How does a touch screen work?

A touch screen has three main components: a touch sensor, a controller, and a software driver. The touch screen itself is an input device, so it needs to be combined with a monitor and a PC to make a complete touch input system.

Touch Sensor

There are a number of touch screen technologies on the market today. Each uses a different method to sense touch input. Often these are a plastic or glass panel placed under the bezel of the LCD screen.

Click here to read more on the different touch technologies.

Touch Controller

The touch controller is a small PC card that connects between the touch sensor and the PC. It is usually installed inside the touch monitor. The touch monitor will have an extra cable connection on the back – usually USB or serial (RS-232) that connects directly to this board. The touch controller takes information from the touch sensor and translates it into information that the PC can understand.

Touch Screen Software Driver

Our touch screen monitors and kiosks are supplied with touch screen software drivers that allow the touch screen to emulate the left button click of a mouse.  Installing the software is usually a quick process consisting of running the installation file. Most users find that they simply accept the defaults, and installation normally just takes a few moments.

Once the touch screen driver software is installed, touching the screen is the same as clicking your mouse at the same point on the screen. This allows the touch screen to work with a vast amount of pre-existing mouse driven software. This also allows for simple development of new applications, because no additional code or knowledge is required to develop software for use with the touch screen. New touch screen applications can be developed in the same way as mouse driven software.  The touch screen can emulate left-clicks, double-clicking, and dragging. When the screen is touched, it is the same as if you used your mouse to move the pointer to that spot, and then clicked your left mouse button.

What to look for when buying a touch screen kiosk?

How many years of warranty am I going to get?

Warranty term is a very good indication of hardware quality. For most customers high up time is a key criterion in their buying decision. Be wary of kiosk manufacturers who only offer a 1 year warranty.

What type of touch screen technology is used?

Most reputable kiosk manufacturers use SAW, Capacitive or Infrared technology in their kiosk screens. Be wary of manufacturers who use resistive technology. This technology is cheaper, but their thin plastic screen overlay can be damaged easily by vandals cutting the screen or even by the cleaning crew using the wrong solutions. In addition to being easily damaged, the layers of plastic and glass mean that these screens have the worst optics.

Ensure that the kiosk can communicate your branding

The ability to brand a kiosk is essential in communicating the purpose of the kiosk as well as delivering your brand to your potential customers. Ideally a kiosk should also be able to be relatively easily re-branded should the need arise.
In addition, look for a kiosk whose look and feel is modern, clean and contemporary. A kiosk that is purely practical may not communicate the brand message that you want to convey.

Choose a desk-top box over a single board computer

Very small desk-top computers from major suppliers like Asus and Acer are hard to beat on price and performance. They have the advantage of being able to be configured according to your specifications so that you are not paying for features you don’t require. Even more importantly, they can come with the processing power that your application demands.
Up-time can also be much higher. Parts are generally available or else they can be quickly swapped over with a replacement machine. Be careful of single board computers (SBCs) which are only generally recommended where the kiosk design doesn’t have the space for a desk-top computer.

Ask for a printer with a presenter

Of all the components in a touch screen kiosk, the printer is the most likely to have technical problems, such as jamming. Reputable kiosk suppliers recommend printers for self-service applications that have a presenter. This feature stops the paper so that it isn’t visible to the customer until printing is complete. After the paper is cut, the presenter ejects the paper. This prevents customers from grabbing the paper while it is printing and potentially damaging the printer.
Thermal printers have few moving parts and are extremely dependable. The print heads are good for hundreds of thousands of prints, and the only part that needs to be replaced in the interim is the paper roll.

Find out how serviceable the touch screen kiosk is

No kiosk is 100 percent fail-safe, so you will require field service at some point. A kiosk should be designed to be easy to work on. You shouldn’t have to remove a bunch of parts from a kiosk for a simple maintenance call. Look inside the kiosk before you purchase it. Can parts be easily accessed? Well designed kiosks have a simple interior layout, with components that could even be swapped over by a relatively unskilled person.

Ask yourself what you feel about the touch screen kiosk design

Today’s kiosks must be attractive, inviting, easy to use and must create an emotional resonance with the user. If you don’t love the design, your customers probably won’t either, and if they don’t like it, they won’t want to use it.

Ask if you can come in and “kick the tyres”

Nobody has magic suppliers that can give them the best product for the cheapest prices. If it’s too cheap to believe, it probably is.
Visit your kiosk manufacturer and check the build quality.

  • Is the fit and finish right?
  • Do the doors close properly?
  • Generally, just by looking at items like keyboards and printers, you can tell when something doesn’t seem to be built to last.

The public can be tough on kiosks. Trying to save a dollar now might cost you many more dollars later due to broken hardware and down time.

Do I have to use my finger or can I use another pointing device with a touch screen?

This depends on the type of touch screen.

  • Resistive touch screens are pressure sensitive and will work with any type of input- finger, gloved hand, stylus, pen, or any pointing device.
  • Capacitive touch screens will only work with finger input.
  • SAW (surface acoustic wave) touch screens will work with finger input or soft-tipped stylus input. A SAW touch screen will not work with a hard tipped pen, but a soft-tip stylus will work.
  • Infrared touch screens will work with any type of input- finger, gloved hand, stylus, pen, or any pointing device. However, if a stylus or pen is used, in most cases it is recommended that the tip touching the screen should have a diameter of at least 4mm.

Please click here to read more on the differences between the different touch screen technologies available.

Which touch screen technology is best for me?

TouchScreen Solutions supplies all popular touch screen technologies. For most applications, if the budget allows we recommend infrared technology. Whilst this technology is more expensive to produce than others, it is generally a more robust and preferred solution.

Resistive Touch Screen Technology

Resistive touch screen technology consists of a glass or acrylic panel that is coated with electrically conductive and resistive layers. The thin layers are separated by invisible separator dots. When operating, an electrical current moves through the screen. When pressure is applied to the screen the layers are pressed together, causing a change in the electrical current and a touch is registered.

resistive-touch-screen-technology

Although clarity is less than with other touch screen types, resistive screens can be highly accurate and have the advantage of being pressure sensitive so it responds to any input device, including finger, gloved hand, or pen stylus

Resistive touch screen technology is the most cost effective technology on the market today. It is recommended when budgets do not allow more robust solutions.

Limitations of resistive touch screen technology:

  • Can be relatively easily damaged by scratching
  • Can be relatively easily damaged by poking
  • Can be relatively easily damaged by impact
  • Not recommended for public access applications
  • Requires periodic recalibration
  • Can wear through regular use over time

Resistive touch screen technology is the most cost effective technology on the market today. It is recommended when budgets do not allow more robust and time saving technologies. Please contact us if you require a budget touch screen solution and we will be glad to assist you.

Popular Brands that often use resistive touch screen technology:

  • LG
  • TSS

Capacitive Touch Screen Technology

Capacitive touch screen technology is a popular and durable technology that is used in a wide range of applications. It has a higher clarity than resistive technology, but it only responds to finger contact and will not work with a gloved hand or pen stylus. A capacitive touch screen consists of a glass panel with a capacitive (charge storing) material coating its surface. Circuits located at corners of the screen measure the capacitance of a person touching the overlay.

Capacitive-touch-screen-technology

Capacitive touch screen technology is often recommended to customers who would like the confidence of a brand name LCD such as NEC, which the capacitive touch screen would then be retrofitted to.

Limitations of capacitive touch screen technology:

  • Can not be used with a gloved hand
  • Can not be used with stylus
  • Requires periodic recalibration
  • Often retrofitted to standard non-touch LCD monitors which may not be as stable when touched
  • Not usually fitted to monitors when applications require dust, water, scratch or impact resistance

Popular Brands that often use capacitive touch screen technology:

  • 3M Microtouch

SAW Touch Screen Technology

Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW) touch screen technology is based on sending acoustic waves across a clear glass panel with a series of transducers and reflectors. When a finger touches the screen, the waves are absorbed, causing a touch event to be detected at that point.

SAW-touch-screen-technology

Like infrared technology, the panel is all glass, so there are no layers that can be worn, or damaged over time. This makes SAW touch screen technology highly durable and suitable for applications where high clarity is desired.

SAW touch screen technology is recommended for public information kiosks and other high traffic indoor environments.

In Australia SAW technology is usually one of the more expensive technologies. Since there are few applications where it is superior to infrared, infrared is more often the recommended solution where high durability and screen clarity is required.

Limitations of SAW Touch Screen Technology

  • Must be touched by finger, gloved hand, or soft-tip stylus. Something hard like a pen, credit card or finger nail won’t work
  • Can be affected by large amounts of dirt, dust, and / or water in the environment.
  • Relatively expensive in comparison to other technologies

Popular Brands that often use SAW Touch Screen Technology:

  • ELO

SAW touch screen technology is recommended for public information kiosks and other high traffic indoor environments. In Australia SAW technology is usually one of the more expensive technologies. Since there are few applications where it is superior to infrared, infrared is more often the recommended solution where high durability and screen clarity is required.

Infrared touch screen technology

Infrared technology uses a small frame around the display with LED’s and photo receptors hidden behind an infrared transparent bezel. The controller pulses the LED’s to create a grid of IR light beams. A touch obstructs the beams which identifies the X and Y coordinates.

infrared-touch-screen-technology

TouchScreen Solutions supplies all popular touch screen technologies. For most applications, if the budget allows we recommend infrared technology. Whilst this technology is more expensive to produce than others, it is generally a more robust and preferred solution.

Benefits of infrared technology:

  • Can be scaled to any size without losing resolution
  • Calibration stability – no touch point drift
  • High clarity and light transmission
  • High chemical, scratch, breakage, and liquid resistance
  • High sealability from dust and liquids
  • Touch can be activated by anything including finger, gloved hand, or stylus
  • High durability since a touch is only interrupting light beams

Popular brands that often use infrared touch screen technology:

  • Nexio
  • IBM
  • ELO
What to look for when buying a touch screen monitor?

How many years of warranty am I going to get?

Warranty term is a very good indication of hardware quality. For most customers high up time is a key criterion in their buying decision. Touch Screens come with very different life expectancies, and warranty term is the best indication of the manufacturer’s expectation of the life span of their product.

How sturdy is the stand when it is touched?

Often a touch screen is fitted as an after market product into a non touch LCD frame. Usually this results in a good end product. But one issue is that a non touch LCD frame is not built to be as solid when touched as a purpose built touch screen frame. When the screen is touched it may rock or wobble a little. Test it to see if this is an important consideration.

What type of touch screen technology is used?

There are many types of touch screen technology on the market, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Your touch screen supplier should ask you about your application, and should be able to give you a clear explanation of why the technology that they are recommending is the best solution for your application.

Where have the touch screens been sold?

Some touch screens are much more robust than others. And one style of touch screens may suit an environment more than another. Ask your touch screen supplier what the other companies in your industry have purchased.Ask if you can have a short term free evaluation A reputable touch screen supplier who is confident of his product may be willing to offer a free 7 day trial of their product. This is likely to only be on their main product lines that they hold plenty of stock of. This can be especially important if you are buying over the internet, or phone or larger volume purchase sight unseen.

What kiosk certifications are required in Australia?

Manufacturers or importers of touch screen kiosks in Australia are required by law to comply with EMC and Radio Communications compliance labelling using the C-Tick mark.

TouchScreen Solutions touch screen kiosks comply with their relevant  product standards and TouchScreen Solutions displays the C-Tick on all of their touch screen kiosk labels.

Complete Touch Screen Software & Hardware Solutions

TouchScreen Solutions is able to assist you with full touch screen monitor and kiosk solutions including hardware, software, installation and support in the areas below, either directly or through our network of software partners.

Some of the solutions that we can assist you with include:

  • Club Solutions
    • Loyalty software
    • Membership solutions
    • Honour boards
    • Computerised Photo Identification Systems
  • Custom Kiosks
  • Data Collection
  • Directory / Wayfinding
  • Education hardware solutions
    • Large format touch screen alternatives to whiteboards / smartboards
    • Stands and trolleys to suit
    • Robust touch screen monitors
  • Education software solutions for students with
    • learning difficulties,
    • communication impairments
    • various disabilities
  • Hair Dressing Salon Solutions
  • Industrial Solutions
    • Robust Monitors
    • Robust Kiosks
    • Hardware suitable for gloved use,
    • Dust resistant touch screens
    • Water resistant touch screens
    • Smoke resistant touch screens
    • Chemical resistant touch screens
    • Impact resistant touch screens
  • Interactive Digital Advertising
  • Interactive Product Portfolios
  • Lead Collection
    • Contact detail collection
    • Pre-screening
    • Question programming
  • Marketing & Promotions
  • Museum Solutions
    • Standard Kiosks
    • Custom Kiosks
    • Touch Screen Monitors for public locations
    • Large touch screen monitors
  • OH&S including
    • On site Registration,
    • Work tracking
    • OH&S obligation checklists
  • Photo Kiosk
  • Quizzes
    • Software
    • On site survey collection
  • Retirement Villages and Nursing Homes
  • Surveys
    • Software
    • On site survey collection
  • Tourism
    • Visitor information centres
  • Trade Show Kiosks
    • Rent
    • Purchase
  • Visitor Registration and Name Badges
Capacitive Touch Screen Technology

Capacitive touch screen technology is a popular and durable technology that is used in a wide range of applications. It has a higher clarity than resistive technology, but it only responds to finger contact and will not work with a gloved hand or pen stylus. A capacitive touch screen consists of a glass panel with a capacitive (charge storing) material coating its surface. Circuits located at corners of the screen measure the capacitance of a person touching the overlay.

Capacitive-touch-screen-technology

Capacitive touch screen technology is often recommended to customers who would like the confidence of a brand name LCD such as NEC, which the capacitive touch screen would then be retrofitted to.

Limitations of capacitive touch screen technology:

  • Can not be used with a gloved hand
  • Can not be used with stylus
  • Requires periodic recalibration
  • Often retrofitted to standard non-touch LCD monitors which may not be as stable when touched
  • Not usually fitted to monitors when applications require dust, water, scratch or impact resistance

Popular Brands that often use capacitive touch screen technology:

  • 3M Microtouch

Please contact us to discuss if capacitive touch screen technology is the right technology for your application.

Resistive Touch Screen Technology

Resistive touch screen technology consists of a glass or acrylic panel that is coated with electrically conductive and resistive layers. The thin layers are separated by invisible separator dots. When operating, an electrical current moves through the screen. When pressure is applied to the screen the layers are pressed together, causing a change in the electrical current and a touch is registered.

resistive-touch-screen-technology

Although clarity is less than with other touch screen types, resistive screens can be highly accurate and have the advantage of being pressure sensitive so it responds to any input device, including finger, gloved hand, or pen stylus

Resistive touch screen technology is the most cost effective technology on the market today. It is recommended when budgets do not allow more robust solutions.

Limitations of resistive touch screen technology:

  • Can be relatively easily damaged by scratching
  • Can be relatively easily damaged by poking
  • Can be relatively easily damaged by impact
  • Not recommended for public access applications
  • Requires periodic recalibration
  • Can wear through regular use over time

Popular Brands that often use resistive touch screen technology:

  • LG
  • TSS

Please contact us to discuss if resistive touch screen technology is the right solutions for your requirements.

SAW Touch Screen Technology

Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW) touch screen technology is based on sending acoustic waves across a clear glass panel with a series of transducers and reflectors. When a finger touches the screen, the waves are absorbed, causing a touch event to be detected at that point.

Like infrared technology, the panel is all glass, so there are no layers that can be worn, or damaged over time. This makes SAW touch screen technology highly durable and suitable for applications where high clarity is desired.

SAW-touch-screen-technology

SAW touch screen technology is recommended for public information kiosks and other high traffic indoor environments.

In Australia SAW technology is usually one of the more expensive technologies. Since there are few applications where it is superior to infrared, infrared is more often the recommended solution where high durability and screen clarity is required.

Limitations of SAW Touch Screen Technology

  • Must be touched by finger, gloved hand, or soft-tip stylus. Something hard like a pen, credit card or finger nail won’t work
  • Can be affected by large amounts of dirt, dust, and / or water in the environment.
  • Relatively expensive in comparison to other technologies

 

Popular Brands that often use SAW Touch Screen Technology:

  • ELO

Please contact us to discuss your if SAW touch screen technology is the right technology for your application.

Infrared touch screen technology

Infrared technology uses a small frame around the display with LED’s and photo receptors hidden behind an infrared transparent bezel. The controller pulses the LED’s to create a grid of IR light beams. A touch obstructs the beams which identifies the X and Y coordinates.

infrared-touch-screen-technology

TouchScreen Solutions supplies all popular touch screen technologies. For most applications, if the budget allows we recommend infrared technology. Whilst this technology is more expensive to produce than others, it is generally a more robust and preferred solution.

Benefits of infrared technology:

  • Can be scaled to any size without losing resolution
  • Calibration stability – no touch point drift
  • High clarity and light transmission
  • High chemical, scratch, breakage, and liquid resistance
  • High sealability from dust and liquids
  • Touch can be activated by anything including finger, gloved hand, or stylus
  • High durability since a touch is only interrupting light beams

Popular brands that often use infrared touch screen technology:

  • Nexio
  • IBM
  • ELO

Please contact us to discuss if infra-red technology is the best solution for your requirements.

What is “multi touch” touch screen technology?

Most touch screens can only respond to one touch at a time. There is a new technology now available called “multi touch” that enables some screens to detect multiple touches at the same time. This can create exciting and new applications, particularly in the areas of flicking, touch and hold, panning, zooming and rotating.

TouchScreen Solutions can supply touch screens that work with Windows 7 gestures “Plug and Play.

Please contact us to discuss your requirements further if this is of interest to you.

Can a touch screen be used to browse a website?

Yes. Because the touch screen LCD’s and kiosks that we offer emulate a mouse, they will work with standard Web browsers such as Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer.

There are also special touch screen Web browsers available such as http://www.kioware.com that are called Lockdown or Secure browsers. These are particularly useful when you want to allow web-based content to be easily displayed in public spaces. Using these browsers will enable you to restrict which web sites can be viewed, restrict users from exiting the browser and include touch screen friendly controls.

Please note though that websites not specifically written for a touch screen may be fiddly for the user to comfortably browse. A finger is not quite as precise as a mouse and it is usually recommended that buttons on a touch application be larger in size than what may normally be used with a mouse. If this is not done users may need to touch the screen a number of times before they click on the right point.

In addition, if data input such as names and numbers need to be inputted, the website designer may need to set up a virtual on-screen keyboard such as http://www.virtual-keyboard.com.

Please note that TouchScreen Solutions is not responsible for the downloading use or support of http://www.virtual-keyboard.com  or http://www.kioware.com.

Please read our more detailed hints list on designing touch screen software.

Please contact us to discuss your requirements further.

Do you have any tips on designing a touch screen software application?

Whilst a touch screen emulates a mouse, and theoretically will work in most applications that work with a mouse, the following may also be helpful:

  • Remember that your finger is larger than a mouse pointer. Design your buttons large enough and spaced far enough apart for a finger to touch easily.
  • Include a graphical or audio response to each touch. This will indicate to the user that his/her touch was accepted and will not leave the user confused.
  • Try to make navigation simple. Limit choices and consider if you can avoid using scroll bars, drop-down menus and double-clicks.. This will make it as easy as possible for the user.
  • Try to offer as much on-screen assistance as possible.
  • Minimise the amount of text- the fewer words, the more likely the user is to engage the kiosk.
  • Keep the easy decisions at the beginning – difficult or complicated questions should be saved for the end. If the first thing the user sees is a question they don’t know how to complete, they may be reluctant to even begin the interactive process.
  • Bright backgrounds will hide fingerprints more than a black background would.

Please contact us to discuss your requirements further.

Can anyone design custom software that will work with a touch screen?

Yes. Because the screen emulates standard mouse functions, you can use the same programming methods that you would use to program for a mouse. For example, if you place buttons or images on a form, responding to a touch screen click will be the same as responding to a mouse click.

Please note though that software not specifically written for a touch screen may be fiddly for the user to comfortably browse. A finger is not quite as precise as a mouse and it is usually recommended that buttons on a touch application be larger in size than what may normally be used with a mouse. If this is not done users may need to touch the screen a number of times before they click on the right point.

Please click here for more hints on designing touch screen software

Please contact us to discuss your requirements further.

How does a touch screen interface with a PC?

Our touch screen monitors and kiosks generally interface to a PC via a USB connection, although in many cases a serial port (RS-232) connection option is available. The USB version is always the default option, so please be sure to specify it if a serial port solution is required.

What operating systems do your touch screens work with?

We have touch screen monitors and kiosks that will work with most common operating systems, including DOS, Windows 3.1/95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP/Vista, Macintosh OS, and Linux. Please note that not all touch screens will work with each of these operating systems. If you are not planning to use your touch screen with Windows XP please be sure to check with us that the solution you purchase will work with your preferred operating system.

What is a touch screen software driver and how does it work?

Our touch screen monitors and kiosks are supplied with touch screen software drivers that allow the touch screen to emulate the left button click of a mouse.  Installing the software is usually a quick process consisting of running the installation file. Most users find that they simply accept the defaults, and installation normally just takes a few moments.

Once the touch screen driver is installed, touching the screen is the same as clicking your mouse at the same point on the screen. This allows the touch screen to work with a vast amount of pre-existing mouse driven software. This also allows for simple development of new applications, because no additional code or knowledge is required to develop software for use with the touch screen. New touch screen applications can be developed in the same way as mouse driven software.  The touch screen can emulate left-clicks, double-clicking, and dragging. When the screen is touched, it is the same as if you used your mouse to move the pointer to that spot, and then clicked your left mouse button.

Does a touch screen require any special software to operate?

Our touch screen monitors and kiosks are supplied with touch screen software drivers that allow the touch screen to emulate the left button click of a mouse.  Installing the software is usually a quick process consisting of running the installation file. Most users find that they simply accept the defaults, and installation normally just takes a few moments.

Once the touch screen driver is installed, touching the screen is the same as clicking your mouse at the same point on the screen. This allows the touch screen to work with a vast amount of pre-existing mouse driven software. This also allows for simple development of new applications, because no additional code or knowledge is required to develop software for use with the touch screen. New touch screen applications can be developed in the same way as mouse driven software.  The touch screen can emulate left-clicks, double-clicking, and dragging. When the screen is touched, it is the same as if you used your mouse to move the pointer to that spot, and then clicked your left mouse button.

Can I use my mouse and keyboard simultaneously along with a touch screen?

Yes, our touch screen monitors and kiosks are designed to work along with a mouse, and/or keyboard regardless of whether they use a PS/2 or USB connection.

Can a touch screen respond to more than one touch at the same time?

Most touch screens can only respond to one touch at a time. Some touch screens will average together multiple touches, causing the mouse cursor to move to a position between the points touched. Other touch screens will accept the first touch and then ignore simultaneous touches.

There is a new technology now available called “multi touch” that enables some screens to detect multiple touches at the same time. This can create exciting and new applications, particularly in the areas of dragging multiple items around a screen at the same time. “Multi touch” touch screen technology no longer emulates a left mouse click, so some programming may be required.

Can my current monitor or laptop be upgraded to a touch screen?

There are external add on touch screens that some companies sell that hang over an existing laptop or LCD screen and convert it into a touch screen. TouchScreen Solutions has seen many customers disappointed with the results of these solutions and does not sell or recommend them. Many customers complain to us that these add on touch screens are awkward to use and can be easily damaged, and that they regret that they hadn’t ordered a fully integrated touch screen in the first place.

We do supply a robust add on touch screen for large monitors 32” and larger. In these sizes it is feasible developing custom add on touch screens that are measured to fit around the frame of the LCD or plasma monitor. Secured with solid brackets and/or straps these solutions are designed to be long term, robust solutions.

Typical benefits from using a Touch Screen

Touch screen applications can bring many benefits to your business.

Please contact us to discuss a solution that may help you achieve some of the benefits below:

  • Labour Savings
  • Robust Data Entry
  • Intuitive Data Entry
  • Enhanced interactive information
  • Unattended self-serve 24/7 operation
  • Up-to-date information
  • Improved customer service
  • Convenient access to information
  • Generate additional business