Growth of the touch screen market – Interview

I was recently contacted by a journalist with a few questions about the growth and development of the touch screen market. Below is the list of questions and answers.

Q: How has the growth of touchscreens proceeded across different industry sectors (i.e. consumer electronics, retail, healthcare etc)? 

The growth of touch screens across the board has been prolific. This year, research firm, Display Search estimates that the market will grow by 90 percent to $13.4 billion; by 2017 the market will nearly double again to $23.9 billion. I mention these numbers to illustrate just how fast touch is growing. The demand for touch is greater than what manufacturers are able to supply.

A large portion of the touch market consists of consumer electronics, primarily mobile devices. In the coming years, however, we are going to see significant growth in the vertical markets, including transportation, military, medical, retail, and banking.  Some of the reasons that these markets are taking longer to adopt touch include:

1)      Product design times – design times for medical or transportation devices can be several years out, whereas consumer products are often continuously redesigned.

2)      Product lifecycles – products in some industries are expected to last a decade or more. Considering that the touch “experience” didn’t really start taking off until the iPhone in 2007, some markets like military and aerospace may just now be adopting touch.

3)      Cost – the cost to redesign and test equipment can be terribly expensive depending on the application – it has to be cost-effective for companies to introduce new technologies and products.

4)      The technologies need to be mature – when examining touch for a potential defibrillator, it is important for manufacturers to insure that the technology has all of the “bugs” worked out of it. By waiting until the technologies are mature, product manufacturers can see
what will be best for their application.

Right now there is certainly a strong emergence of touch in the vertical markets, most notably in retail, point of information, banking and hospitality, but not nearly to the degree of consumer electronics. We know that touch is going to continue to grow in non-consumer markets for many reasons, but primarily because 1) users have come to expect touch in everything, and 2) touch screens are a cost-effective tool for all applications because they are intuitive which reduces employee errors and improves efficiency.

Q: What new applications will the technology have in coming years? Are there any areas Touch International is particularly excited about (i.e. novel uses of touchscreen integration)? 

New applications are continuously being discovered for touch, which is one of the reasons adoption is going to continue to grow exponentially. You are going to see touch in everything from gas pumps and automobiles to surgical devices and cockpit navigation systems.

We are particularly excited about new innovations in the aerospace, military and medical industries since those markets makeup over 60 percent of our business. We have a unique position in the marketplace because we are able to design and build touch screens for markets that have a lot of regulatory requirements. Aerospace is especially exciting right now as they are bringing the “touch experience” into airplane cabins through inflight entertainment.

Also, to be able to help soldiers in the field and surgeons in the operating room save lives and do their jobs more effectively is
a great thing.

Q: What does the future hold for the ways in which we use touchscreen technology? What lies beyond touchscreens?

There are a lot of reasons to be excited about the future of touch, and one of the reasons is because touch screen applications are virtually endless. The touch industry follows the display market closely, so 3D and flexible touch screens are most certainly in our future. The concept of flexible touch screens curved into cool shapes and designs is really taking off; manufacturers are even building touch into t-shirts and watches. 3-D touch has the potential to be really incredible for a lot of industries and will very valuable for imaging applications like medical.

Beyond touch, things are going to transition into “touchless gestures” and voice driven programs. There is already a small amount of this in the market – touchless gestures will work similarly to the Microsoft Xbox Kinect where you will simply move your hands. As far as voice driven applications, an early example of this is Siri, the personal assistant app for Apple’s iPhone 4S.