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External Communications Plugin
External Communications Plugin

The External Communications plugin allows users to communicate with external devices via RS232 or TCP.

Drew Harding avatar
Written by Drew Harding
Updated over a week ago

This plugin is compatible with devices in different ways, here is a quick overview:

  • RS232 receive commands compatible with Windows, Mac OS and BrightSign devices only

  • RS232 send commands, compatible with Windows, MacOS and ONELAN devices only

To activate the External Communications plugin on your account, please contact support via email.

How to use the External Communications plugin on Windows, Mac OS and BrightSign with external sensors for content triggering:

Things to ensure you have in place before progressing:

  • Windows / Mac OS device running 4.0.3+ embed app

  • BrightSign device running 1.1.0 embed app

  • COM Port connection, Serial or USB to RS232 converter

The first thing we need to do is set up the external RS232 device, so go to the External Communications plugin and click 'Create New'

Now complete the fields for settings:

  • Name - give your RS232 setup a name - Our example is RFID Sensor

  • Default Port - This is the default COM port your device(s) will look to run the RS232 commands from. Can be overwritten in the devices page (more on this later).

  • Baud Rate - enter the Baud Rate of the RFID sensor 

  • Data Bits - enter the Data Bits of the RFID sensor 

  • Stop Bits - enter the Stop Bits the RFID sensor 

  • Parity - enter the Parity of the RFID sensor 

Now click 'Save Settings'

Next, with the RS232 RFID sensor example setup we can add some default commands. Click on the 'Commands' option and add the RS232 commands you want.

Once you've added all the commands you want, click 'Save Commands'.

With the RFID Sensor set up and commands set we can now go to the layout builder and start triggering content based on this RS232 setup.

Lift and Learn / Place and Learn Example:

You can use this plugin and a variety of RS232 devices to trigger content - this is purely an example of how you can use it to set up a Lift and Learn / Place and Learn experience.

First, let's add content to a zone so we know what we're going to be triggering. 

In our example, we've added a four videos to the zone:

  • Default Video Loop 

  • Video 1 

  • Video 2

  • Video 3

We've set all timings to 'Repeat' as we want the content to be triggered by the RFID Sensor via RS232 rather than the playlist item timings.

Now in another zone, we want to insert the RS232 plugin:

Once inserted, click the edit icon to begin configuring the commands

You'll see in the RS232 Commands area of the playlist item you can start by choosing the 'Trigger' - this is the label and associated command we added in the plugin area earlier. 

Note: If you want to add a new RS232 string (not yet added in the plugin area), you can do so by choosing the 'custom string' option in the trigger drop down list.

We're going to specify what happens when 'Tag 1' is picked up from the RFID Sensor so we need to specify an 'Action' to be applied to the Trigger. Click  'Add new action'

In the 'Actions' drop down, you can see all the available actions for you to choose from. In our example we're going to choose 'Activate specific playlist item'

We now need to associated a target i.e. what specific playlist item we want to activate 

In our drop down we have all the playlist items available on this layout. We will choose 'Video 1' to be activated. This now means that when Tag 1 is picked up from the RFID sensor, Video 1 will begin to play on loop. 

We can continue to add more commands as necessary by clicking the 'Add Command' button:

Now we can configure what we want to happen when 'Tag 1' is placed back on the sensor. 

Following the same steps but this time we set the Trigger to the 'Put Back Tag 1' label and its associated command that we set up in the RS232 plugin area earlier. We again choose to activate a specific playlist item but this time we'll choose the default video.

Our 'Lift and Learn' set up so far looks like this:

  • Tag 1 - Picked up - Plays Video 1

  • Tag 1 - Put back - Plays Default Video

If we wanted to make this a 'Place and Learn' experience, where a user would place a tag on the sensor to activate content, we simply reverse the triggers as per the below:

Once we're happy with our RS232 commands we click 'Finished Editing' the zone playlist and can now go and publish our content to a compatible Windows / Mac device with the RFID sensor connected via RS232 to start triggering content. 

If you are using a device that is using a different COM port to that set up as the default in the RS232 area, you can overwrite this on the device. Navigate to the device and edit it. You'll see there is a section for RS232 where you can choose to overwrite the default COM port for an RS232 setup - once done, just click save:

To see a list of available COM ports for your Windows / Mac device, on the player application click 'ESC' and enter the password > click Settings. Scroll down the settings page and you'll see a list of the available COM ports on the device:

How to use the External Communications plugin with ONELAN to turn screens on / off:

This plugin can also be used with a ONELAN NTB subscriber to send on / off commands to a connected RS232 enabled display. 

Things to ensure you have in place before progressing:

  • ONELAN NTB Subscriber with 9.3.7+ software

  • ONELAN compatible USB to RS232 converter

  • Display with RS232 capability 

We first need to set up the RS232 configuration for the screen we wish to control, so go to the RS232 plugin and click 'Create New'

Now we complete the settings information for the Display we wish to turn on / off. In our example we will use a Samsung DM48E display. 

  • Name - give your RS232 setup a name

  • Default Port - This can be left blank as ONELAN can only have one connected RS232 device

  • Baud Rate - enter the Baud Rate for the display 

  • Data Bits - enter the Data Bits for the display 

  • Stop Bits - enter the Stop Bits for the display 

  • Parity - enter the Parity for the display 

Now click 'Save Settings'

We can now set up the RS232 commands. Click on the 'Commands' option and add the RS232 commands you want.

  • Label - this is just for your own reference to make it easily identifiable when building content

  • Command String - this is the actual RS232 command string for the 'label'

In this scenario we have added the HEX strings for the Samsung DM48E on and off commands. 

To associate these to a ONELAN device, we now need to go to the Device page and 'edit' the ONELAN NTB that we have connected to the Samsung DM48E display. 

When editing the device, you'll see an area for RS232 where you can choose which commands you want to associated to the 'Display on' and 'Display off' options. Choose the relevant command strings from the drop down list

Save the device.

Now anytime you add a schedule to a channel and use the Screen on / off option the ONELAN box with RS232 configured will send those commands to the connected display.  

How to set up a TCP connection to adjust the brightness on a Novastar LED controller (Windows and Mac devices only):

Connect the Novastar controller to your network via ethernet and go to the network settings and setup a static ip address on the network. This MUST be the same network as the playback device. ( For this example lets say the IP address is

Go to External Communications plugin and create a new device.

Choose 'TCP' as the connection option.

Set the IP address to that of the Novastar device. In this case

Set the port to 5200 (This is the port Novastar use to communicate over TCP)

The setup should look something like this.

Save and go to the commands section of the External Communications plugin.

Create the commands you want to send to the device and name them appropriately. Example: Brightness 0% = [ 0x55, 0xaa, 0x00, 0x15, 0xfe, 0x00, 0x01, 0xff, 0xff, 0xff, 0x01, 0x00, 0x01, 0x00, 0x00, 0x02, 0x05, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x6f, 0x59 ]

Save and go to the layout you wish to use this in.

Add a hidden zone and add the External Communications plugin to the zone. 

Select the Novastar TCP settings we created and select the command you want to send.

It should look like this.

Save and publish the content to the device.

To activate the External Communications plugin on your account, please contact support via email.

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