Overview

The Spark CMS is, at its core, a design tool that can be used by anyone. The objective is to create an "interface", which is a collection of pages and assets that will appear on your public screens. An "asset" is an app, image, video, or video-on-demand playlist.

 

What interfaces can do

Interfaces can:

  • Exist in any screen resolution;
  • Be interactive or non-interactive;
  • Consist of a single page or multiple pages;
  • Be published to one or more screen devices;
  • Be edited by one or more colleagues;
  • Support diverse use cases such as advertising, information, entertainment, and hospitality.

There is no limit or fee for the number of interfaces and pages you can create with your Spark account.

 

Workflow

The typical workflow in the Spark CMS is:

  1. Login at demo.getspark.ca
  2. Upload new assets for your interface (images, videos, apps)
  3. Create a new interface (define name, resolution, and other settings)
  4. Design the interface (drop in assets and widgets, sequence pages)
  5. Publish the interface to a device

Creating Assets

Asset types

Assets refer to anything you upload to the Spark CMS:

  • Images (.jpg, .png, which can support transparent pixels)
  • Video (.mp4 uploads; UDP, .ts, .m3u8 streams)
  • Apps (.apk)

You can additionally bring video assets together to generate a:

  • Video on Demand playlist

 

Uploading an asset

Extend the Assets tab in the Spark CMS and go to Apps, Images, Video, or VOD.

 

        Apps

In the apps panel, create a new app by pressing the + button at the top, or edit an existing app by selecting it.

 

Upload an app icon (required) and .apk app file (required). You can also:

  • Download the app file of a saved app
  • Toggle whether or not to save app data on exit, such as user settings within the app. If saved, the app data will reside locally on the screen device. If not saved, all app data will be erased on the next exit of the app.

Save your app. If it is already assigned to an interface, the changes will automatically transfer.

Apps are great for delivering a full-screen, specialized experience within your Spark interface. Popular examples are loyalty programs, food menus, internet access, and wayfinding.

A selected app can be deleted by using the trash icon at the top of the apps panel. It will be removed from any interfaces it is assigned to.

 

Apps are applied to an interface by dropping in the app (which will use the app icon), or by launching the app from an image link or media widget link.

 

        Images

In the images panel, create a new image by pressing the + button at the top, or edit an existing image by selecting it.

 

Upload an image (required), which will auto-populate the name. You can edit the name. Images can be applied to an interface as these and more:

  • Logos
  • Backgrounds
  • Buttons
  • Advertising

Save your image. If it is already assigned to an interface, the changes will automatically transfer.

A selected image can be deleted by using the trash icon at the top of the images panel. It will be removed from any interfaces it is assigned to.

 

Images are placed on interfaces either by dropping in the image, or sequenced in a playlist through the Media widget.

 

        PDFs

In the PDFs panel, create a new PDF by pressing the + button at the top, or edit an existing PDF by selecting it.

Selecting PDF in Pannel.gif

Upload a PDF (required), which will auto-populate the name. You can edit the name.

Pressing Add Button PDF.gif

Save your PDF. If it is already assigned to an interface, the changes will automatically transfer.

A selected PDF can be deleted by using the trash icon at the top of the PDF panel. It will be removed from any interfaces it is assigned to.

PDFs are placed on interfaces using the PDF widget.

        Videos

Create a new video by pressing the + button at the top of the videos panel, or edit an existing video by selecting it.

 

In the Info tab, upload a video poster image (.jpg or .png, required) and set a name (required).

You also have optional options to fill in details about the video, which show up in a Video on Demand playlist:

  • Description
  • Genres
  • Starring
  • Years
  • Content Rating

 

In the Source tab, you have the option to either upload a video (.mp4) or link an IPTV video stream (UDP, .ts, .m3u8). The uploaded video can be previewed but a stream cannot. Additional options depending on the video source include:

  • Stream video file to Spark device (good if device lacks local memory)
  • Deinterlace video
  • Trust in-stream PCR

 

Save your video. If it is already assigned to an interface, the changes will automatically transfer.

A selected video can be deleted by using the trash icon at the top of the videos panel. It will be removed from any interfaces it is assigned to.

 

Videos are placed on interfaces using the Media widget.

 

        Video on Demand (VOD) Playlists

A VOD playlist is an interactive dashboard that will allow users to browse video information and play videos.

Create a new VOD playlist by pressing the + button at the top of the VOD panel, or edit an existing VOD playlist by selecting it.

 

Set the VOD playlist name (required) and at least one genre row name (required). To create a genre row name, press the icon at the bottom left of the preview. Genre rows are used to horizontally scroll through a list of videos. A genre row name can be any text you want, such as "Action Films", "Television Channels", or "Information Videos".

Now, drag and drop your pre-made videos from the bottom of the screen, and drop them into a genre row. Mouse over the preview to activate horizontal scroll buttons for each row.

 

To delete a video, or an entire genre row, drag and drop the element over the trash bin icon on the lower right of the preview.

 

When you are finished editing, save your VOD playlist. If it is already assigned to an interface, the changes will automatically transfer.

A selected VOD playlist can be deleted by using the trash icon at the top of the videos panel. It will be removed from any interfaces it is assigned to.

 

VOD playlists are placed on interfaces using the VOD widget.

 

Translating assets

Apps, images, and videos can have multilingual versions uploaded. Go to the respective asset and add a localized version. You will need to define which language(s) the version applies to.

 

If the default asset is added to an interface, and the Language widget is also added, users will be able to toggle the Language widget to all languages tied to assets on the interface. If an asset does not have a version for the language selected, the default asset will appear.


Creating an Interface

Getting started

Create a new interface by pressing the + button at the top of the interface panel, or edit an existing interface by selecting it.

Interface toolbar

In the interface toolbar, the Grid dropdown menu will allow you to alter the interface resolution in pixels (width by height). The interface can be deployed to any device, but may not appear correctly on a device that does not have the corresponding resolution.

 

Also in the interface toolbar, select the Interface Settings icon. On the bottom of the page, the Interface Settings menu will appear and allow you to edit:

  • Interface Type - set as interactive or non-interactive, which enables or disables touch / click events.
  • Default Timeout - the number of seconds before the Signage Loop activates on interactive interfaces.
  • Default Language - the default language all translated assets will appear in.
  • Default Brightness - sets the brightness of the screen device.

Coping an interface

Duplicate an existing interface by using the copy button in the Interfaces Panel.

 

This feature allows you to build on existing work and create variations of your content.


Designing an Interface

Designing an interface with Spark is a creative process that anyone can do.

In this section you'll learn about:

The canvas

With an interface selected from the interface panel, the main part of the screen will be taken up by the interface "canvas", where you will drag and drop assets and widgets to design your pages. You can change the shape of the canvas by changing the interface resolution in the Grid dropdown menu.

 

Camera controls

With the mouse over the canvas panel:

  • Use a mouse wheel or trackpad to zoom in or out.
  • Right click, hold, and move the mouse to pan.

Using the keyboard, you can:

  • Use +/- to zoom in or out.
  • Press 1 to automatically fit the canvas to the panel.

 

Grid and snapping

The grid can be toggled on and off from the Grid dropdown menu in the interface toolbar. You can also change the colour and size of the grid.

 

The is used for visual reference, and for snapping assets or widgets to grid lines, which is great for visual alignment.

To snap, first select which anchor point you want the asset or widget to use for alignment. This is done by selecting one of nine anchor points in the interface toolbar, which correspond to a corner, middle, or centre point of the selected object.

 

Next, click and hold the asset or widget along with the CTRL button, and move the object. It will snap its anchor point to the nearest grid line.

 

You can snap objects regardless of whether or not the grid is visible.

 

Applying assets and widgets

Assets are defined above. "Widgets" (listed below) are graphic elements we've created to make it easy to present information with Spark.

Below the canvas is the assets and widgets bin. You can search for an object by typing in its name, or using the toggles to filter by app, image/video, or widget. Use the mouse wheel or trackpad to scroll through the list of objects. Drag and drop your desired object from the bin onto the canvas, and it will appear.

 

Click and drag and object to move it on the canvas. See snapping for precision alignment.

Scale an object by selecting it, then click and drag one of its corner points. Hold SHIFT to maintain the aspect ration, and hold CTRL if you want to snap the scaling to the grid.

Rotate certain objects by selecting one, then click and drag on the flag staff anchor point. Hold SHIFT to rotate in 15 degree increments. 

 

Click on assets or widgets within the canvas to bring up a variety of settings in the bottom panel. The settings vary between object type:

Assets (see creating assets)

  • Apps - edit presentation settings.
  • Images - toggle fullscreen on/off, make it a button link to an app or page.
  • (PDFs can only be applied using the PDF widget below).
  • (Videos can only be applied using the Media widget below).
  • (VOD Playlists can only be applied using the VOD widget below).

 

Widgets (graphic objects that show data)

  • Analog Clock - edit presentation settings (time defined by device clock).
  • Digital Clock - edit presentation settings (time defined by device clock).
  • Language toggle - edit presentation settings (see translated assets).
  • Media - used to present a video, image, or sequence of videos / images. In the General tab, edit presentation settings. In the Playlist tab, add images or videos and edit their time, transition, and fit settings. In the Link tab, make the widget a button link to an app or page.
  • PDF - select a PDF, scroll speed, and edit presentation settings.
  • Text - add text and edit presentation settings.
  • Tickertape - add text, scroll speed, and edit presentation settings.
  • VOD - select a VOD Playlist to present, toggle media controls, and edit presentation settings.
  • Weather - add latitude and longitude coordinates (required), and edit presentation settings.
  • Web View - add a URL to show (requires internet connectivity on screen device), toggle browser controls, and edit presentation settings.

Layering objects

Object layering allows you to designate foreground and background objects.

With an object selected, use the Up and Down Layer buttons in the interface toolbar to raise or lower the object by a level. Hold SHIFT while using the Up or Down Layer buttons to send the object to the back or front.

Copy, paste, delete objects

To copy an object, select it and press CTRL-C.

To paste a copied object, make sure the canvas panel is selected and press CTRL-V.

To delete an object, press Delete (Function-Delete on Mac).

Creating pages

Pages are full-screen instances within an interface. They are transitioned by:

  • Giving an image or Media widget on one page an interactive link to another page (in the object's settings).
  • Sequencing the page in a signage loop.

To create a new page, click the orange + button in the bottom panel, enter a page name, and press the checkmark or ENTER.

To delete a page, open the orange dropdown menu and click the X.

To navigate to a different page within the Spark CMS, click on the orange dropdown menu to switch pages.

Interactive interfaces

Click on the gear in Toolbar to view the Settings. Use the drop down menu under Interface Type to select Interactive.

Set the Default Timeout (the number of seconds before the Landing Page or Scheduled Loop activates following a period of user inactivity) then click Save.

When a timeout occurs, the Landing Page will be the Interface's default screen unless there is a Scheduled Loop


Previewing an Interface

The Spark CMS renders an approximation of an interface within the canvas. All images and text is shown. At this time, certain widgets like Clocks and Weather have fixed times / temperatures, but render your colour and font changes. Other widgets such as Media, VOD, and Web View are only available as fixed icons.

To preview a fully animated or interactive interface, a hardware device must be paired to your account, and the interface needs to be published to it. We are happy to facilitate a hardware pilot if you require a preview and do not have compatible hardware.

Stay tuned for the next major update of the Spark CMS, which will feature a fully animated and interactive canvas, and fullscreen previews of your interface.

Scheduling an Interface

How to schedule content

Spark allows you to schedule the pages of an interface to run at a specific time of day. Start off by building an interface and creating pages of content you'd like to loop through.

The Signage Scheduler can be found in the Interfaces Toolbar.

Begin by creating time blocks such as Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner.

Spark will automatically sort the schedule based on time. In this case the breakfast loop will run until the next scheduled loop (lunch at 12:00).

The scheduler works on a 24 hour clock. The last signage loop (dinner at 18:00) will play through until it reaches the first loop's time (breakfast at 7:00).

Press the Edit Signage Loop button to add pages to a time block. 

Use the drop down menu to select a page in the interface. The duration of the page can be set in the box beside.  

Next, choose a simple animation to create more visual interest between pages.

  • Transition In
    • Fade, Scale, Swipe Up, Swipe Down, Swipe Left, Swift Right
  • Transition Out
    • Linear, Ease, Ease-Out, Ease-In, Ease-In-Out

The speed of the transition can be set in the field in between.

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 3.41.53 PM.png

Easily re-arrange your loop by dragging the pages in the Scheduler.

Interactive interface timeout

Interactive interfaces will timeout to the scheduled loop following a period of user inactivity. If a loop doesn't exist it will instead default to the Landing Page. The timeout period is set in the Interfaces Toolbar.


Publishing an Interface

If you're publishing a digital signage interface, the page(s) needs to be added to the signage scheduler beforehand.

In this section you'll learn about:

 

If an interface is already assigned to a screen device, any saved edits will go to the device within 30 seconds (provided there is internet connectivity). If there is no connectivity, the edits will be banked for the next available connection.

New content is downloaded in the background of a live interface, as not to disrupt the user experience. There will be a short cut to the Spark Player loading screen when a new or update interface is launching.

If you are publishing an interface for the first time, start by ensuring that Spark Player has been installed and registered on your screen device. Each device registration requires a license.

 

Managing devices in the Spark CMS

Each screen device will automatically appear as an icon in the Devices tab of the Spark CMS. Refresh the page if you have just registered the device.

 

 

Using device maps

"Device maps" are image assets you can upload, and use as visual aids to determine where your devices are in your facility or geography. These images are typically floor plans, building maps, or bubble maps.

To create a device map, press the button at the top of the device map panel. To open an existing device map, select it from the panel.

Much like adding an asset to an interface, you can add a device map image to the canvas area using the search tools in the bottom menu. It will function like a background image, which device icons get laid over. However, do not have to add an image in order to use the device map page.

 

 

Assigning interfaces to devices

Add devices to the map by dragging their icon onto the map. Similar to assets and widgets, device icons can be moved, resized, and rotated.

Once applied to the canvas, click on the device icon to load the device's settings in the bottom panel.

The General tab shows the device's fixed serial number (a unique identifier for your device license), and an alias (the name you can set for easy recognition on the canvas).

The Interface tab allows you to assign one of your pre-made interfaces to the device. Once assigned, and when the device map is saved, the device will update within a 30 second sync check.

 

If you have issues publishing an interface after the above steps are completed, view Troubleshooting.

 


Use Cases

Advertising

Spark supports advertising in a number of ways. Individual media assets (images, videos, video streams) can be uploaded and positioned anywhere on the screen, or full screen. Multiple ads on the same page can be sequenced using the Media widget. Multiple pages of ads can be sequenced using the signage loop.

You can also explore the integration of third party ad tech solutions like facial recognition, human analytics cameras, people counters, etc, to drive distinct ad content.

Coming soon, the Analytics tab in the Spark CMS will report on ad impressions.

Spark does not currently publish ad inventory, and does not take any of your independently generated ad revenue.

 

Apps

Android apps (.apk's) are a great way to offer in-depth, interactive experiences below Spark's interface-level platform. These are typically sole-purpose apps like internet browsers, loyalty programs, food menus, and wayfinding. 

Apps are uploaded to the Spark CMS, can be added to interfaces, and launched from interfaces when a user touches an icon, button, image, or video.

When launched, apps will take up the full screen. Users can exit to the Landing Page using the Android OS's back button, which only appears during app playback and not on the main Spark interface.

If you want to use of Google Apps (Chrome, Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube, etc.) your interactive device will need a Google Mobile Services (GMS) License, which can be obtained by your device manufacturer. Read more at android.com/gms. Please note that Google does not allow enterprises to charge fees for the usage of their apps.

Note that you can also use the Web widget to offer web-based, interactive experiences - on a partial or full screen - within Spark's main interface.

 

Conventions

Interfaces can be built to move attendees efficiently, create a professional first impression, and build brand awareness. Spark provides a total solution for all convention centre screens with customizable schedules, date, time, weather, wayfinding, and more!

Spark can power your wayfinding & information kiosks, visitor tablets, digital signages, and large video walls.

Corporate Offices

Interfaces can be built to include corporate messaging, television streams (ie. 24/7 news), tickertapes, schedules, date, time, weather, wayfinding, and more!

Spark can power your lobby kiosks, reception & waiting room displays, marketing displays, and project tracking displays.

Data Integration

We're hard at work producing a variety of data integration features that will allow you to feed realtime, automated content into Spark. See the Integrations section for more details.

Food Menus

Spark supports food menu apps that have been uploaded to the Spark CMS and dropped into the interface. You can apply your own existing food menu app, or we can coordinate a third party option for you.

Spark also supports menu boards, which can be quickly generated by adding widgets, images, and videos to an interface.

Hospitals

Interfaces can be built to digitize the patient experience and improve medical staff productivity with minimal IT oversight. Spark provides a total cost-effective solution for all screen devices with customizable television streams (ie. 24/7 news), schedules, tables, charts, date, time, weather, games, and more!

Spark can power your check-in & wayfinding kiosks, patient infotainment terminals, clinical phones & tablets, and medical smart glasses.

Hotels and Casinos

Interfaces can be built to create a professional first impression, build brand awareness, and broadcast realtime data to staff. Spark can support custom integrations with resort & gaming data feeds with customizable television streams (ie. 24/7 news), tickertapes, schedules, date, time, weather, wayfinding, and more.

Spark can power your wayfinding kiosks, restaurant & room service tablets, digital signage, and large video walls.

Internet & Online Content

To present online content in your interface, use either:

  • A compatible internet browser app, which launches from your interface to offer a full-screen browsing experience; or,
  • The Web widget, which will appear in your interface - drawn partial or full screen - and will load the designated URL. You can also enable or disable basic browser controls.

Languages

Spark offers multilingual support for apps, images, and video assets. On interactive screens, users can toggle languages using the Language widget.

Restaurants

Interfaces can be built to digitize the dining experience, broadcast menus and features, and improve staff productivity. Spark provides total solutions for menus, information, and entertainment with customizable schedules, date, time, weather, wayfinding, and more, compatible with any Android menu app.

Spark can power your menu tablets, digital menu boards, digital signages, and IPTV televisions.

Retail

Interfaces can be built to move shoppers efficiently and boost retail operations with minimal IT oversight. Spark provides total solutions for advertising, wayfinding, and information with customizable schedules, date, time, weather, and more!

Spark can power your wayfinding kiosks, retail tablets, digital signage, and large video walls.

Schools

Interfaces can be built to digitize the campus experience, move students and faculty efficiently, and create professional first impressions. Spark provides total cost-effective solutions for all screen devices with customizable school announcements, television streams (ie. 24/7 news), tickertapes, schedules, date, time, weather, wayfinding, and more!

Spark can power your directory kiosks, student tablets, information displays, and large video walls.

Theme Parks

Interfaces can be built to create a professional first impression, build brand awareness, and broadcast realtime data to staff. Spark provides custom integrations with corporate data feeds with customizable television streams (ie. 24/7 news), tickertapes, schedules, tables, charts, date, time, weather, wayfinding, and more.

Spark can power your outdoor wayfinding kiosks, restaurant & room service tablets, digital signages, and large video walls.

Transactions

We are currently developing features to support on-screen transactions. Check back soon!

Transit

Spark provides a total solution for transit times, wayfinding, information, menus, and entertainment.

Interfaces can be built to move travellers efficiently, enhance retail operations, and digitize the departure lounge. We offer television streams (ie. 24/7 news), tickertapes, schedules, tables, charts, date, time, weather, wayfinding, and more!

Spark can power your wayfinding & information kiosks kiosks, departure lounge tablets, digital signages, and large video walls.

Videos and Live Streaming

You can add videos (.mp4) or attach video streams (UDP, .ts, .m3u8) to Spark interfaces. Video assets are first created in the Assets tab, then added to interfaces using the Media widget.

You can also present multiple videos at once in a Video On Demand (VOD) Playlist.

Wayfinding

Interactive maps can be supported by either:

  • Adding a standalone wayfinding app which gets launched from an interface; or,
  • Linking the URL of a web-based wayfinding page to the Web widget.

If you do not have existing wayfinding content, we are happy to coordinate solutions from our partner network.