Technology is finding more and more ways to integrate electronic devices into our daily lives creating explosive demand for touchscreens. At the same time prices for touchscreens have been dropping due to a surplus of manufacturing and rapidly changing technology in recent years.
Touchscreens have increasingly become the preferred user interface because they offer a number of benefits that simplify customer interactions. Users do not have to know how to use a computer and can simply touch the display to make selections. Touchscreen technology is fast, reliable and can accommodate multiple users. No keyboard is required, saving valuable space. With good design a touchscreen interface can quickly adapt to different users in terms of language, literacy, and other accessibility needs.
Touchscreens are found in a broad range of devices. They come in an array of sizes, used for a variety of tasks in many industries, have a range of capabilities and incorporate many different types of technology.
Devices - smartphones, televisions, ATMs, airline check-in terminals and information kiosks
Uses - information, entertainment, communication, systems monitoring
Industries – consumer, retail, manufacturing, military, healthcare, automotive
Sizes - from a few inches to many square feet
Capabilities - single-user, multi-user, single finger, multiple fingers/gestures, fingerprint recognition.
Sensor technologies – resistive, capacitive, infrared, acoustic
Performance measures – accuracy, refresh rates, picture quality, reliability
Founded in 2016, Atlas Technology (ATLT-OECQB) designs and sells touchscreens to companies such as Gevalia and Kyocera. Its executives have over 30 years combined experience in touchscreen technology. Importantly, Atlas outsources all of its manufacturing, enabling it to focus on developing new technologies and intellectual property while taking advantage of the manufacturing capacity surplus. As a result, Atlas Technology offers its customers the best combination of design, technology and value.
With touchscreens becoming somewhat of a commodity, our IP and innovative product construction continue to set us apart from our competitors. Our team is focusing on better, smarter materials, easier integrations into any device and achieving new technological breakthroughs. Our efforts benefit our clients directly by providing more dependable and flexible solutions in the design phase.”
Statistics on the touchscreen market are somewhat difficult to compile as touchscreen technology encompasses a range of devices, sizes, uses, industries and technologies. Nevertheless – all the data forecasts rapid growth for touchscreens over the next five years.
- The global market for touchscreens is expected to grow to $93.8B in 2024 from $44.4B in 2015, an average annual rate of 9% from 2015-2024. Shipments are expected to grow slightly faster, nearly 11%, as technology advances drive down the average price per screen. (Technology Market Research)
- Demand for touchscreen controllers should rise at an average annual rate of 9.7% from $4.2B in 2015 to $12.9B in 2024.(Stratistics MRC)
- Demand for interactive displays (such as information kiosks) is anticipated to rise at an average annual rate of 15.5% from just under $10B in 2015 to $27B in 2022. (Markets and Markets)
- The number of business to business “internet of things” (IoT) connections are forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 28% through 2020
Growth in the touchscreen market comes from a variety of sources. Demand is driven by an interest in maintaining/lowering labor costs (ATMs, gas pumps, store checkout), improving other operating costs (utilities, factories, home heating systems), as well as improving customer satisfaction (information kiosks, automotive displays
- Deployment as a labor cost saving device (ATMs, gas pumps, store checkout)
- Improving customer service by reducing waiting times, needing to find assistance and improving information flow. (public transit stations, information kiosks, automotive displays)
As developers create new applications and technology (multi-touch screens and 3D interaction) for touchscreens, the global market is expected to continue to show robust growth.
Touchscreen Technology – The Basics
Touchscreens enable people to interact with a computer using touch.
A touchscreen system consists of:
Display screen: enables users to see information and interact with the computer
Touch sensor: piece of glass on top of the display screen that is sensitive to touch
Controller: The controller is hardware that connects the touch sensor to the computer.
Drivers: A driver is software that allows the controller to communicate with the computer.
According to Business Intelligence, the at-home device market will grow 67% annually through 2019.
Single/multi-touch systems: Single touch systems can register only one input at a time. Legacy technology such as ATMs still tend to be single touch systems and are often the front end to complex mainframe-based computers used in financial services, the military and airline reservations. Some benefits of single-touch systems include simple software, typically rugged hardware and are used in mission critical applications because of their high reliability.
Multi-touch displays recognize at least two different touch points at the same time. The original iPhone was an early form of multi-touch display. Multi-touch displays register different gestures such as scrolling, swiping and pinch-to-zoom and communicate the gesture to the software, which instructs the computer.
Finger/Stylus: Different touch sensor technologies determine whether the system will register touch from a stylus, bare finger, gloved fingers (surgical or cold weather) or specially designed gloves.
Touch Sensor Technologies:
There are several touch sensor technologies on the market each with its pros and cons. Designers and customers select their technology based on a variety of factors including how the touchscreen will be used, response/refresh times, accuracy needed, accidental or unintended activation risk, picture quality, available space, reliability and, of course, cost. The most popular technologies today include:
Resistive touch: is one of the earliest types of touchscreen technologies and is still widely used today. Resistive touchscreens consist of a glass panel and a film screen, each covered with a thin metallic layer. When a user touches the screen, an electrical connection is made and is communicated to the computer. Resistive touch systems are inexpensive, accurate, and liquid resistant, but have limited optical quality and are susceptible to damage. Resistive systems are best suited for small screens.
Capacitive touch (surface capacitive): is the most popular type of touchscreens on the market today. Capacitive touchscreens incorporate a transparent electrode layer on top of a glass panel and separated from the user by a protective cover. A bare finger or a special stylus is needed to activate capacitive touchscreens. Capacitive touchscreens have better much better optical quality and accuracy than resistive touch systems and are less susceptible to damage.
Projected capacitive touch: allows for multiple touch points (gestures) and can be used with a thinly gloved finger. A projected capacitive screen is composed of a sheet of glass embedded with transparent electrode films and an integrated circuit (IC) chip, creating a 3D electrostatic field. When a finger comes into contact with the screen, the electrical field is disrupted and the information is communicated to the computer. Projective capacitive systems offer the best optical quality and are widely available. Other touchscreen technologies include: surface acoustic wave (SAW) and infrared technologies. Optical imaging is a relatively new type of touchscreen technology. This technology is growing in popularity, due to its scalability, versatility, and affordability, especially for bigger units but it is difficult to execute.
|Technology||Touch Points||Touch Input||Accuracy||Picture Quality||Applications|
|Resistive||1||Any Input||Okay||Fair, Coating over screen||Great value for basic touch|
|SAW||1||Finger and soft stylus only||Okay||Good, Glass||Great value for basic touch: especially when a clean screen is important|
|Projected Capacitive Touch Screen||2 -10||Finger and Stylus||Excellent||Good, Glass||Best overall experience and look. Similar to smartphones|
|Optical||Up to 32||Any input||Varies||Good, Glass||Supports test gestures, but implementation is critical|
|IR Infrared||Up to 32||Any input||Excellent||Good, Glass||Best performance for tiled video wall and large format displays|