Improving Visual Communications on Africa Mercy

October 4, 2019 David Levin

One of the early surprises when I arrived onboard Africa Mercy was the number of digital signs throughout the ship. The screens were small and the content was mostly PPT slides, but there were about ten, 27” screens around the ship showing internal communications. When I investigated a little further, I learned they had a standard-definition RF broadcast network and two donated Nexus media players at the backend. All of the content was indeed PPT slides that they had manually saved as images and loaded into a playlist. 

While I was happy to see they had screens up and were using digital signs to communicate, I felt compelled to at least make an attempt to get them moved over to our product and advance their visual communications. 

After a meeting with their IT department, I found that they had a spare laptop we could use as a player, and after rummaging through a box of audio-visual gear, they even found an Aver-Media scan converter that we needed to connect the player to their broadcast system. 

I then turned my attention to their visual applications. What could I help them create that would really make a difference? After a quick meeting with the ship director, I learned he’d been trying to show 3 key items on all screens—Security Level, Cyclone Status, and Deck Inspections. His previous way of showing the information was to write it on a white board with different colored markers based on status. Ideally, he wanted to show it at the bottom of each screen on the ship, so it would be visible to more people in more locations. 

Having identified a visual app that would make a difference, I set out to build it. Luckily it was very simple—a large region showing their internal communications and a smaller footer region showing their status information. I built a Live Data item for the status information, using a spreadsheet as the data source. And thanks to the infamous Master Build, I was even able to refresh myself on conditional formatting and change the text color of the status to green, yellow, or red based on the status type. 

Although it’s very simple, I do think it will be effective at increasing visibility of important status information. In addition, when I was training their A/V tech Ryan (who I think will be a great end-user) we uncovered many more applications they need – some custom and many already available in the FWI Store. I’m looking forward to watching them add more applications and build their visual communications network!

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