Q&A Session with Mil/Aero Sales Engineer James Hunt

What excites you most about diving into touch screen manufacturing?Mil/Aero Sales Engineer James Hunt
The touch screen industry itself is exciting because one can relate to the various applications in everyday life. Almost everywhere we go we encounter touch screens – supermarket, bank, doctor’s office, casinos, airport – the list is virtually endless.

In terms of touch screen manufacturing, it is interesting because every solution is different and comes with unique considerations and challenges. For the military, the important touch screen attributes are generally high optical performance and high reliability. Other segments require high volume and low cost. We encounter a wide array of needs and requirements that often vary by industry or application.

Another exciting aspect of Touch International right now is our improvement plan to the Austin facility. We have undertaken facility upgrades which include a new clean room, and are implementing processes to transfer our company into a lean organization which will ultimately better serve our customers.

What role do you see Touch International playing within the Mil/Aero market space?
Our role is not only to provide products to this market but also to help our customers find solutions throughout the concept, development, prototype and volume production stages. This process is even more important for the military/aerospace segment because of higher standards invoked on products from a reliability, performance, and traceability perspective. We see ourselves as a key custom solution supplier for these market segments.

Where do you think military electronics are headed in 2012 and beyond?
In terms of traditional military platforms, we expect to see some contraction in the electronics market. Having said this, Touch International does see opportunities in the existing platforms as well as new technologies being implemented in the same sector.

I do anticipate seeing a rise in the deployment of touch technology in military applications. Touch technology has proven itself to be highly versatile, and applications for touch screen devices are virtually countless. Although touch screen electronics have been in the mainstream for quite some time, military devices take a little bit longer to develop.

While there are many military applications for touch technology, one of the most obvious is the ability to communicate through mobile phones and touchpads. In recent weeks, US government agencies and contractors have publicized the development of secure software run on Android-based touch screen devices to be deployed to soldiers in the field. By providing soldiers with this kind of touch-enabled device, classified information containing the location of infantry or potentially dangerous areas can be sent directly to the soldier on a digital map.

This breakthrough is just one example of how touch screens are becoming a requirement in military electronics and provide key advantages in the field. Whether it is a large-format touch screen being used to view maps at a regional command post, or one of the thousands of hand-held devices used in the field for communication, or part of the control panel inside of an MRAP vehicle, the possibilities for touch technology in military electronics are virtually endless and will enjoy growth across the board.

What is Touch International working on right now in terms of military solutions?
The military is always seeking to have the best-trained soldiers, using the best equipment and the latest technologies to accomplish its mission. To that end, our goal is to provide award-winning touch screen and LCD enhancement solutions that meet these needs. In 2012 Touch International is focused on building sunlight readable displays with EMI shielding and a full bond to LCD solution; this solution provides optimal visibility in changing light conditions, noise suppression to remain undetected, and a ruggedized display to ensure accuracy even during challenging environments.

Touchscreens: What’s the latest in the touch screen market?

Curious about what’s happening with touch technology? A lot, as it turns out. If you’ve been in the touch industry for any length of time, you know that there is NO perfect touch technology, so it’s important to evaluate the application requirements and understand the strengths and limitations of the technologies in question.

Touch International was recently interviewed in Touchscreens: What’s the latest? which provides great insight into the touch screen market. Take a look!

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, the 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 ensure 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 the 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 make up 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 in-flight 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.