For the past year or so, we have stations at some of our manufacturing plants that run the Tulip player on a raspberry pi that has been setup as a lightweight Chromium based kiosk player, where the device boots directly to Chromium and loads the player url. The operators are not able to exit the program and no other programs are able to be run. This made for a low cost solution of just needing Tulip players on the shop floor.
In addition to the raspberry pi is a touch screen monitor that is around 24 inches in size. This made the station similar to having a very large tablet. The solution worked great initially, however the apps grew to be more complex and the device requirements also increased. This caused our team to revisit the setup as the raspberry pis struggled to run any of our apps.
Our current effort has led us to use mini fanless PC’s. The setup involved installing Ubuntu server (to remove all the extra GUI) and then only adding the minimum software required to run Chromium in kiosk mode (inside of OpenBox). This is currently deployed in a few locations and has tested very well so far.
We were at this point when a portion of my team visited Tulip in Boston and shared with them what we were trying to do. We then made a request for a Linux based version of the Tulip Player app. The team told us that one existed, but isn’t a supported version yet and hasn’t been fully tested. We said we wanted to try it in our development environment and would love to see it become a supported platform.
I was given a copy of the program and installed it onto one of our mini PC’s. Through some trial and error, I was able to get everything working how I wanted. The only open item I currently have as a need is an on screen keyboard (which I have been in communication with Tulip about already). I found one keyboard that halfway works (doesn’t work in full screen mode)…
I believe the best solution would be to have some kind of extension added to the app similar to how you can add them in Chrome. More to come
This has been an exciting project for me to work on in partnership with Tulip. Meeting with their team in person has been very beneficial for my team in increasing our abilities and speed at which we can move forward with the projects we are working on. I will be adding updates periodically to this post as we make progress.
Having an option to run low cost hardware with out all of the Windows overhead and licensing has been very beneficial for our team. We have also recently implemented Ansible as a way to setup and manage all the Tulip players as a fleet. Our team currently has maybe around 40 devices with many many more coming that we will be in charge of keeping up to date with OS and security patches along with keeping them up and running during all shifts of production. The combination of everything described above has been monumental in helping reduce the amount of time from a hardware support and deployment perspective.
I hope some find this post helpful as a potential solution that can be used in a factory. If there is a greater need for something like this in the Tulip community, I could see the potential for Tulip providing an image that could be installed onto a PC that is ready to connect to an instance after first boot.
Feel free to add your thoughts or comments to this post. I am currious what others have done in the community to solve similar problems / constraints.