behind tasks on personal displays.
This becomes even more important when a dashboard, for example, contains common KPI metrics for a department - on-time planning for maintenance, shift and operator performance for mine dispatch etc.
You’ve already likely seen one of the easiest and most common ways to achieve this, when looking for flight information at an airport - wall mounted TVs.
Once screens are in place though, the question is then, how to display the dashboards on the TV. There are a variety of options available and it really depends on the specific situation.
When selecting the best fit solution to get the visualisations on a TV it’s worth considering the below.
Unattended Display? – Will the TV be actively used and interacted with or will it be unattended and just for viewing?
On a side note here, if unattended, how will the possible multiple visualisation progress like a slideshow to ensure all get seen? – Embedding content in a timed PowerPoint is one option; we created another (here), which only requires a web browser.
Remote from ‘owner’? – If content needs updating, a display issue needs resolving etc. is the responsible person nearby. If they are in a central/remote office, how do they quickly and easily make changes with minimal disruption?
Content to display? – Will the TV potentially need to be flexible to allow it to display other items other than the dashboards e.g. safety messages, company videos, PowerPoint slides etc.?
Content host? – For ‘normal’ use, a TV would be plugged into another device pushing content - a DVD player, games console etc. Is there an existing device which will be used to drive the TV?
Quantity? – How many screens will be used to display exactly the same content? Or will each have unique information displayed?
5 Possible Solutions
The below are a few examples of ways in which we’ve seen BI visualisations displayed on communal TVs to great success. There are many others (Chromebits, Raspberry Pi) which aren’t covered here.
1. Cable connection to PC – The most obvious and commonly seen approach; plugging a PC into the TV via a VGA/HDMI cable.
Gives all the power and flexibility of a PC on a large screen.
Somebody has to sit close to the screen, have a long cable to their desk, or to have a dedicated PC which needs to be hidden/mounted nearby.
Cost – Cabling and possibly a dedicated basic PC – Approx. £10 - £350
2. Smart TV – These potentially have built-in web browsers or the ability to cast/mirror to from another device. This could offer ways to access visualisation such as dashboards.
Can provide an all in one device without the need for additional hardware.
Aren’t normally as flexible as a full PC and often limited by Apps available to that manufacturer. This can mean losing the ability to play videos from a hard drive, display PowerPoint slides, Flash files etc.
Need to be able to specify and purchase a smart TV vs using an existing ‘standard’ one.
If using a mirror/cast feature it still requires another ‘host’ device to push content to the TV.
Cost – Smart TVs are more expensive that standard versions. Approx +10% on top of standard TV price.
3. Networked TV – Use thin client hardware (such as Axel) on a network connection to provide central network access to display content.
Have remote access to multiple devices from a potentially distant location.
Easy to display identical content to multiple screen. No need to set up each display individually if content is the same.
Centralised network control over user permissions, content etc. in line with IT policies.
Ability to display a wide range of content (Depending on specific set-up).
Requires centralised network infrastructure and IT management.
Potentially limits the ability of non-IT users to update content or use the TV for ad-hoc items e.g. department safety share, company update etc.
May struggle to display certain things like videos without being jumpy
Cost - Depending on method, price varies widely. Approx ~£100 per thin client box.
4. PC ‘on-a-stick’ – These are a ‘full fat’ Windows PCs on a micro scale. These PC ‘sticks’ are similar sized to a casting/mirroring device and plug into the TV HDMI port, taking power from the TV USB port or a wall socket.
Allow full PC flexibility in terms of applications and file format support.
Can be remotely accessed and updated etc. if desired through Remote Desktop software
Can create a local ‘kiosk’ experience with Windows User controls to control access.
If not controlled, can become a random device misused by local personnel.
If being controlled remotely, must ensure it’s kept up to date in line with IT policies.
Cost – Micro PC (~£125)
Easy to mirror content from another device.
Depending on host device, content could potentially be quite varied.
Simple device, very little to maintain/go wrong.
Require a ‘host’ device to mirror content from.
There can be a lag during casting which can be irritating.
Cost – Typically inexpensive compared to other options. Approx. £50.
Creating inciteful, informative visualisations to drive business goals takes not only good data and reporting skills, but also a physical method to make it visual for all. Choosing the right hardware to match the needs of business is an important key.
The PC on-a-stick is our personal favourite when there aren’t many screens showing the same content. It’s very quick to set up and gives full PC flexibility of file formats/software without the need for a dedicated PC or host person. The ability to play any file format, connect and update content remotely, as well as prevent unwanted local user access for around £125 (+TV) makes it a very cost effective solution.
This has been used to great success by several clients who’ve been able to rapidly deploy the solution and start driving business performance.
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