US20100153218A1 - System and method for scheduling and distributing advertising content to a network of digital displays - Google Patents

System and method for scheduling and distributing advertising content to a network of digital displays Download PDF

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Publication number
US20100153218A1
US20100153218A1 US12/316,881 US31688108A US2010153218A1 US 20100153218 A1 US20100153218 A1 US 20100153218A1 US 31688108 A US31688108 A US 31688108A US 2010153218 A1 US2010153218 A1 US 2010153218A1
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United States
Prior art keywords
content
display
inventory
system
displays
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Abandoned
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US12/316,881
Inventor
David E. Wilson
Joe M. Shannon
Barry W. McClure
William P. Leary
Justin B. Myrick
Christopher D. MacKenzie
Darin L. Hooper
Peter M. Moser
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Clear Channel Ip LLC
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iHeartMedia Management Services Inc
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Priority to US12/316,881 priority Critical patent/US20100153218A1/en
Assigned to CLEAR CHANNEL MANAGEMENT SERVICES, INC. reassignment CLEAR CHANNEL MANAGEMENT SERVICES, INC. ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST (SEE DOCUMENT FOR DETAILS). Assignors: HOPPER, DARIN L., LEARY, WILLIAM P., MACKENZIE, CHRISTOPHER D., MCCLURE, BARRY W., MOSER, PETER M., MYRICK, JUSTIN B., SHANNON, JOE M., WILSON, DAVID E.
Publication of US20100153218A1 publication Critical patent/US20100153218A1/en
Assigned to DEUTSCHE BANK TRUST COMPANY AMERICAS, AS COLLATERAL AGENT reassignment DEUTSCHE BANK TRUST COMPANY AMERICAS, AS COLLATERAL AGENT SECURITY AGREEMENT Assignors: CLEAR CHANNEL COMMUNICATIONS, INC., CLEAR CHANNEL INVESTMENTS, INC., CLEAR CHANNEL MANAGEMENT SERVICES, INC.
Assigned to IHEARTMEDIA MANAGEMENT SERVICES, INC. reassignment IHEARTMEDIA MANAGEMENT SERVICES, INC. CHANGE OF NAME (SEE DOCUMENT FOR DETAILS). Assignors: CLEAR CHANNEL MANAGEMENT SERVICES, INC.
Assigned to DEUTSCHE BANK TRUST COMPANY AMERICAS, AS COLLATERAL AGENT reassignment DEUTSCHE BANK TRUST COMPANY AMERICAS, AS COLLATERAL AGENT SECURITY AGREEMENT Assignors: CLEAR CHANNEL COMMUNICATIONS, INC., CLEAR CHANNEL MANAGEMENT SERVICES, INC., IHEARTMEDIA MANAGEMENT SERVICES, INC.
Assigned to CLEAR CHANNEL COMMUNICATIONS, INC., CLEAR CHANNEL MANAGEMENT SERVICES, INC., IHEARTMEDIA MANAGEMENT SERVICES, INC., AMFM RADIO LICENSES, LLC, AMFM TEXAS BROADCASTING, LP, CAPSTAR RADIO OPERATING COMPANY, CAPSTAR TX, LLC, CITICASTERS CO., CITICASTERS LICENSES, INC., CLEAR CHANNEL BROADCASTING LICENSES, INC., IHEARMEDIA + ENTERTAINMENT, INC. reassignment CLEAR CHANNEL COMMUNICATIONS, INC. RELEASE OF THE SECURITY INTEREST RECORDED AT REEL/FRAME 035109/0168 Assignors: DEUTSCHE BANK TRUST COMPANY AMERICAS
Assigned to CLEAR CHANNEL COMMUNICATIONS, INC., CLEAR CHANNEL MANAGEMENT SERVICES, INC., CLEAR CHANNEL INVESTMENTS, INC., AMFM RADIO LICENSES, LLC, AMFM TEXAS BROADCASTING, LP, CAPSTAR RADIO OPERATING COMPANY, CAPSTAR TX, LLC, CITICASTERS CO., CITICASTERS LICENSES, INC., CLEAR CHANNEL BROADCASTING LICENSES, INC., IHEARMEDIA + ENTERTAINMENT, INC. reassignment CLEAR CHANNEL COMMUNICATIONS, INC. RELEASE OF THE SECURITY INTEREST RECORDED AT REEL/FRAME 034008/0027 Assignors: DEUTSCHE BANK TRUST COMPANY AMERICAS
Assigned to CLEAR CHANNEL IP, LLC reassignment CLEAR CHANNEL IP, LLC ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST (SEE DOCUMENT FOR DETAILS). Assignors: IHEARTMEDIA MANAGEMENT SERVICES, INC.
Application status is Abandoned legal-status Critical

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Classifications

    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N21/00Selective content distribution, e.g. interactive television or video on demand [VOD]
    • H04N21/20Servers specifically adapted for the distribution of content, e.g. VOD servers; Operations thereof
    • H04N21/25Management operations performed by the server for facilitating the content distribution or administrating data related to end-users or client devices, e.g. end-user or client device authentication, learning user preferences for recommending movies
    • H04N21/262Content or additional data distribution scheduling, e.g. sending additional data at off-peak times, updating software modules, calculating the carousel transmission frequency, delaying a video stream transmission, generating play-lists
    • H04N21/26258Content or additional data distribution scheduling, e.g. sending additional data at off-peak times, updating software modules, calculating the carousel transmission frequency, delaying a video stream transmission, generating play-lists for generating a list of items to be played back in a given order, e.g. playlist, or scheduling item distribution according to such list
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q30/00Commerce, e.g. shopping or e-commerce
    • G06Q30/02Marketing, e.g. market research and analysis, surveying, promotions, advertising, buyer profiling, customer management or rewards; Price estimation or determination
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q30/00Commerce, e.g. shopping or e-commerce
    • G06Q30/02Marketing, e.g. market research and analysis, surveying, promotions, advertising, buyer profiling, customer management or rewards; Price estimation or determination
    • G06Q30/0241Advertisement
    • G06Q30/0276Advertisement creation
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N21/00Selective content distribution, e.g. interactive television or video on demand [VOD]
    • H04N21/20Servers specifically adapted for the distribution of content, e.g. VOD servers; Operations thereof
    • H04N21/25Management operations performed by the server for facilitating the content distribution or administrating data related to end-users or client devices, e.g. end-user or client device authentication, learning user preferences for recommending movies
    • H04N21/262Content or additional data distribution scheduling, e.g. sending additional data at off-peak times, updating software modules, calculating the carousel transmission frequency, delaying a video stream transmission, generating play-lists
    • H04N21/26208Content or additional data distribution scheduling, e.g. sending additional data at off-peak times, updating software modules, calculating the carousel transmission frequency, delaying a video stream transmission, generating play-lists the scheduling operation being performed under constraints
    • H04N21/26241Content or additional data distribution scheduling, e.g. sending additional data at off-peak times, updating software modules, calculating the carousel transmission frequency, delaying a video stream transmission, generating play-lists the scheduling operation being performed under constraints involving the time of distribution, e.g. the best time of the day for inserting an advertisement or airing a children program
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N21/00Selective content distribution, e.g. interactive television or video on demand [VOD]
    • H04N21/40Client devices specifically adapted for the reception of or interaction with content, e.g. set-top-box [STB]; Operations thereof
    • H04N21/41Structure of client; Structure of client peripherals
    • H04N21/414Specialised client platforms, e.g. receiver in car or embedded in a mobile appliance
    • H04N21/41415Specialised client platforms, e.g. receiver in car or embedded in a mobile appliance involving a public display, viewable by several users in a public space outside their home, e.g. movie theatre, information kiosk
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N21/00Selective content distribution, e.g. interactive television or video on demand [VOD]
    • H04N21/80Generation or processing of content or additional data by content creator independently of the distribution process; Content per se
    • H04N21/81Monomedia components thereof
    • H04N21/812Monomedia components thereof involving advertisement data

Abstract

A method and system for scheduling and distributing advertisements and other content to a network of out-of-home digital displays via a network is disclosed. The system includes a server for partitioning inventory, creating bookings, assigning content, and generating scheduling data for the display of content on a network of displays. The server may include a review and modification module that permits users to review and change the scheduling data so that inventory is used to its maximum commercial advantage. The server may send content and scheduling data to the various displays in the network. The displays may display the content according to the rules or criteria set forth in the scheduling data.

Description

    FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • The present invention relates generally to displaying advertisements and other content on a network of digital displays, and more specifically to a method and a system for scheduling and distributing advertising content and other content to a network of out-of-home digital billboards and other displays.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • The availability of affordable and reliable high-resolution and LED digital displays has resulted in an increase in digital outdoor advertising. Digital signs and billboards are quickly replacing their poster and vinyl counterparts along highways and in other public places. Digital displays are popular because they allow for flexibility in the method of delivering content to the sign and the number of different advertisements or other images that may be displayed on a particular sign during any given time period. For example, a digital billboard along the highway is capable of cycling through numerous advertisements on any given day and displaying time-sensitive content. Standard vinyl billboards, in contrast, can display only one image at a time until trained workers manually replace the vinyl advertisement with new content.
  • Because digital displays allow more complex scheduling options, they require different scheduling and delivery systems than traditional outdoor advertising. In the most basic systems, a “playlist” of advertisements or other content is created and loaded directly onto a computer or other device that outputs the content to a particular display. This system may be useful for controlling a handful of accessible displays, but it is not scalable to large networks of digital outdoor displays. In particular, it is burdensome for a user to generate and maintain playlists for each display and to load the content onto each device controlling the displays. Moreover, because this system relies on pre-programmed playlists, it is not possible to update the schedule or modify the content while the playlist is running without restarting the playlist.
  • Other systems for displaying content on outdoor digital displays are better suited for large networks of displays. For example, some systems operate as a network wherein the digital displays output content from attached computers that are in communication with a central server via a network or one computer outputs content to a series of daisy-chained displays. In some of these systems, a schedule for the networked displays is generated based on user preferences, and playlist style schedules and content are sent to each computer in the network from the central server to be shown on the displays. These systems may be used to generate schedules and deliver content to a large network of displays, however they still have the disadvantage of playlist-style schedules. With playlist-style schedules, content and scheduling information cannot be easily updated without changing the entire playlist and restarting or otherwise resetting the playlist. Therefore, users are constrained to making modifications at scheduled times, if at all, rather than whenever it is convenient or commercially beneficial.
  • In another system described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/155,881 to Baluja, a schedule for displaying content on a network of displays may be generated based on certain criteria. The schedule may be rules-based in that it may specify particular times and numbers of advertisement messages to be displayed, as opposed to a playlist-based schedule. This allows a user to update the schedule at any time without disrupting the display of content. But the system described in Baluja does not give a user the opportunity to review the schedule generated by the system or to make modifications to the schedule. In many cases it is essential for a digital outdoor network administrator to have the opportunity to review the schedule and make modifications. For example, in order to sell available inventory, or time, on a display network, a salesperson needs to know which particular inventory is available for sale. Moreover, for various commercial reasons, it is often undesirable for certain advertisements or advertisers to be adjacent to each other in a schedule. With the system described in Baluja, users are unable to review the schedule and move slots around to ensure available inventory is being used to its maximum commercial impact and that the schedule meets industry separation codes.
  • What is needed is a system and a method for scheduling and displaying content on a network of digital displays that automatically generates a schedule based on user-defined criteria, gives the user the opportunity to review and modify the schedule, and allows the schedule and content to be updated at any time without disrupting the display of content.
  • BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • Accordingly, at least one embodiment the present invention may provide a method for scheduling and distributing content for display on a network of electronic displays. The method for scheduling and distributing content to digital displays may comprise defining how inventory on the network is partitioned, allocating the inventory to particular accounts or advertisers to create bookings, associating advertisements or other content with each booking, generating scheduling data based on the allocated inventory and bookings, providing a graphical representation of the scheduling data, modifying the scheduling data if desired, sending the content and the scheduling data to each display, and outputting the content according to the scheduling data.
  • In another embodiment, the present invention may provide a system for scheduling and distributing content for display on a network. The system may comprise a server comprising an interface module permitting users to define inventory for the displays in the network, allocate the inventory to accounts or advertisers to create bookings, and associate the bookings with advertising or other content. The server may further comprise a scheduling engine for generating scheduling data based on the inventory and bookings and a review and modification module for providing a graphical representation of the scheduling data and the ability to modify the schedule. The server may further comprise an update module that pushes or nudges the content and the scheduling data to players throughout the network that are in communication with displays. Or, in certain embodiments, the players may pull the content and scheduling data from the server. The players may comprise a scheduling processor that directs the output of the content to the display according to the scheduling data.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • The foregoing summary, as well as the following detailed description of the invention, will be better understood when read in conjunction with the appended drawings. For the purpose of illustrating the invention, certain embodiments of the invention are shown in the drawings. It should be understood, however, that the invention is not limited to the precise arrangements and instrumentalities shown. The same reference numerals are employed to designate like parts in all Figures.
  • FIG. 1 is a block diagram depicting various components of a content scheduling and distribution system according to one embodiment of the present invention.
  • FIG. 2 is a block diagram depicting various components of a server according to one embodiment of the present invention.
  • FIG. 3 is a block diagram depicting various components of a player according to one embodiment of the present invention.
  • FIG. 4 is a flow chart depicting a method for defining the attributes of a scheduling system and creating inventory according to one embodiment of the present invention.
  • FIG. 5 is a depiction of one rotation of an exemplary schedule template having a variety of slot types that may be assigned to displays in the system according to one embodiment of the present invention.
  • FIG. 6 is a flow chart depicting a method according to one embodiment of the present invention for booking inventory, assigning content to bookings, generating a schedule for the system of displays, reviewing and adjusting the schedule, and pushing scheduling data and content to displays.
  • FIG. 7 is a flow chart depicting a method for selecting and outputting scenes from a player to a display pursuant to scheduling data according to one embodiment of the invention.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • FIG. 1 depicts an illustration of a content distribution system according to one embodiment of the present invention. In certain embodiments, a user may access a server 100 directly or through one or more terminals 102 in communication with the server 100 via a communication network 1 04a, to upload or create content to be shown on displays 108, define the components and attributes of the system, generate inventory and scheduling data, and perform or initiate other features of the system. The uploaded content may be stored in a content database 110, the attributes of the components of the system and the inventory may be stored in an inventory database 112, data related to accounts and bookings may be stored in a booking database 114, the generated scheduling data may be stored in a scheduling data database 116, and performance feedback data may be stored in a performance feedback database 118. The databases may be combined or further partitioned, may be internal or external to the server 100, and may be in communication with the server 100 through a network or a direct wired or wireless connection. The server may push content and scheduling data, either automatically or upon a user's request, to players 106 distributed throughout the system via a communication network 104 b. Alternatively, the players 106 may pull the content and scheduling data from the server 100 or various databases. Players 106 may control or may be in communication with displays 108 through a direct wired or wireless connection or through a network. In the pictured embodiment, each player 106 is in communication with a single display 108, however, in certain embodiments, a player 106 may control or communicate with multiple displays 108, and a display 108 may be in communication with multiple players 106. The players 106 may store the content and scheduling data received from the server 100 on internal or external storage devices and may output content to displays 108 in accordance with the scheduling data received from the server 100. The displays 108 are distributed throughout a geographic area and may display a variety of content.
  • Content distributed via the system may include any video, audio, or other output. For example, in certain embodiments, content may be static or in motion and may include text, photographs, illustrations, designs, graphics, animations, films, dynamic content, or any combination of any of the foregoing. Content may also include flyers, coupons, and other printed materials for those embodiments where the display comprises a printing device. In one potential use for this invention, content may comprise advertisements to be shown on a digital outdoor network of displays.
  • Displays 108 may comprise any type of video display screen, such as a plasma screen, an LCD panel or LCD projection screen, a CRT screen, an LED display, a projection display screen, or any other type of device for displaying video images or content. The system may include a plurality of displays 108 of various sizes and resolutions. Some displays 108 may be, for example, as large or larger than the traditional 14 foot by 48 foot size bulletin billboards found along highways, or as small or smaller than the typical consumer's television. In certain embodiments, displays 108 may be capable of displaying multiple frames of content, with each frame having the same or different dimensions and resolutions. Displays 108 may be placed or installed in any desired geographic location, including alongside highways as electronic billboards, in airports, in malls, along streets and walkways, and in other public areas. In addition to or instead of video screens, displays 108 may also comprise other output components or devices, including speakers for outputting audio, printers for printing printed materials, radio frequency transmitters, Bluetooth adapters, and video and text messaging capabilities. In certain embodiments, displays 108 may include mechanisms for controlling various settings via a player 106, the server 100, or directly, including brightness level and power cycling.
  • Displays 108 may include various input mechanisms for receiving content from players 106. Content may be output from a player 106 to a display 108 through a wired or wireless local area network or other network, through a wireless connection, such as video over IP, or through a direct wired connection, such as, for example, via display input connections and player output connections that adhere to the HDMI standard or the standard for DVI-D Single Link or Dual Link, or VGA connections, with or without VGA extenders or repeaters. In certain embodiments, the player 106 and the display 108 may be part of the same device and may be interconnected internally.
  • In certain embodiments, displays 108 and peripherals associated with or in communication with displays 108, may be capable of providing performance feedback to players 106 or directly to the server 100 such as, for example, through a serial port, USB port, or Ethernet connection. The performance feedback may include any data regarding the status of the display including the brightness setting, the temperature of the unit, the external temperature, power supply status, status and health of the display unit electronics and LED components, the fan RPM, and light sensor readings. Performance feedback may also be provided by cameras, including still cameras, video cameras, webcams, networked cameras, or other image capturing devices, mounted on or near displays 108.
  • In certain embodiments, users may communicate with the server 100 through a plurality of terminals 102. Terminals may comprise thin clients, thick clients, or any combination or variation thereof, for operating or interfacing with any applications or modules on server 100. For example, in some embodiments, the system may allow access to the server through browser-based thin clients, which may provide limited functionality but high accessibility so all users, including advertisers, may use the system. The system may also allow access through thick clients, which may provide full functionality but limited access so that a system operator may effectively manage the deep object hierarchy and time-based nature of the system. In certain embodiments the rich client may be a Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) application and the browser-based client may be based on a ASP.NET web application framework.
  • Terminals 102 may be in communication with the server 100 via communication network 104 a and players 106 may be in communication with the server 100 via communication network 104 b. In certain embodiments, communication networks 104 a and 104 b are the same network, and in other embodiments they may be different networks. In certain embodiments, communication networks 104 a and 104 b may be a distributed public network, such as the Internet, or a private network such as a LAN or W-LAN. The server 100, players 106, and terminals 102 may employ wired technology for accessing the network, such as, for example, Ethernet or POTS technology, or wireless technology, such as, for example, IEEE 802.11 technologies, wide area cellular telephone network technology, such as 3G, IP over satellite technology, or any combination thereof.
  • One embodiment of a server 100 is depicted in FIG. 2. The server 100 may comprise various modules that provide the functionality for the scheduling, creation, and storage of content, and the transfer of content and scheduling data to players for display on displays, as well as other functions or features of this system. Although only one server is depicted, in certain embodiments it may be desirable to use more than one server or a network of servers. Each module depicted in FIG. 2 may be configured as a software application which may be executed on computer hardware, an application-specific integrated circuit, a combination of hardware and software, or any other suitable configuration. Modules may be combined or split into additional modules and, in certain embodiments, it may be desirable to use more, less, or different modules than those illustrated in FIG. 2. In certain embodiments, as depicted, modules may reside on the server 100, but in other embodiments, some modules may reside on a terminal, player, or other computer or device on the network, or be incorporated into a client capable of communicating with the server 100. Each module depicted in the exemplary server 100 in FIG. 2 may operate autonomously or under the control of a controller 220. In certain embodiments, the controller may be a CPU of the server 100.
  • The server 100 may comprise a communication module 200. The communication module 200 may comprise a network interface card, modem, or other communication device allowing two-way communication. The communication module 200 may facilitate communication and file transfer between the server 100 and terminals and the server 100 and players, via a communication network.
  • The server 100 may further comprise an interface module 202. The interface module may provide users accessing the server 100 directly or via a terminal with an interface for interacting with the server 100. In certain embodiments, the interface is a graphical user interface. The interface may be browser or web-based or a separate client program may serve as the interface. In certain embodiments, some or all of the interface module may reside on a terminal or client rather than on the server 100.
  • The server 100 may further comprise an inventory creation module 204. The inventory creation module 204 may interact with the interface module 202 and may provide users of the system, such as the system operator, with the ability to define the attributes of the system and generate inventory that may be booked. For example, the inventory creation module 204 may permit a user to define or edit the attributes of players, displays, display networks, slot types, dayparts, schedule templates, and other components of the system and inventory. The inventory creation module 204 may also generate inventory based on the defined attributes of the system and user preferences and permit users to modify the inventory. The attributes of the system and the details of the generated inventory may be stored in the inventory database 112 or other database or storage device.
  • The server 100 may further comprise a content module 206. The content module 206 may interact with the interface module 202 and may provide users of the system, including operators or advertisers in certain embodiments, with the ability to create, edit, upload, and name scenes, such as advertisements. In certain embodiments, a scene may contain any combination of moving and static images, text, sound, and other content. Scenes may be in any file format capable of being output to the display by the player, including, for example, JPEGC PNG, MOV, Flash, SWF, H.264, WAV, WMV, RAW, DOC, BMP, GIF, PPT, PDF, MP3, MPEG, or DivX. The content module 206 may also permit users to create scenes with dynamic content and to define the location of the dynamic content to be incorporated into a scene when it is displayed. The scenes uploaded and created may be stored in the content database 110.
  • The server 100 may further comprise a booking module 208. The booking module 208 may interact with the interface module 202 and may provide users of the system, including operators, salespersons, or advertisers, with the ability to create and edit accounts, assign scenes to playblocks and define criteria for the playback of such playblocks, book inventory, and assign playblocks to booked inventory. The account and booking data may be stored in the booking database 114 or other database or storage device.
  • The server 100 may further comprise a scheduling engine 210. The scheduling engine may automatically generate a schedule for displaying content on all display networks and displays on the system based on inventory attributes stored in the inventory database 112 and booking and account data stored in the booking database 114. The scheduling engine 210 may generate a list of bookings to be shown on each display or display network, the order the bookings are scheduled to be shown, the slot type associated with each booking, and any other information associated with a display, network, account, or booking. In certain embodiments, the system may include factors other than inventory and bookings when automatically generating a schedule. Such factors may include, for example, industry separation rules so that certain competing or incongruous accounts or ad campaigns are not scheduled back to back on the same display, and laws or ordinances prohibiting certain types of advertising in certain areas, such as near schools. The schedule generated by the scheduling engine 210 and the associated scheduling data may be stored in the scheduling data database 116.
  • The server 100 may further comprise a review and modification module 212. The review and modification module 212 may interact with the interface module 202 and may generate a graphical representation of inventory and scheduling data. The review and modification module 212 may permit a user to review the inventory and schedule and to manually edit the inventory and schedule.
  • The server 100 may further comprise an update module 214. The update module 214 may interact with the interface module 202 and may send scheduling data and content to players via the communication module 200. In certain embodiments, the update module 214 may automatically push or nudge scheduling data and content to players according to a predetermined schedule, such as, for example, daily, weekly, biweekly, or monthly. In other embodiments, a user may direct the update module 214 to update players in the system by pushing content and scheduling data to the players whenever modifications are made. In other embodiments, the players may pull scheduling data and content from the server 100 by interfacing with the update module 214. The update module 214 may send content and scheduling data to all players in the system or may update only those players that have been effected by modifications to scheduling data or content.
  • The server 100 may further comprise a performance feedback module 216. The performance feedback 216 module may be in communication with players via the communication module 200 and may collect performance feedback data from players or displays and store it in the performance feedback database 118. The performance feedback module 216 may interact with the interface module 202 and may provide users with access to performance feedback data relating to particular displays or players.
  • The server 100 may further comprise an administration module 218. The administration module 218 may interact with the interface module 202 and may provide system administrators or other users access to certain administrative functions of the system. These functions may include setting security access, updating software, and controlling and maintaining the server 100, displays, and players.
  • One embodiment of a player 106 is depicted in FIG. 3. A player 106 may comprise various modules that provide the functionality for displaying content on displays according to scheduling data provided by the server, as well as various other functions and features of the system. Each module depicted in FIG. 3 may be configured as a software application which may be executed on computer hardware, an application-specific integrated circuit, a combination of hardware and software, or any other suitable configuration. Modules may be combined or split into additional modules and, in certain embodiments, it may be desirable to use more, less, or different modules than those illustrated in FIG. 3. In certain embodiments, as depicted, modules may reside on the player 106, but in other embodiments, some modules may reside on the server, the display, or be incorporated into a client capable of communicating with the player 106. Each module depicted in the exemplary player 106 in FIG 3 may operate autonomously or under the control of a controller 300. In certain embodiments, the controller may be a CPU of the player 106. The player 106 may comprise a communication module 302. The communication module 302 may comprise a network interface card, modem, or other communication device allowing two-way communication. The communication module 302 may facilitate communication and file transfer between the player 106 and the server and, in certain embodiments, the player 106 and a display, via a communication network.
  • The player 106 may further comprise an interface module 304. The interface module 304 may provide users with an interface for interacting with the player 106. In certain embodiments, the interface is a graphical user interface. The interface may be browser or web-based or a separate client program may serve as the interface. In certain embodiments, some or all of the interface module 304 may reside on the server rather than on the player 106 so that users may control the player 106 through the server rather than directly.
  • The player 106 may further comprise a storage module 306 that may be in communication with the update module of the server via the communication module 302. The update module of the server may push, or, in certain embodiments the player 106 may pull, content and scheduling data to the player 106 via a network and the player may store such content and scheduling data on the storage module 306.
  • The player 106 may further comprise an output module 308. The output module 308 may output content of all types to one or more displays through a wired or wireless local area network or other network, through a wireless connection, such as video over IP, or through a direct wired connection, such as, for example, through output connections and cables that adhere to the HDMI standard, the standard for DVI-D Single Link or Dual Link, or VGA connections, with or without VGA extenders or repeaters. In certain embodiments, the output module 308 may comprise a graphics card, sound card, and any other device for outputting all types of content to the displays. In certain embodiments, the player 106 and the display 108 may be part of the same device and may be interconnected internally. In certain embodiments, the output module 308 may be capable of outputting multiple frames of content to each display so that different content may be shown simultaneously in different portions of each display.
  • The player 106 may further comprise a scheduling processor 310. The scheduling processor 310 may process the scheduling data and direct the output of particular content or scenes stored on the storage module 306 to the display via the output module 308 according to the scheduling data.
  • The player 106 may further comprise a dynamic content processor 312. The dynamic content processor 312 may pull dynamic content from a predefined location, such as a storage device, URL, or networked device, and merge the dynamic content with a scene. The dynamic content processor 312 may be in communication with the scheduling processor 310, the communication module 302, and any peripheral devices that may be associated with the player 106 or display. In certain embodiments, the dynamic content processor 312 may determine if an error occurs when pulling dynamic content and, if so, may select or direct a default or safety scene to be displayed. In certain embodiments, the dynamic content processor 312 may also comprise or have access to filter data, which may be entered by a user or otherwise available via the network, to ensure that a safety scene is displayed in the event dynamic content contains any inappropriate content, such as, for example, vulgar words.
  • The player 106 may further comprise a performance feedback module 314. The performance feedback module 314 may collect performance feedback from displays or peripheral devices, such as cameras, associated with the player 106 or displays. The performance feedback module 314 may store performance feedback data on the storage module 306 and may send performance feedback data to the server via the communication module 302 on a regular schedule or as directed by a user.
  • The player 106 may further comprise an administration module 316. The administration module 316 may interact with the interface module 304 and the communication module 302 and may provide system administrators or other users access to certain administrative functions of the player 106. In certain embodiments, users may access the administration module 316 directly or through the server. Administrative functions may include setting security access, updating software, and controlling and maintaining the player 106 and displays, such as, for example, setting display brightness levels and powering displays on and off.
  • FIG. 4 is a flow chart illustrating an example of one method for defining various system attributes and creating inventory according to the present system. The steps shown in FIG. 4. do not necessarily take place in the order shown in the illustrated embodiment, and may take place independently of each other and at different times. Moreover, not every step depicted in FIG. 4 is required in every embodiment of the present invention and, in certain embodiments, more, less, or different steps may be taken. Some of the steps identified in FIG. 4 may be performed automatically by the system, some may be performed by a user of the system, and, in certain embodiments, some of the steps may be performed in either manner.
  • In block 400, a user of the system may log onto the server directly or via a terminal. Access to the server may be controlled through a user name and password function or other security mechanism. In certain embodiments of the system, the server's interface module may present the user with a graphical user interface, which may be browser based or part of a separate application or client, to interact with the server or other components of the system.
  • In block 402, the user may identify, define, or modify the attributes of the players that control the network of displays in the system. The user may add new players, delete existing players, or modify defined player attributes. The user may give each player a unique system identifier, identify each player's IP address and name on the network, and provide a make, model, and description of each player. Alternatively, some or all of the player information may be automatically generated by the system.
  • In block 404, the user may identify, define, or modify the attributes of displays on which content will be shown. The user may add new displays, delete existing displays, or modify display information for displays already defined in the system. The user may associate each display added to the system with a player, and, in certain embodiments, each display must be associated with one player for the system to function. The user may also give each display a unique system identifier and name, provide a description of the display's geographic location, provide the dimensions or resolution of the display, identify the type or brand of the display, and define other attributes unique to each display, including the minimum duration each scene must be shown on the display in those cases where a minimum duration is preferred by the user or required by the laws or ordinances of the geographic area where the display is located. Alternatively, some or all of the display information may be automatically generated by the system.
  • In block 406, the user may identify, define, or modify display networks. In certain embodiments, display networks are defined by selecting a group of displays in the system. The user may create new display networks or edit or delete existing display networks. The user may add one or more displays to each display network and, in certain embodiments, each display may be added to more than one display network. In certain embodiments, the user may add specific inventory units or slots to a display network instead of or addition to displays. The user may provide each network with a unique system identifier, name each display network, and modify existing display networks, or, alternatively, the system may automatically name or identify each display network.
  • In block 408, dayparts may be identified, defined, or modified. Dayparts are used to subdivide inventory into days, weeks, or other units of time so that the user may target specific content to those times when it will have the greatest impact. The user may create and define new dayparts or edit or delete existing dayparts. A daypart may be defined by selecting the days and times that such daypart will be active. In certain embodiments, for example, a user may create a “daytime” daypart and define it to run from 6:30 a.m. to 6:29 p.m. everyday, and a “nighttime” daypart and define it to run from 6:30 p.m. to 6:29 a.m. everyday. A user may also create dayparts to partition weeks. For example, a user may create a “weekday” daypart and define it to run from 12:00 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and a “weekend” daypart and define it to run from 12:00 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday. In other embodiments, dayparts may be defined to correspond with daily or periodic events such as “rush hour” or “Friday night.” A 24 hours per day, 7 days per week daypart may also be defined. In certain embodiments, it is preferred that the user define dayparts so that, for each defined daypart, there are one or more dayparts defined to fill the days and times remaining in the week. For example, if a “nighttime” daypart is defined, it may be preferred in certain embodiments that the user also define a corresponding “daytime” daypart.
  • In block 410, slot types used to provide a user with flexibility in creating and partitioning inventory for targeted advertising may be defined and modified. A slot is the basic scheduling element for the system. In certain embodiments, the system may permit a user to create a wide array of slot types by defining numerous criteria for each slot type to allow flexible scheduling. The user may create and name new slot types, or modify or delete existing slot types.
  • One criteria that may be used to define slot types in certain embodiments is whether the slot is divided into slices. Slices are subdivisions of slots that allow a particular slot to be divided, and alternate between, multiple scenes. For example, in certain embodiments, if a slot has two slices, and advertiser A's content is scheduled to run in the first slice and advertiser B's content is scheduled to run in the second slice, then advertiser A's content will run when the slot is shown during the first rotation of scheduled slots on a display, advertiser B's content will run when the same slot is shown during the second rotation, advertiser A's content will run again during the third rotation, and so forth. If a slot type has one slice, then the same scene will be displayed every time the slot is shown in a rotation.
  • Criteria used to define slot types may also include the frequency of a slot, which defines whether the particular slot appears during every rotation of slots in a schedule. For example, in certain embodiments, if a slot type has a frequency of 1, it will appear every time a display goes through a rotation of slots, and, if a slot type has a frequency of 4, it will appear every fourth time a display goes through a rotation of slots.
  • Criteria used to define slot types may also include whether the slot has been dayparted. In certain embodiments, a user may assign previously created and defined dayparts to a slot. It is preferred in certain embodiments that all dayparts assigned to a slot cover the entire time period that displays in the system are active so that there are no gaps in the playback of content. A user may also choose not to daypart a slot.
  • In certain embodiments, definable slot type criteria may also include duration (the amount of time a specific scene scheduled in the slot will appear on the display) or any other criteria for partitioning inventory that may be desired for creating targeted and flexible schedules. In certain embodiments, this may include partitioning the slot into frames so that separate scenes may be displayed simultaneously in different portions, or frames, of the same display.
  • In block 412, a schedule template may be created and modified. A schedule template is a rotation of slots of various defined slot types. The user may create and name new schedule templates or modify or delete existing schedule templates. In certain embodiments, a user may create and name a schedule template and add slots to the template by selecting a previously defined slot type and entering the quantity of that slot type to be added to the schedule template. A user may continue to add various quantities of various slot types until the desired number and types of slots have been added to the schedule template. A completed schedule template provides a rotation of slots that may be assigned to displays and display networks to create inventory.
  • FIG. 5 illustrates one rotation of an exemplary schedule template with seven slots defined according to one embodiment of the invention. Each of the seven slots in FIG. 5 have a frequency of one and an eight second duration. Therefore, each slot will come up in the rotation every 56 seconds. Slot One 500 and Slot Five 508 in the rotation are not dayparted or sliced, therefore any scenes assigned to them will be displayed every 56 seconds all day long. Slot Two 502, Slot Six 510, and Slot Seven 512, are sliced such that any scenes assigned to these slices will be displayed less frequently than once every 56 seconds. Slot Two 502 and Slot Seven 512 have two slices, so scenes assigned to these slots will alternate each time the slot arises in the rotation and will be displayed once every 112 seconds all day long. Slot Six 510 has three slices, so scenes assigned to it will be displayed once every 168 seconds all day long. Slot Three 504 comprises a combination of dayparts and slices. Scenes assigned to the first three dayparts of Slot Three 504 a, 504 b, 504 c will display once every 56 seconds, but only during the days and times specified for such dayparts. The fourth daypart of Slot Three 504 d has two slices so scenes assigned to that daypart will be displayed once every 112 seconds during such daypart. Slot Four 506 also comprises a combination of dayparts and slices. Slot Four 506 has two slices 506 a 506 b. Scenes assigned to the first slice of Slot Four 506 a will be displayed once every 112 seconds all day long. The second slice of Slot Four 506 b has been dayparted, so scenes assigned to the second slice of Slot Four 506 b will be displayed once every 112 seconds, but only during the days and times specified in such dayparts.
  • Returning to FIG. 4, in blocks 414, 416, and 418, inventory may be generated. Inventory is blocks of time on the various display networks of displays in the system that may be sold, booked, or otherwise allocated according to certain embodiments of the invention. In block 414, a user may define the start and end date for which inventory may be created. In certain embodiments, inventory must have a duration of at least 90 days and less than three years. It is preferred in certain embodiments that there are no gaps in inventory so that the start date for inventory being created is the first day after the end date of the preceding inventory.
  • In block 416, previously defined schedule templates may be assigned to each display in the system for the defined inventory period. Each display in the system may be assigned a different schedule template or, in other embodiments, certain displays may share the same schedule template. In certain embodiments, one schedule template may be assigned to all displays in the system.
  • In block 418, each slot in the schedule template assigned to each display in block 416 may be further assigned to a previously defined display network to which the display is assigned for the defined inventory period. In certain embodiments, all slots assigned to a particular display may be assigned to the same display network, or, because each player may be assigned to multiple display networks, the slots assigned to a particular display may be assigned to two or more display networks. Therefore, in certain embodiments, each slot assigned to a particular display may be part of a different display network.
  • In certain embodiments, once the steps in blocks 414, 416, and 418 are completed, the system may generate inventory for the defined inventory period, permitting users of the system to book or reserve blocks of time to show content on displays. The system may generate the inventory automatically once the steps are completed or the user may direct the system to generate the inventory.
  • In block 420, generated inventory may be modified. In certain embodiments, any of the attributes defined in the steps illustrated in FIG. 4 may be modified by the user at any time, including, for example, slot types, schedule templates, display attributes, player attributes, and display network attributes. Moreover, in certain embodiments, slots may be added or removed from particular display networks, schedule templates, or displays to allow a user to increase and decrease inventory as needed. Also, in certain embodiments, slots may be converted from one slot type to another, as they are booked or at any other time, for particular display networks, schedule templates, or displays. Slots may also be moved from one display network to another or unassigned and assigned from and to certain display networks. A user may direct that any of the foregoing modifications be in effect during the remainder of the scheduled inventory dates or be in effect for only a specified portion of the remaining inventory time frame.
  • A graphical representation of the inventory may be generated by the system showing a list of inventory on each display or display network, the slot type associated with each block of inventory, and any other information associated with a display or display network. The graphical representation may permit a user to review the inventory for the entire system or for a particular display network or display over various date ranges on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. This permits a user to ensure that the displays are being used to their maximum advantage, assists in marketing or selling inventory, and helps avoid gaps in inventory. Once inventory has been booked as discussed below, the system may also graphically indicate, through color codes or other designations, whether inventory is available or whether it has been booked or reserved. In certain embodiments, the inventory may be modified in the manner described above via a graphical user interface so that a user may make changes while reviewing the inventory, such as by dragging or dropping, selecting items to swap, or renumbering slots.
  • FIG. 6 is a flow chart illustrating a method for booking and scheduling content to be displayed according to one embodiment of the present system. The steps shown in FIG. 6 do not necessarily take place in the order shown in the illustrated embodiment, and may take place independently of each other and at different times. Moreover, not every step depicted in FIG. 6 is required in every embodiment of the present invention and, in certain embodiments, more, less, or different steps may be taken. Some of the steps identified in FIG. 6 may be performed automatically by the system, some may be performed by a user of the system, and, in certain embodiments, some of the steps may be performed in either manner.
  • In block 600, the operator or user of the system may log onto the server directly or via a terminal. In certain embodiments, a user, including an advertiser or customer, may log onto the server through a browser-based thin-client portal to book, upload, and schedule content. In other embodiments, a user, including the operator of the system, may log onto the server and book, upload, and schedule content for itself or on behalf of advertisers, customers, or other entities desiring to book inventory. Access to the server may be controlled through a user name and password function or other security mechanism. In certain embodiments of the system, the interface module of the server may present the user with a graphical user interface, which may be browser based or part of a separate application or client, to interact with the server or other components of the system.
  • In block 602, a new account may be created or modified, or an existing account may be located on the system. One or more accounts may be created for each individual or entity that desires to book content on the system or each user of the system. In certain embodiments of the invention, each account may refer to an advertiser desiring to use the system to display advertising content. The user may add new accounts, delete existing accounts, or edit account information. Each account may be given a unique system identifier, a name, or a customer number. The account may be linked to, or accessible by, other systems, such as accounting or resource management software. Some or all of the account information may be automatically generated by the system. Once an account has been created a user may be able to search for it or otherwise select the account on the system and proceed to booking inventory under the account.
  • In block 604, a new booking may be created or modified. In certain embodiments, a booking, or ad campaign, is created by allocating inventory to an account. A user may select inventory to be booked based on, for example, the desired start date and end date of the booking, the slot type or inventory unit to be booked, the quantity of the slot type or inventory to be booked, and the display network or display the content will run on. In certain embodiments, the user may identify the desired attributes of a booking and the system will search for available inventory. If inventory is available that matches the user's preferences, the system may provide a list of available inventory which the user may select from. If no inventory is available, the system may notify the user so that the user may modify the selected preferences. In other embodiments, the system may present a user with a graphical representation of inventory from which the user may select any available inventory for a booking. In these embodiments, the user is able to visually inspect available inventory to determine the particular inventory to be booked.
  • In certain embodiments, once the user has selected inventory to be booked, the user may identify the account or advertiser the booking is associated with. The system or the user may also assign a unique name to the booking created. In certain embodiments, the system or a user may designate a booking as prospective, reserved, or contracted. In such embodiments, only a contracted booking may consume inventory, although the other types of bookings may be identified as reserved or temporarily unavailable by the system. In certain embodiments, if permitted by the operator of the system, a user may be permitted to modify any of the defined criteria of a booking or delete a booking.
  • In block 606, a user may upload, create, or modify a scene to be shown on display networks or individual displays that have been booked. In certain embodiments, a scene may comprise any type of content, including text, designs, photographs, or other static images, such as, for example, the static advertisements displayed on traditional billboards. A scene may also be a moving image, such as an animated image or design, a movie, or a film. In certain embodiments, a scene may contain any combination of moving and static images, text, sound, and other content. Scenes may be in any file format capable of being output to the display by the player, including, for example, JPEG, PNG, MOV, Flash, SWF, H.264, WAV, WMV, RAW, DOC, BMP, GIF, PPT, PDF, MP3, MPEG, or DivX. Scenes may be created by the user or any other individual or entity using any of the various tools available and known to designers, artists, and advertisers for creating audio, video, and other content, or the system may provide tools for creating scenes.
  • In certain embodiments, a scene may contain dynamic content, such as text, images, videos, or a combination thereof, which may change each time a scene is displayed. In certain embodiments, a player showing a scene with dynamic content will pull the dynamic portion of the scene from a location specified by a user of the system each time the scene is displayed. In certain embodiments, a user creating a scene with dynamic content will specify the dynamic portion of the scene and will identify the location where the dynamic content is stored. A user may also select a default or “safety” scene that will display if there are any issues with the dynamic content. In certain embodiments, dynamic content may be stored on a storage device that is part of the player or the server, or that is otherwise in communication with the player via a network, and a user may identify the content, for example, by identifying the location of a file name and storage device. In certain embodiments, dynamic content may be accessible via the Internet and a user may specify a URL address or domain name where such content is stored. In certain embodiments, dynamic content may also be provided from networked devices or devices connected to or otherwise associated with the player, such as, for example, thermometers, cameras, and clocks. The dynamic content may be changed by altering or overwriting the content at the location where it is stored. These alterations may be made manually by a user of the system or another individual or they may be made automatically as a function of software or scripts at the location site. Each time a dynamic scene is displayed, the player or associated dynamic content module may pull the content then stored at the location or being captured by a device and incorporate it into the scene.
  • In certain embodiments, once a scene has been created, a user of the system may upload one or more scenes to the content database in communication with the server. The system or the user may associate each scene with a particular account or advertiser and may give each scene a unique name so that the scene may be identified on the system. If the scene contains dynamic content, the system may permit the user to identify the location of the dynamic content and a safety scene as described above.
  • In block 608, scenes may be added to playblocks and the criteria for displaying a playblock may be defined. In certain embodiments, a playblock is a list of scenes to be displayed in a particular booking or ad campaign associated with one account or advertiser. For example, if a playblock contains two scenes, the first scene may be shown the first time a display shows the booked playblock, the second scene may be shown the second time a display shows the booked playblock, the first scene may be shown again the third time the booked playblock is displayed, and so on. In other embodiments, as described in more detail below, particular scenes in a playblock will only play when the booked playblock is displayed if certain pre-defined criteria are met.
  • In block 608, a user may create a new playblock or modify or delete existing playblocks. In certain embodiments, the system or a user may identify the account associated with a playblock, name the playblock, and give the playblock a unique system identifier. The system may allow a user to select from and add scenes already stored in the content database to a playblock, or, in certain embodiments, may permit a user to create or upload scenes at the time a playblock is created. A playblock may contain only one scene or may have many scenes. In certain embodiments, a playblock may contain additional levels of playblocks.
  • In certain embodiments, a user may define specific criteria for displaying each scene in a playblock. The criteria a user may associate with a scene in a playblock may include, for example, a start date and end date, a start time and end time, and particular days to play the scene. Multiple criteria may be added to the same scene. Criteria may be added to some, all, or none of the scenes in a playblock, and a user may edit criteria associated with scenes at any time. In certain embodiments, when a player rotates through a schedule and arrives at a booking with a multiple scene playblock, the next scheduled scene in the playblock will play, but only if the criteria defined for that scene is met. If the criteria is not met, the next scheduled scene in the playblock with criteria that matches the situation will play. In certain embodiments, a user may designate a default or safety scene to play in the event that no scenes in the playblock have defined criteria matching a given situation.
  • In block 610, a playblock may be assigned to a booking. In certain embodiments, once at least one booking and playblock have been created for a particular account, or as part of the process of creating a booking or playblock, a user may assign a playblock of scenes to each booking. In certain embodiments, a user may be given the further option of assigning a different playblock to each display in a booked display network or defining a default playblock for all displays in a booking.
  • In block 612, a schedule for displaying content on displays throughout the system may be created. In certain embodiments, the scheduling engine associated with the server automatically generates a schedule for displaying content on all display networks and displays on the system based on inventory and bookings. The schedule may comprise a list of bookings to be shown on each display or display network, the order the bookings are scheduled to be shown, the slot type associated with each booking, and any other information associated with a display, network, account, or booking. In certain embodiments, the system may include factors other than inventory and bookings when automatically generating a schedule. Such factors may include, for example, industry separation rules so that certain competing or incongruous accounts or ad campaigns are not scheduled back to back on the same display, and laws or ordinances prohibiting certain types of advertising in certain areas, such as near schools.
  • In block 614, the automatically generated schedule may be reviewed and adjusted manually. A graphical representation of the schedule may be generated by the system showing a list of bookings to be shown on each display or display network, the order the bookings are scheduled to be shown, the slot type associated with each booking, and any other information associated with a display, display network, account, or booking. The graphical representation may permit a user to review the schedule for the entire system or for a particular display network or display over various date ranges. This permits a user to ensure that inventory is being used to maximum advantage and helps avoid a situation where no content will be shown on a particular display due to conflicts between scene criteria, booking attributes, or other aspects of the system. The system may permit a user to manually edit the schedule such as, for example, by reordering bookings that have been automatically scheduled or moving bookings to different display networks or displays. In addition to ensuring the optimal use of the inventory by allowing manual modifications to the schedule, manually reordering or moving bookings may be desirable if a user wants to ensure that two particular bookings or accounts are separated from each other in time or do not play on the same displays. In certain embodiments, the schedule may be modified via a graphical user interface so that a user may make changes while reviewing the schedule, such as by dragging or dropping, selecting items to swap, or renumbering bookings.
  • In block 616, the scheduling data and content may be sent from the server to players throughout the system. In certain embodiments, the following data and content may be sent from the server and its associated databases to each player via the communication network: (i) the schedule for a particular display connected to the player identifying the rotation of slots, the slot types, and the playblocks booked to each slot or slice, or daypart thereof; (ii) the playblock data identifying which scenes will be shown in the playblock, the order in which scenes will be shown, and the criteria for displaying each scene; (iii) the files comprising the scenes themselves; and (iv) any dynamic scene data, including the location of the dynamic content.
  • In certain embodiments, scheduling data, scenes, and other content is pushed from the server to all players on the system or to certain designated players or display networks at regularly scheduled times via the communication network. A user of the system may also direct the server to push scheduling data and content to all players or specific players or display networks at any time between scheduled update times if desired. In other embodiments, the player may pull scheduling data and content from the server and databases at regularly scheduled times or upon the direction of a user. Scheduling data and content may be pushed to players or pulled from the server each time new inventory is generated and booked, or, in certain embodiments, scheduling data and content may be updated on some or all players on the system whenever modifications are made to a booking, scene, playblock, schedule template, or any other element of the system that affects scheduling or content. Updates may be made to the specific players effected or, in certain embodiments, to all players on the system. The player may store scheduling data, scenes, and other content downloaded from the server on its storage module. In certain embodiments, the player's schedule processor will direct the output module to send a new scene to the display according to the scheduling data.
  • FIG. 7 illustrates the steps the player and scheduling processor may take to display scenes after scheduling data and content have been received by the server according to at least one embodiment of the invention. The steps illustrated in FIG. 7 are exemplary and do not necessarily take place in the order shown in the illustrated embodiment, and may take place independently of each other and at different times. Moreover, not every step depicted in FIG. 7 is required in every embodiment of the present invention and, in certain embodiments, more, less, or different steps may be taken. Some of the steps identified in FIG. 7 may be performed automatically by the system, some may be performed by a user of the system, and, in certain embodiments, some of the steps may be performed in either manner.
  • Operation in FIG. 7 may start in block 700 where the scheduling processor refers to the next slot in the scheduled rotation. In block 702, the scheduling processor may determine whether the slot has been partitioned into slices. If it has, operation goes to block 704, where the scheduling processor may refer to the next slice in the slot, and then proceeds to block 706, otherwise, operation proceeds directly to block 706. In block 706, the scheduling processor may determine whether the slot or the slice has been partitioned into dayparts. If it has not, then operation goes to block 708 where the scheduling processor may refer to the playblock booked for the slot or slice, otherwise, operation goes to block 710 where the scheduling processor may refer to the playblock that has been booked for the relevant daypart of the slot or slice.
  • Operation from block 708 and block 710 goes to block 712 where the scheduling processor may refer to the next scene and associated scheduling data in the playblock booked for the relevant slot or slice. In block 714 the scheduling processor may determine whether the defined criteria for playing the scene, if any, has been met. If it has, then operation goes to block 716, otherwise, operation returns to block 712 where the scheduling processor may refer to the next scene in the playblock. The loop between block 712 and block 714 may continue until a scene with criteria matching the then current day, time, or other factors relating to the display, or, in certain embodiments, a default safety scene, is located and the operation goes to block 716.
  • In block 716, the scheduling processor may determine whether the selected scene contains dynamic content. If it does not, then operation goes to block 720, otherwise, operation goes to block 718 where the dynamic content processor may pull dynamic content from the designated location and merge or incorporate the content into the scene. If there is an error with pulling the dynamic content or predefined filters dictate the rejection of inappropriate or unwanted dynamic content, a default safety scene may be selected at this point in the process. After the dynamic content has been incorporated into the scene or the safety scene has been selected in block 718, operation goes to block 720.
  • In block 720, the scheduling processor may direct the output module to send the scene to the display. Operation may then go to block 722 where the display shows the scene for the predefined duration. Operation then returns to block 700 where the scheduling processor may refer to the next slot in the rotation and so on.
  • The exemplary process as illustrated in FIG. 7 will not be disrupted in the event an update in scheduling data or content is sent to the player from the update module of the server or other source. For example, if a particular slot in a rotation is modified during playback by changing the slot type, editing scenes, rearranging playblocks, or otherwise modifying the slot or content, the rotation of slots will not need to start over. Instead, the next time the rotation reaches the slot, the scheduling processor will follow the modified schedule and rules to display the appropriate scene.
  • In certain embodiments, the system may incorporate performance feedback functions so that a user may ensure scenes are being properly displayed according to the schedule and the displays are in compliance with local laws and ordinances and predefined performance objectives. Performance feedback functions may include the ability to monitor status information provided by the displays, such as brightness settings, the temperature of the unit, the external temperature, power supply status, status and health of the display unit electronics and LED components, the fan RPM, and light sensor readings. Performance feedback functions may also include the ability to monitor the output of the display through use of a still camera or video camera, such as, for example, a webcam or other networked camera mounted at the display site. The camera may provide a continuous stream of images showing which scene is being played on a display at a particular time or it may be operated remotely to collect images as requested by the system or user. The status information and images output by the display and camera respectively may be collected and stored by the player. The player may provide a continuous feed of performance feedback data to the server or push the information to the server according to a schedule, or the server may pull the data off the server as scheduled or directed. In other embodiments the camera and the display may bypass the player and send data directly to the server via a communication network.
  • The foregoing description of exemplary embodiments of the present invention has been presented for purposes of illustration. It is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise forms disclosed. Many variations and modifications of the embodiments described herein will be apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art in light of the above description. The scope of the invention is to be defined only by the claims appended hereto.

Claims (2)

1. A method for scheduling and distributing content for display on a network of electronic displays comprising:
defining inventory on a plurality of displays;
allocating said inventory to a plurality of accounts to create a plurality of bookings;
associating content with each of said bookings;
generating scheduling data for the display of said content on said networked displays based on said inventory and said bookings;
providing a graphical representation of said scheduling data;
modifying said scheduling data; and
displaying said content on at least one of said displays according to said scheduling data.
2. A system comprising:
a server, said server comprising an interface module permitting the defining of inventory for a plurality of displays, the allocation of said inventory to create a plurality of bookings, and the association of said bookings with content;
said server further comprising a scheduling engine that generates scheduling data for the display of said content based on said inventory and said bookings;
said server further comprising a review and modification module that provides a graphical representation of said scheduling data and the ability to modify said scheduling data;
said server further comprising an update module that sends said content and said scheduling data to a plurality of players via a network;
said players comprising a storage module for storing said content and said scheduling data; and
said players further comprising a scheduling processor that directs the output of said content to at least one of said displays according to said scheduling data.
US12/316,881 2008-12-17 2008-12-17 System and method for scheduling and distributing advertising content to a network of digital displays Abandoned US20100153218A1 (en)

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US12/316,881 US20100153218A1 (en) 2008-12-17 2008-12-17 System and method for scheduling and distributing advertising content to a network of digital displays

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