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Author Topic: Open Source E-ink conference room displays  (Read 1205 times)
jdean
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« on: January 23, 2019, 09:49:24 PM »

We are very happily using the open source "Booked" software in our engineering college at a large university.   We created a companion open source project, "wall-ink", to display Booked schedules on all of our conference rooms and student-scheduled study rooms on e-ink displays.  These devices along with the Booked software have been highly successful!.  The wall-ink devices cost under $100 to build, and are 100% open source.  They are wireless and run off of AA batteries that last 1-2 years.  See https://github.com/caedm/wall-ink.   The devices each display a QR code that directs users to that particular Booked resource for scheduling.  

We have also created plugins to integrate the devices to work with Google Calendar, Outlook, etc, for special circumstances.  These e-ink devices simply display whatever image the web server tells them to display, so additional plugins could display just about anything.  This architecture of server-side image generation allows for easy updates of image processing without having to update the display firmware across campus.  Our wall-ink displays are 3d printed with a plastic milled front to match the other signage in our buildings.  All of the CAD files, circuit diagrams, circuit board files,  parts list, firmware, and complete documentation are on the Github pages.   I thought this might be useful to others who are using the Booked system and are looking to display the schedules at each room.  

« Last Edit: January 23, 2019, 10:39:04 PM by jdean » Logged
kdillon
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« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2019, 02:10:05 AM »

This is pretty sweet!  How long does it take to build one of these?  Are there any prebuilt ones that can be purchased without a lot of effort?
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jdean
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« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2019, 11:57:21 PM »

Building a "proof of concept" prototype takes almost no time at all.  You only need to buy a few things as seen in the picture below.  (The whole process  and shopping list for a development board prototype can be found here in the Github Wiki.)  If you purchase a dev board, the electronics are already pre-made for you so you can make sure that it is going to do what you want without much time, expense, or effort.  It will look like a jumble of wires, and it will also need to pluged into USB power.  The dev board sucks a ton of power for the on-board USB chip and voltage regulator so running a dev board off a USB battery won't last long.  (Days, not years.)

To get the device that runs for over a year on a set of AA batteries and looks nice, takes a lot more effort.  I have personally built almost 100 of these devices now for my place of work and they are heavily used by thousands of students and faculty.  You have to 3D print the case, source all of the individual electronic components and spend a few minutes soldering each unit together.  Purchasing all of the individual electronic components in small quantities may be difficult.  I was building large batches and purchased everything in quantity from China which made the overall build relatively cheap.  All of the build instructions, circuits, PCB files, 3d models, and everything are on the device build page in the Wiki.

We think they are great, and it's nice to be able to make them do whatever you want.  They can work with any scheduler, display anything you want, and update as often as you want.  Just for fun one afternoon I made a plugin to display the XKCD comic of the day on a screen in my office.   We had a hard time paying 5-10x the money for something that didn't do exactly what we wanted.  That being said, I spent probably about a year developing the thing a little bit here, and a little bit there.

So to answer your other question, there is no place, to my knowledge, to purchase one of these units commercially and just hang on the wall and be done.  If there was and they were reasonably priced, I'd buy them instead of building them!

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kdillon
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« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2019, 04:05:30 PM »

Jdean - I don't think there is a way to send you a private message on this board.  Could you send me an email at kdillon@********.org?
« Last Edit: February 25, 2019, 04:55:52 PM by kdillon » Logged
falmeida
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« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2019, 02:25:56 PM »

really like the idea, I would like to use it, but my department won't finance the costs of it, still want to try building a prototype.
Thx for the excellent work and also for sharing with us.
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