Walking through the halls of ISE you could be forgiven for thinking the event had been rebranded the Interactive Screen Exhibition. With so many options on display what should you look for when deciding on interactive LFD?
At the tail end of last year, the global flat panel market delivered little more than flat performance. The Q4 statistics from Futuresource Consulting showed 1.1 million units shipped in the quarter falling 4.6% quarter-on-quarter, but across the year as a whole growth was 7.18% year-on-year. Given the continuing recession in many European markets, growth figures of better than 7% is not bad – but nothing compared to growth in sales of interactive displays last year.
The Futuresource figures include both interactive whiteboards and interactive flat panel displays, but nonetheless, growth of 22% year-on-year, suggests that something significant is happening. While Asia was the driving force behind the worldwide growth, but EMEA also experienced its largest quarter ever in terms of sales, achieving 44% year-on-year growth. Sales by Vestel pushed up the EMEA total with shipments completed for phase one of the Fatih tender. Russia also had huge sales in the quarter.
The UK market for interactive displays reported a respectable 10% growth in 2012. This was significant because it was the first growth year for the UK in seven years. Futuresource confirms that interactive flat panel displays are starting to take market share from interactive whiteboards in the education sector. The rise of collaboration and integration with touch screen mobile drivers.
The total market for interactive whiteboards, interactive flat panels and interactive projectors within education and corporate sectors is forecast to reach 1.5 million by 2015, and so we are right at the bottom of the growth curve. The scale of the opportunity in the corporate space is colossal, with over 67 million meeting rooms worldwide – this segment of the corporate market alone is twice the scale of school classrooms. With no adoption of any specific technology or brand, the market is open to be taken.
While Sahara had a successful year in 2012 with its Clevertouch interactive LFDs in education, the corporate market for interactive displays is forecast to be the fastest growing sector, increasing to 24% by 2016. This growth will be in the more developed markets like the USA, the UK, Germany and Sweden. Applications, like collaborative group working that demands interactivity, are obvious candidates for growth, but the rapid acceptance of the touch interface by consumers is driving a transition in public displays and digital signage.
Stuart Holmes, CEO of PSCo Group, believes that touch and gesture will be the agents of change for his entire product portfolio: “Sales of interactive large-format displays are growing significantly and we anticipate that by the end of 2014 every single display we supply, whether video wall or large format single panel, will have interactive and digital engagement capabilities. How or if these displays use this functionality will largely depend on what they are being used for and the thought behind the interactive media design and content creation.”
Holmes believes that, while the potential for integration with other technologies is at a very early stage of development, the impact of these technologies will be profound; “From touch and gesture control, to integration with social media from location-based services via smart phones to augmented reality and from Quick Codes to NFC-enabled mobile transactions, interactivity is changing the way businesses and organisations use displays. The technology is here and is evolving all the time but content, software development and campaign creativity will very much lead the way in the advancement of interactive deployment.”
The dedicated souls that walked the whole of ISE would have been overwhelmed by the choice of interactive displays on offer. The major LFD vendors, many of which have been losing out to the interactive whiteboard in the education sector, now feel they have something to say to that sector. The scale of Samsung’s presence, for example, was significant at both BETT and ISE.
The commitment of the CE brands to the education, digital signage and corporate collaboration markets is matched by the determination of the interactive specialists to hold on and develop their customer bases. The result is a plethora of choices to resellers, integrators and their customers. So how does the buyer choose?
Holmes says: “As LFD specialists we offer a broad selection of interactive LFDs from leading manufacturers such as Samsung, NEC and Panasonic, with a mix of sizes and individual product features appropriate for different applications. When considering interactive LFD options it’s most important to determine what the end client is trying to achieve, in which application environment and on what budget.”
“When evaluating the many interactive LFD products, companies should look for reliability to ensure dependable performance and durability for touch accuracy and repeatability. They should try to avoid over complicating or over specifying and understand what content is going to be running on the display for what purpose.”
“They should also consider what touch input technology is most suitable for their application. For example, an electronic pen offers articulate input method for writing, drawing and connecting people in training and presentation situations in education and in business settings, while multi-touch technology is ideal for multi-user collaboration in design houses or for assisted-selling in retail outlets. Broadcast is another sector that is leading the way in interactive LFD deployment. Panasonic’s 103” interactive plasma was used during the US election. The 103” TH-103PB1, the largest interactive display on the market, and will be available from April 2013.”
PSCo has one of the few facilities in the UK where resellers and their customers can make a side-by-side comparison of displays from a variety of vendors. “At out Reading Assessment Centre,” explains Holmes, “we offer partners the chance to view all these products close up. Away from all tradeshow hysteria, where it can be hard to see the wood from the trees, they can discuss their goals and we can assist by suggesting appropriate technology options, providing advice around the creative, technological and physical considerations of an interactive large display solution.”
If there was one interactive application for LFDs that had a greater presence than any other at ISE this year, it had to be the ‘virtual dressing room’ for fashion retail (to see a demonstration of NEC Display Solutions’ Swivel see the AV News’ ISE highlights video on our home page). Using gesture control shoppers could select from a range of garments and accessories to ‘try on’ to see what they world look like on screen.
Sharp also demonstrated retail applications in the Sharp Boutique at ISE. A virtual dressing room application being used by a well-known clothing boutique let customers try on clothing, and while looking at what appears to be a large mirror. The customer can change the colour of the apparel in real time. A similar application let customers try on clothing with a delayed view, helping to solve the problem of how the fit looks from a 360 degree perspective.
Other applications include use of Sharp interactive displays as electronic concierges at a prominent worldwide hotel chain, in-store interactive countertop applications perfectly suited for the cosmetic and other retail industries, and video wall content designed for the 9/11 Museum as part of Sharp’s sponsorship of the project.
While the education market holds huge potential for interactive LFDs as panel prices fall, the corporate collaboration market is less price sensitive. Consequently, collaborative solutions are high on the hit list of the major LFD vendors, with most choosing to show integration with mobile devices at ISE. InFocus showed the next products in its Mondopad range, including a black box (seen pictured below with a prototype of the forthcoming ‘Mondo phone’. The box turns any interactive LFD into a Mondopad.
While not at ISE, Smart Technologies has been selected by Microsoft as one of the software giant’ partners to bring to market a collaborative room solution based around Lync. The SMART Room System was unveiled by Steljes at UC Expo. Sam Baker, head of product management at Steljes, believes that access to the community of Microsoft Lync users will accelerate adoption of interactive collaboration:
“The business case for deploying Steljes’ unified, collaborative meeting room solutions is compelling. Companies are seeing a return on investment within months. It is not just the reduction in costs, time and travel but the ability to improve the speed at which the business can respond increases dramatically and companies are seeing this as a real competitive edge.”
Interactive LFDs: spoilt for choice?
Surveying the market for interactive LFDs a year ago would have produced a fairly lean crop unless you were willing to entertain the idea of custom fitting an overlay. Overlays were never really all that popular with the corporate market, for reasons that nobody really understood.
On the strength of the ISE 2013 showing, there will be no shortage of choice of interactive LFDs going forward. Among the interactive specialists, UK market leaders Sahara showed its new 70-inch CleverLED which offers a sufficiently large canvas for both education and collaboration applications. The bundled Lynx software is proving increasingly popular among education users.
Rivals CTOUCH also showed a 70-inch LFD, this time with 32 touch points, OPS compatibity and shown at ISE 2013 in a static table configuration. This will complement the existing. Leddura LED range which is designed to be connected to a laptop or PC. All models are Plug and Play, with no need to install drivers on Windows, MAC or Linux. The range supports a minimum of 4 points of touch (10 points available) for tap; drag and flick touch actions on digital signs and information points.
Every CTOUCH display ships with a 3 user licence of the Ctools Plus interactive annotation software. A DisplayNote Presenter licence is also provided that allows for collaboration with iPad and Android tablets, laptops, PCs and smartphones. CTOUCH displays are being used in retail environments for way finding, advertising and interactive signage. An interesting adaptation is the giant iTab which replicates consumer’s experience of tablet/smartphone apps on a large screen in a retail store.
CTOUCH was one of two vendors showing 84-ich interactive LFDs running 4K LG also showed educational applications on an interactive 84-inch UHD display but this is unlikely to become a viable education purchase for a very long time. Of perhaps more immediate interest, LG showed LFDs that were not only interactive but also transparent. The display was shown integrated into a vending machine.
Philips Public Displays had a new 55-inch interactive LFD. The BDT5535GS has up to 32 touch points, and was shown in a height adjustable table configuration. Tilting it into an upright position turns it into a multi-user touch kiosk. Users were invited to select brochures from the screen of the Philips Brochure Selector BDT4785EK and have them sent to them to their email inbox.
BenQ added to its interactive LFD portfolio with a new 65-inch dual touch screen. Currently holding second place in terms of UK market share, BenQ’s partnership with Steljes has been successful in the education market. The new 65-inch LED display, the TL650, is being positioned as an interactive whiteboard replacement, and it can be paired with SMART Notebook to maintain a familiar user interface.
Among the smaller format displays, ViewSonic announced the availability of its 23” Windows 8 certified display – the TD2340. This has 10-point projected capacitive touch technology and features a professional grade IPS panel with 1920×1080 full HD resolution and a 20,000,000:1 Dynamic Contrast Ratio. 3M has also gone down the Projected Capacitive (PCAP) route for a new range of interactive tables and displays with options including a 32-inch display, a 46-inch multi-touch table and a 55-inch multi-touch vertical display.
Going forward, resellers and integrators will have a wide choice of screen sizes, resolutions and formats – and the choice doesn’t end there. The fact is that just about any LFD can be retrofitted with interactive capabilities. Christie addressed the issue of adding interactivity to a standard display with its Interactivity Kit, launched at ISE 2013. This is primarily designed to add multitouch functionality to MicroTiles, but can be used with most LFDs.
The modular and scalable Christie Interactivity Kit can be configured into 84 different sizes and handle anything from a 3 x 1 up to a 16 x 6 Christie MicroTiles array, or a 12 square metre video wall. Joe Graziano, market development manager for Christie MicroTiles in EMEA explained:
“Setting up interactivity for large-format digital displays can be a custom design process that’s complex, expensive, slow and cumbersome. Sometimes the touch technology doesn’t offer the desired level of performance in terms of the number, accuracy or responsiveness of touch points. The Christie Interactivity Kit changes all that. Complexity and reliability are no longer a concern as the technology is there to create a bespoke interactive experience with a large-format display.”
Combined with ShadowSense technology, the Christie Interactivity Kit then lets multiple users interact simultaneously with a rectangular video wall, with the resolution and speed needed to support all finger-based gestures accurately. This opens up a range of new applications, including point of information and wayfinding.