Ars Technica has a short review of the new Intel Compute Stick. One of my colleagues wondered whether this could be used for wireless projection in the classroom. We’re constantly looking at new products to enable that functionality. I thought it was possible but I had some thoughts and questions.
- Rather than connecting it to the projector directly, I think in classrooms it would make more sense for the stick to be plugged into the Crestron processor. I think the projectors in classrooms only have 1 HDMI input on the projector. (Maybe they do have more than one but we don’t like to switch the inputs to reduce the complexity and chance for failure.) Connecting it at the Crestron also gives us options for dealing with audio since it now can be routed to the speakers in the room.
- Unfortunately, since the stick itself is a real computer, running a real Windows OS, now you have another computer you have to manage and protect from hacking, viruses, etc. Who does that?
- Do users log in to it or is it always logged on?
- Do you have a keyboard and mouse for the thing and if so, where do you put them?
- We have networking zones to separate devices and people from one another in an effort to keep things secure. Zones only allow certain ports to pass from one zone to another. We’d need to make sure that we thought carefully about what zone this device and the devices that need to connect to it need to be in.
One of the problems we’ve seen is the fact that very few of these types of devices are cross platform. Since we have no idea what products people might try to use in these rooms, do we support most, all or none? This would work great for newer Windows computers, but almost nothing else. Might not even work with Windows 7 machines.
- AirPlay really only works for Apple products. (Unless you buy software for a Windows PC.)
- ChromeCast works for newer Android devices, some iOS apps and the Chrome browser.
- There’s MiraCast for Windows (and Android 4.2 or higher.)
- There’s all of the other solutions like WiDi, UPnP, DLNA.
- There’s also all the manufacturer solutions like NEC, Panasonic and Epson.
There’s no silver bullet that solves all the OS’s and devices that might be used in a classroom. The Crestron Air Media solves some of the network complexity by pointing people to a URL but it doesn’t do the same thing as Airplay. It can’t mirror a screen or show a video unless it’s local on the Apple device. When you’re mirroring your screen, there’s also a slight delay and the frame rate isn’t fluid.
I think the best solution I’ve seen Airserver. It’s essentially a software based AppleTV. They have both Apple and PC versions of the software. The PC version supports AirPlay and MiraCast. Theoretically we could install this on the Windows computer in the classroom and allow Apple devices, Windows computers and Android 4.2 or higher devices to wirelessly project. That’s like 99% of what we want to do.
Cost? $8 – $12 per classroom depending upon volume.
Of course we’d still have to figure out the networking issue. Our network does route broadcast traffic like Bonjour so there’s no way for the device to know that there’s an AppleTV available. Unless we poke a bunch of holes in the firewalls between the zones. That’s going to be hard due to the InfoSec analysis and the networking time involved. Or we could put both devices (Local PC and guest device) on the guest wireless network. Of course if we do that, then the local PC can’t connect to many network services or log on to the domain. But hey! We’d be able to project wirelessly! And that’s the goal.
I totally can see this being used for digital signage though…