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The Human Touch

Touch-screen displays add interactivity to applications across industries.
  • by Melissa Delaney
  • Freelance journalist who specializes in business technology | January 11, 2019

Special orders were once a major concern for many organizations, but now, tailoring a customer’s order to his or her individual preferences is easier than ever. For a growing number of industries, touch-screen displays enable self-service ordering that can revolutionize the experience for users and customers. 

“There are a million ways you can specialize your order on touch-screen displays,” says Rosemary Abowd, senior analyst at PMA Research. 

A wide variety of industries are deploying touch-screen displays. They’re used in interactive museum displays, for wayfinding at malls and college campuses, to check patients into hospitals, to engage fans at football games and to enable remote employees to collaborate in corporate conference rooms. They extend the messaging and collaboration power of video displays by adding a level of interactivity to enable two-way communication that makes touch-screens exponentially more useful. 

“Touch applications have become important to almost every industry,” says Cindy McCullough, product marketing manager at Leyard and Planar Systems. 

Touch screens aren’t new. They have been used in applications such as car dashboards and ATMs for years and are the dominant technology in smartphones and tablets. But the cost of large interactive displays prevented many organizations from adopting this technology — until recently. 

“The costs of displays have come down dramatically over the last five years,” says Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst at the Enderle Group, “So they’re starting to pop up all over the place.” 

Big Benefits 

Since prices have come down, touch-screen displays are a relatively easy way for organizations to create a high-tech, forward-looking environment. “They tend to draw the eye,” Enderle says. “It can make a business look a lot trendier.” 

They also improve the client experience. “The customer can interact with whatever the material is without having to have a person intercede on their behalf," Enderle says. “The displays come in all different sizes in many kinds of places, from airports and restaurants to shopping centers. Pretty much any place where there are people, there’s the potential for having some kind of interactive display.” 

They’re also easy to use. Even those who don’t know how to use computers can seek information or perform onsite transactions on a display with the touch of a finger. “No keyboard is required, simplifying the user experience and saving valuable space,” McCullough says. 

Touch-screen displays can also enable greater collaboration among employees, partners and clients. With these displays in conference rooms, in-person and remote participants can share documents, interact with materials on the displays, write directly on the screen and save annotations. 

“Touch-screen displays have a variety of benefits, including maximizing the effectiveness of meetings and creating more interactive experiences in a variety of settings that allow people to not only collaborate more efficiently, but also more seamlessly,” says LG Head of Marketing Garry Wicka. For example, LG’s TC3D series uses PCAP touch technology, which allows multi-touch points so that multiple participants can simultaneously use the display. 


Touch-screens for Business: Beyond the Boardroom 

As the workforce has become more mobile, videoconferencing has emerged as a corporate norm. By adding interactive capabilities, touch-screen displays enable users to share documents and collaborate over geographically diverse environments, says Rosemary Abowd, senior analyst at PMA Research. 

Corporate adoption of interactive displays stretches far beyond the conference room. For example, Daimler Trucks North America deployed interactive displays from Planar at its headquarters in Portland, Ore., to serve as a digital directory to help visitors find employees and important locations throughout the building. 

Touch-screen displays are also used for wayfinding and advertising in malls, for point-of-sale in retail stores and to entertain and engage clients

Types, Sizes and Features

The primary differentiator of touch-screen displays is size. They can range from tablet-sized devices to full wall displays. Prices of 55-inch and smaller displays have been competitive for some time, but even 65-inch and larger displays have seen recent drops in price, says Abowd. Most 65-inch and larger displays now have ultra-high-definition resolution (3,840 by 2,160 pixels), she adds.

While smaller displays are more common in interactive kiosks or for retail point of sale, there’s also a fair amount of variety within industries and uses. 

For instance, Panera Bread offers small touch-screen display kiosks that customers can use to scroll through menus and build customized orders. McDonald’s has also begun to roll out self-serve ordering stations, but it’s using 55-inch displays. “You definitely don’t need your glasses,” says Abowd. 

Such implementations have been so successful that a growing number of fast food restaurants, including Subway and Wendy’s, have adopted display kiosks for ordering. Customers like scrolling through options to customize their meals, and since the displays offer self-service, more employees are able to work in the kitchen, speeding up the time used to prepare food.

Larger displays are commonly found in hospitals, college campuses and airports as interactive digital signs. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport uses large Samsung interactive monitors for wayfinding and advertisements. They’re also used as navigational tools on hospital and college campuses.

Entertainment and educational venues, such as museums, are beginning to implement very large touch-screen video walls to engage visitors. For instance, the observation deck of Seattle’s Space Needle features Skypad, a 135-foot digital video wall consisting of 15 Planar Clarity Matrix LCD displays that allow multiple users to engage with photos and information about the landmark’s history and features.

In addition to size, organizations need to choose the right brightness for their needs. Bright areas, such as a store with many windows or a display that faces the outside, generally require displays with 450 nits or higher. Outdoor displays should be at least 650 nits and be able to accommodate 24-7 brightness, according to Abowd. 

Finding the Right Angle 

Another consideration is viewing angles. Displays designed for multiple users, such as large meeting spaces, should enable viewing from multiple angles. For example, LG’s proprietary In-Plane Switching technology enables viewers to see the screen from virtually any location in a room, says Wicka.

The ability to shield outdoor displays against weather has improved in recent years, making them practical for more organizations. “You can put it anywhere you’ve got power and can protect it from theft,” says Enderle. Many displays are hardened to protect against damage and implement different tactics to lock them in place to prevent theft, he adds.

In the past, interactive displays were connected to computers, but now they are able to function independently. “You build on the intelligence of the display itself,” says Enderle. They’re also wireless, making them even easier to deploy.


Learn more about how CDW solutions and services can help your organization improve the power of its innovative video displays .
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