Last week I did some research on how to render a Power BI report on a TV for the purposes of displaying it in an office. A good case scenario for this is if you have a help desk or service desk team and you want to show how each person on the team is performing and how they compare to their peers (encouraging a bit of friendly competition). Another scenario can be displaying the estimated wait times for your customers while they wait to be helped/serviced (for example: in a doctor’s office, a repair shop, etc.). Lastly, you can have a report in a hallway that displays company or department-wide metrics that keep your employees informed on how the company is performing.
In each of these scenarios, having a Power BI report displayed on a TV monitor with an automatic page and data refresh can provide a valuable way for your employees and customers to view and gain insights from your data. In the steps below I describe how to get a Power BI report to properly display on a TV.
The process can be broken down into 4 high-level steps:
- Access a web browser through your TV – You need a way to access app.powerbi.com through your TV.
- Render the report in Full Screen mode – In order for your report to look sleek and professional, you’ll want to hide the browser bar and the Windows taskbar.
- Automatically refresh the page – While the underlying data may get updated on a scheduled basis, you will need to refresh the page to see the most recent data.
- Determine the refresh frequency of the underlying data – Depending on the process in the backend, you will need to assess what is an acceptable refresh frequency, both from the audience’s point of view, and from the availability of the data.
Access a Web Browser Through Your TV
There are many ways to go about accessing a web browser through a TV. Many Smart TVs have built-in Wi-Fi capabilities and are Web browser ready, making it pretty easy to connect to the internet and browse the web. However, there may be limitations in how pages are displayed (for example: fonts, plug-ins), and your Power BI report may not render in the same way as it does on a PC browser.
For this exercise I used a device from Intel called Intel Compute Stick. This device connects through the HDMI display of the TV and turns it into a fully-functioning Windows 10 computer. For its size, features, and price (starting at $126 in Amazon), this mini-computer is a great deal. I plugged it in, went through the initial Windows 10 configuration and in less than 10 minutes I had a working Windows 10 OS on my TV (with a wireless Mouse and Keyboard for ease of use).
I downloaded Google Chrome on it, launched the browser and logged in to my Power BI account.
Render the Report in Full Screen Mode
When rendering a Power BI report on a TV monitor, make sure to take full advantage of the real estate and configure it so that it has a professional look and feel to it (i.e. no taskbars, no browser tabs, no Power BI menu bar). To do this, it is best to have the report render in Full Screen mode. There are a few ways of achieving this; however only one of them works as needed (more on this in the next section).
To render in Full Screen mode:
- Add the string “?Chromeless=1” (no quotes) to the end of the URL of the Power BI report. This will remove the Power BI menu navigations and only display the report
- Set your browser in Full Screen mode by pressing F11. This will hide the browser bar and the Windows taskbar.
Tip: In Power BI Desktop, set your report view to “Fit to Page” prior to deploying the report. This will make sure that your report will expand to fit the size of the TV monitor once in Full Screen mode.
Automatically Refresh the Page
At this point we have a Power BI report displayed on a TV monitor and taking up the entire screen – so far so good! But what about refreshing the information on the report? If the data is stale and not refreshed often, your audience will begin to lose interest and your report will start to look more like hallway decoration 🙂 . The challenge here is that while your data source may be getting refreshed, the data in the report does not get updated until the page itself is refreshed.
You could have someone hitting F5 key on a keyboard to refresh the page and then change the display to Full Screen mode after each refresh – but that probably would not last very long. Enter Google Chrome Extension Super Auto Refresh. This extension for Chrome allows you to easily set up an automated page refresh on a scheduled interval. You can set it to refresh the page anywhere from every 2 seconds to every 60 minutes.
To get the page refreshing while the report is in Full Screen mode:
- Set the URL with the string “?Chromeless=1” added to the end.
- Use the Super Auto Refresh extension to schedule a refresh interval
- Set your browser in Full Screen mode by pressing F11.
Note: You may be wondering why I didn’t user Power BI’s “Enter Full Screen Mode” feature. This feature works fine if you are just accessing the report and not refreshing the page. However, as soon as you refresh the page while using this mode, your report will not reload in Full Screen and you will be back to the standard browser view. This is why it’s important to use the browser’s Full Screen mode instead of the one from Power BI!
Determine the Refresh Frequency of the Underlying Data
Having a page refresh every 15 seconds does you no good if the data underneath does not change at the same interval. Depending on the type of data source that is used to render the Power BI report, you may need to have a scheduled data refresh configured in Power BI. To read more on the different types of data refresh and their frequency, check out Microsoft’s Data Refresh. If using a Live connection to a SQL Server Analysis Services cube, you can configure the page refresh to coincide with the ETL schedule that you have to process the cube.
- Use font colors and sizes that have good contrast and are easy to view/read on a TV screen. Preview it on the actual monitor and make changes as needed
- Don’t overcrowd the report. Make it easy for your audience to gain some insights without having to spend 10 minutes in front of the screen to make sense of the report.
- Consider embedding the report in an app and display additional information (such as company announcements, upcoming events, short video clips, etc.)
- Display a Report instead of a Dashboard in Full Screen mode. The Report will have the ability render as “Fit to Page”, whereas the Dashboard can only be changed to render as “Fit to Width” which can sometimes cut off the bottom part of the report.
Here’s a (now outdated) Wimbledon Power BI report displaying in Full Screen mode on my TV at home:
A good test case (and possible future blog post) may be displaying a Power BI report for the upcoming French Open that shows match results as they are completed :). Stay tuned!