First, you need to have the External Communications feature enabled on your account - if you don't, just reach out to us so we can add it for you (it's free!)
With this enabled, there is a three step process to follow:
Create a new External Communication setup
Add the relevant commands to the Ext Comms setup
Configure the commands in a Layout to perform the actions you want (send + receive commands)
Let's dive in...
Set up the New Communication:
Go to the External Communications section and add a new comms setup by clicking 'Create New':
Give it a name that is relevant to you and hit 'Create'
Under 'Type' select 'RS232':
We now need to specify the COM port for the Windows device to communicate with the RS232 device. This is the port that the RS232 device is connected to on the Windows machine.
Before we can specify the COM port in the Ext Comms setup, we need to know what COM port the RS232 device is connected to the Windows device on. There are a couple of ways to find this:
1. Check the 'Device Manager' app on your Windows machine and check the ports under Ports (COM & LPT)
2. Check the embed application settings by opening the settings panel, entering the password and click on 'Settings'.
Then scroll down to the Serial/RS232 devices section and you'll see the available COM ports being used:
The RS232 device we are looking for is the 'Prolific USB-to-Serial' device, so now we know it's on COM4, we can input 'COM4' into the Com Port input box on Ext Comms:
Next we need to specify the Baud rate, Data bits, Stop bits and Parity for the communication with the RS232 device. This information will be provided by the manufacturers documentation for the RS232 device. The options are:
With the Baud, Data, Stop and Parity set we can click 'Save Changes'
Set up the Communication Commands:
Click the 'Commands' tab:
Then click, 'Add New Command'
Give it a 'Label' - this is just a UI name that will make it easy for you to recognise the command in the layout builder, for example I may want to turn the Volume Up on the screen so I might call it 'Volume Up':
We're going to set up the 'Command Type' as a 'Custom String':
Then we'll set the 'Command Encoding' to 'Hex':
Then we add the 'Command String' which is the HEX code for turning the Volume Up on the screen:
Finally, we need to specify the 'Line Ending (EOL)' which for this setup will be 'None':
The command is now complete and looks like the below:
We can add more commands as we require by repeating the steps above. Once all your commands have been added, hit the 'Save Changes' button:
Now, the Ext Comms configuration is complete, we can head over to the Layout builder to start to configure the actions we want.
Using Commands in a Layout with an example:
We will presume that you are familiar with Layouts already but if not, head over to our Layout Builder articles to learn more.
In this demo, we're going to setup two zones and assign actions to send RS232 commands to the connected RS232 device (in this case a Samsung screen) when the zones are tapped, creating a mini controller for volume of the screen.
With the 'Up' zone selected, we need to go to the zone interactivity tab:
We set the 'Gesture' type to 'Tap' - then in the 'Action' menu we choose 'Send External Comm Command'
Then we need to choose 'Configure'
Here we can 'Add Command'
We select the External Communication Connection we created earlier called 'RS232 with Windows'
Then we can choose which Command we want to associate:
The 'Send External Communication Command' will look like this:
Now we can hit 'Save Changes' and we can repeat the process for the 'Down' zone and apply the Volume Down command when the zone is tapped.
With the two zones set up to send the relevant commands when tapped, we can publish the layout to the relevant device that is connected to the Samsung screen via RS232 cable. We can then tap the zones and hear the volume go up and down as required.
This is just one example of how to use RS232 with embed signage and Windows devices but it can be applied to any external devices that communicate via RS232.
How to change the default COM port for a specific device:
When setting up multiple devices to run External Communications, you'll likely connect the RS232 hardware to the Windows device running embed signage and it'll be the same COM port connection. On some devices / occasions this may not be true and you'll want to update the default COM port for just a specific device rather than create a whole new Ext Comm setup or change the default port for an entire Ext Comm setup which would affected all other devices using it.
In this scenario, you can overwrite the default COM port of any External Communication setup for a specific device. To do that, all you need to do is go into the specific device's edit page on the Devices section:
Then click into the relevant device you want to update:
Scroll down to the 'External Communications' section where you'll see all of the existing Ext Comm setups.
Find the one you want to overwrite on this specific device and then check the box that says 'Overwrite default port'. Now enter the new COM port you want to use for that Ext Comm setup on this device:
With the default COM port now set on this device for this Ext Comms setup, you now need to 'Save Device'
Finally, the channel will need either publishing to this device or if it's already assigned, a channel refresh can be done for the COM port changes to take effect.
Should you have any questions about using this feature, please reach out to us via email@example.com