Author: Zurab Kakabadze
Doing business in the digital (signage) age: using screens to engage your customers
Digital signage is one of those things you may not know you know about. The term may be unfamiliar, but the thing itself is everywhere - in stores, airports, restaurants, offices… if you’ve left your house in the last week, you’ve undoubtedly encountered it. ‘Digital signage’ is catch-all to describe any screen outside of the home displaying content to an audience, ranging from internal teams to customers, diners, school students, and more.
It’s a great way to engage and communicate with your customers: TV screens are increasingly replacing printed posters to promote products & social media, display menu boards, distribute business metrics & dashboards, and communicate your business or organization’s brand.
With its advantages well established in capturing audiences who are all digital natives, the important question now isn’t so much ‘Should I be using digital signage?” (to which the answer is a resounding YES!) but rather ‘How do I get content on my business’ screens?’
The answer to that question is much simpler than you might think. It lies not in the usual suspects:
- Expensive commercial TV screens & media players
- Laptop-to-TV setups that swallow a display with cables
- USB sticks loaded up with video & image files
Rather, the solution is beautifully uncomplicated - turning the TV you’ve already got into a digital sign using Fugo. If you’ve got a ‘smart’ TV, you can download Fugo from your TV's app store, much like downloading Netflix. But if you’ve got a ‘dumb’ TV you need to turn smart, enter the Amazon Fire TV Stick.
This guide will teach you everything you need to know about using an Amazon Fire TV Stick to run your digital signage 😎
Turning your ‘dumb’ screen smart with Amazon Fire TV Stick
Amazon Fire TV Sticks - or ‘firesticks’ as we call them - are one of the most popular, consumer grade media players used for running digital signage.
The Fire TV Stick is shaped like an oversized USB flash drive. It connects to the internet via Wi-fi (or ethernet - but a bit more on this later), and plugs directly into your TV's HDMI port & installs an operating system, turning any TV into a Smart TV.
What can you do with a firestick?
On its own, the firestick is an impressively clever device that lets you do quite a lot - stream movies, tv shows, music and even play games downloaded from the Amazon Appstore. Though we highly discourage you to do that in a business setting as it not only requires a special license, but this kind of consumer content meant for home consumption is unlikely to engage your audience with your business in any meaningful way.
Its real potential is unlocked from pairing your firestick to a content management software like Fugo that lets you create unique content playlists, zone your screen, schedule & update content on the fly, connect to apps, and monitor playback - all remotely, from anywhere.
This gives you complete control over what you display and when, allowing you to keep content fresh and relevant to your audience - a much better use of your screen space than streaming a TV show you probably have to keep on silent.
Choosing the right firestick
You’ve got a couple of options for setting up digital signage with a fire stick.
All firesticks run on Fire OS. Fire OS is based on Android, so anything that runs on Android will run on Fire OS. At the time of writing this, the latest Fire OS version is 7 and runs Android 9 Pie.
The most popular firestick model - and the one we recommend - is the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K. It costs around $50 and is extremely performant, playing 4k videos without any problem.
There is a cheaper version as well - the Fire TV Stick Lite which costs around $29 but does not have 4K support.
You can do a detailed comparison of all the Fire TV devices here.
Fugo supports most firestick versions, although older versions have limited support:
- Fire TV Stick - 3rd Gen (2020) 👍
- Fire TV Stick Lite - 1st Gen (2020) 👍
- Fire TV Stick 4K - 1st Gen (2018) 👍
- Fire TV Stick - 2nd Gen (2016-2019) ← 🤔 Some advanced Fugo features will not display
- Fire TV Stick - Basic Edition (2017) ← 🤔 Some advanced Fugo features will not display
- Fire TV Stick - 1st Gen (2014) ← ❌ Not supported by Fugo
If you’re looking for something with a bit more oomph than a firestick, there is the more expensive but powerful Fire TV Cube ($120.) There are also TVs with Fire OS inbuilt, for which you wouldn’t need the firestick.
Advantages of using Amazon Fire TV for digital signage
There are three main reasons that make the Amazon Fire TV Stick our favorite digital signage player for small businesses:
- They’re affordable, yet powerful
- They’re consistently updated by Amazon
- They’re easy to get your hands on
1. They’re affordable, yet powerful
Firesticks are affordable compared to other players, yet surprisingly stable and powerful for a consumer grade media player. At $50 a pop, you can’t beat the combination of performance and bang-for-your-buck.
2. They’re consistently updated by Amazon
When choosing a player it’s important that it’s running the latest operating system, but most importantly the latest WebView version. This is vital because not only will it keep your playback stable and consistent, but it will ensure your device supports the latest visual effects that keep audiences so engaged with your signage in the first place:
- Advanced screen splitting
- Displaying multiple videos using screen splitting
- The latest CSS visuals
Firesticks are constantly updated by the Amazon team. They run on Android 9 and compared to other players in the industry, stay pretty up-to-date. We frequently see users trying to still run digital signage on Android TV boxes running Android 4. Such players have major limitations - they are only capable of playing singular images and videos, missing out on dynamic content like zoned content carousels, video/image/text overlay, and content animations.
Some commercial and consumer players are still running old operating systems or are entirely neglected by the manufacturer (Chromebit, I’m looking at you!) This is most prevalent in Android TV based devices.
Rest assured that when you buy a Firestick, your device will have the backing of the mighty Amazon.
3. They’re easy to get your hands on
When you purchase commercial grade players, you typically have to do so through a 3rd party hardware reseller who often obscures pricing or requires you to sign a contract with a software vendor. In contrast, firesticks are available for anyone to purchase directly online, up to 7 units in one go (to purchase more, you’ll need an Amazon business account.)
At Fugo we are ALL ABOUT low-to-no entrance barriers (which is why we made our software so easy to use, after all.) So firesticks get an A+ for their accessibility.
When not to use Amazon FireTV
While a fire stick is a great option for businesses looking to get their digital signage set up quick and easy, there are some occasions when you'll need a more powerful player.
Large project rollouts
We generally do not recommend Firesticks for running large screen networks (50+ screens.) That’s because the failure rate is comparatively high for firesticks as opposed to commercial grade players. Implementing large rollouts with them could mean a lot of maintenance down the road.
Note: If you need help planning an enterprise or special project, we’re happy to consult with you on hardware. You can get in touch here.
Do not try running video walls using firesticks. They simply are not powerful enough. You’ll need a much higher performing player to keep up the playback - we can help you determine the best one for your needs.
HTML 5 video playback
Amazon fire tv sticks do not currently support HTML5 video playback. This means that using Fugo with Fire Stick, you cannot create dynamic content that overlays anything on top of a video.
Take the example below. Fugo’s design studio allows you to overlay content like text and apps on top of video content. If you wanted to display, say - the calendar app - on top of a video, you need HTML 5 video support to play this type of mixed content on screen. Firesticks don’t have this support, and subsequently will simply display the video on top of the calendar app.
How to set up Amazon Fire TV Stick for digital signage
Fugo offers native firestick support. You can download our app from the Amazon Appstore directly from your Fire TV device and pair it to our software on your phone or PC - you’ll find the instructions for that in this quick guide.
Alternatively, you can deliver the fugo app onto your Fire TV devices directly from your Amazon account. This is a neat way of installing the app on multiple devices at the same time. You can do that in three steps:
- Log into your Amazon account at amazon.com
- Find the Fugo Digital Signage Player app
- Find the box in the right hand side where it says “Deliver to” and choose your connected device you want the app to be installed on. If you choose Cloud Only, the app will automatically be installed on new devices
Finally, there is a 3rd way you can install fugo on your device - you can sideload the Fugo app apk. This can be useful if for some reason the Fugo app is not available in your appstore region or you want to run an old version of the app.
Finally, we want to share a few tips & tricks for getting the most out of your Amazon Fire TV Stick!
Set up remote
If your remote doesn't pair, press and hold the Home button for up to 10 seconds to send it to "discovery mode" so you can complete the pairing process.
Further remote troubleshooting details can be found here.
Mirror your phone’s screen
A bit like Apple TV, the Fire TV Stick can also take whatever’s on your phone and put it up on your TV.
To set this up, hold down the Home button on your Fire TV remote. This will open the quick-access menu, where you’ll see a mirroring option.
Now, find the mirroring option on your phone. This will depend on what device you’re using but will usually be within the Settings menu. You can find instructions for iPhone and Android, respectively.
Speed up your firestick by closing background processes
If you’re noticing a slower-than-usual response on your firestick that’s not due to internet connection, you can usually speed it up by closing other background apps. You can find really easy instructions for that here.
Get them cheaper on Black Friday
It probably won’t come as a surprise, but the best time to buy a firestick is on Black Friday when Amazon and a bunch of other tech outlets & stores are running their Black Friday deals on Amazon devices.
Amazon Ethernet Adaptor for Fire TV
Firsticks only come with Wifi support. The Wifi antenna is pretty strong but for some businesses, the most reliable internet connection comes via an ethernet cable. Firestick does not come with an Ethernet socket, however you can use an Amazon Ethernet Adaptor for Fire TV.
These handy adapters cost around $15 let you take advantage of the speed and reliability of wired Internet especially if you are displaying a lot of content that requires a stable internet connection (like the Youtube app, for example.)
USB Power Cable for Amazon Fire TV
Finding a convenient AC outlet to power your firestick can be difficult, especially for wall-mounted TVs. And the long cable attached to your firestick’s AC adapter can create clutter and an unsightly visual for your display. One way around this is by using the USB port to power your firestick.
You can try with a Mission USB Power Cable for Amazon Fire TV which costs $20 - or the much cheaper and more elegant solution fire-Cable Plus Wireless Adapter that costs $10. Just note that there are mixed reviews on the latter as it does not always work for everyone.
Where to get an Amazon Fire TV Stick
The obvious place to find a firestick is naturally on Amazon. But since these devices are used pretty commonly in households, you can find them in just about any hardware store. If you’re shopping in the US, you’ll find them in Best Buy, Target, or Walmart and Tesco or Currys in the UK.
Before getting your digital signage set up, run through the checklist of everything you’ll need
- A compatible TV - any TV that has HD or UHD plus a HDMI port (most TV screens these days will have this)
- A Wifi connection
- An Amazon account. You don’t have to subscribe to Amazon Prime in order to use a Fire TV Stick, but you do need to have a regular account. You can set one up online or at the time of set up, no problem.
- 2 AAA batteries for your Alexa remote
- A Fugo account. This account will allow you to connect your screen to our content management software where you can control what, where, and when your content plays. You can try it free for 2 weeks & subscriptions start at $20/screen per month.
You’re ready to set up your digital signage with Amazon Fire TV Stick!
Now that you’ve seen how cheap and easy it is to turn any screen into smart digital signage with a firestick, you’re ready to get started! We’re here to answer questions and help you through the setup process, if necessary.