Market Watch

Interactive Touch Screen Displays Come of Age

InfoComm 2011 serves as showcase for technologies in the signage, education and professional markets

June 30, 2011

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Although interactive display technologies for use in signage, education and professional applications have been available for many years, the innovative products needed to drive the rapid growth of the market are only just now arriving on the market, as evidenced by the introduction of touchscreen products and solutions during the past year and at the InfoComm 2011 event in Orlando this month.

Global shipments of all kinds touch screen displays for signage, education and professional applications are expected to reach 5.4 million units in 2013, up from 1.4 million in 2010, as presented in Figure 7. These displays include LCD, plasma, front-projection and rear-projection. The market will expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 56 percent for the years 2009 through 2013.

Interactive Displays Get the Right Touch
An interactive signage or professional display is a touch screen module integrated with a display. These displays mainly are used in the education sector as interactive whiteboards and way-finding screens in retail and hospitality environments. However, they have a lot of potential in public spaces and corporate conference room settings as well.

The interactive whiteboard market long has been dominated by two companies: SMART Technologies Inc. and Promethean World plc. But with the introduction of Texas Instruments Inc.’s Point Blank and Epson’s BrightLink technologies last year, any projector is capable of acting as an interactive whiteboard. SMART’s resistive and Promethean’s electromagnetic touch technology products are geared toward a more high-end interactive touch segment, while Texas Instruments’ Point Blank and Epson’s BrightLink are more of  entry-level interactive solutions with mass-market orientation.

Texas Instruments at InfoComm 2011 announced it had partnered with Optoma Technology Inc. and NEC, among many other companies, to implement Point Blank in actual products. The move is sure to make interactive whiteboard technology more accessible to users, particularly in the education segment, which is limited by budget constraints.

Point Blank and BrightLink technologies are able to make any surface interactive without the need for a special board. Equipped with a pen that contains a camera and sensor, these technologies are easy to use and allow users to write in the air or on the display surface. While Point Blank and BrightLink systems allow for a much greater access to the interactive whiteboard idea, the company still faces a variety of challenges, including the lack of market experience in the interactive display market compared to both SMART and Promethean.

Projectors in Education
More than 97 percent of the education touch screen market employs front-projection technologies; IHS expects this market dominance to continue through 2013. At InfoComm, companies including NEC, Panasonic, Hitachi and Epson introduced their own lines of interactive front-projector touch displays for the education market.

NEC’s recently introduced U310W is an ultra-short throw interactive projector that uses Texas Instruments’ DLP chip and has a virtual projection remote. Furthermore, it can use an iPad as an input device for the interactive surface. The company is working on multi-touch capability as well as a development of the Android operating system for the projector.

Panasonic’s recently unveiled Panaboard has enjoyed success in the corporate, K-12 and even the higher education markets. The product works with any projector, can handle up to three-point capacitive touch, and comes in 77-inch and 86-inch sizes.

Epson’s new version of its BrightLink interactive projector shown at InfoComm took the product away from the whiteboard and put it on a table. By using a 3LCD chip, IR technology, an interactive pen, and inverting the projector, it became an interactive tabletop. With the capability to show a 100-inch picture and use any type of software, the projector has proved ideal in both education and corporate boardroom settings.

All the aforementioned education products are suitable as well for training and teaching purposes in corporate settings.

Interactivity on Center Stage
Interactive displays also are becoming increasingly prominent in the digital signage and professional segments, with flat-panel displays being more common in these types of applications. IHS iSuppli forecasts that the retail and hospitality/healthcare segment will account for 40 percent of flat-panel interactive displays in the signage, education and professional display market with more than 1.2 million units in 2013.

A variety of companies have started bringing a number of new interactive flat panel displays to the market. Mitsubishi and Cybertouch recently teamed up and created a series of integrated single and optical multi-touch monitors that use infrared (IR) technology. The touch-enabled monitors have been selling in a variety of applications particularly in crew ships, retail signage, education and other digital signage applications.

NEC also recently unveiled the newest addition to its interactive product line with the second-generation V651 monitor. The display, utilizing Lumio’s optical touch software with four cameras placed in each corner, is primarily used in retail and way-finding applications but also can be employed in corporate applications.

MultiTouch and uma were other companies at InfoComm, presenting their Skin multitouch environment. Using optical touch, IR, and semantic web technology, the companies showcased a modular multitouch interactive display product capable of integrating a wide range of content producers, such as corporations, retailers and brands, to deliver smart content to end users. The device can respond to unlimited multitouch points, is able to run 24/7 and has elicited great response from many sectors, including corporations, museums and the automotive industry. 

Interactive Technology Hits the Wall
Christie at InfoComm 2011 announced it had added interactive capabilities to its Microtiles Display Wall System, calling it the Interactive Impactive Wall. Using Baanto Inc.’s shadow sense technology, which works by having sensors all around and IR light-emitting diode (LED) lights that sense touch, the Interactive Impactive Wall technology discerns the angle of the shadow and can detect the location of the object that is touching the screen.

Chrisite’s Interactive Impactive Wall is the first truly tileable and scalable touch display that can interact with any object. It also requires no setup or calibration, since the tiles communicate with one another once they are connected. Microtiles have seen success in many areas, but most particularly as architectural displays in digital signage and for rental/staging purposes. 

Within interactive solutions for flat-panel technologies, optical and IR touch are the most prevalent technologies used, according to IHS iSuppli data. By 2013, optical is predicted to account for 46 percent of the flat-panel touch displays market, with IR making up the rest at 24 percent. 

Optical imaging will account for a large portion of the market due to its high scalability options, robust features and cost-effectiveness. IR, on the other hand, is a strong technology for signage applications—thanks also to scalability, optical performance and robustness—but it is more expensive than optical imaging.  

Learn More > IHS iSuppli Digital Signage Research

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