Forget dull and static presentations; today it’s all about interactivity, creativity, teamwork and collaboration – in business and in education. And the tool that more and more are using to achieve this is the interactive flat panel display (IFPD).
According to research company Futuresource Consulting, IFPDs have now taken over from interactive whiteboards (IWB) as the optimum interface for multimedia presentations, video conferencing, brainstorming and collaboration on
Commenting on figures from Q2 2015, Colin Messenger, senior market analyst at Futuresource, said: “The surge of IFPDs from IWBs continues. In half of the 67 countries we track, IFPDs now make up 20% of sales. In 17 countries it is well over 50% and in the UK, one of the most advanced countries, it has grown to 80%.”
The move away from interactive whiteboards has also been noted by Lucy Meredith, product marketing specialist at Panasonic Visual System Solutions. She said: “Whilst interactive whiteboards are still used today, engaging minds and creating more interactive meetings, we have seen that interactive screens are now dominating the market. Interactive display screens are making it easier than ever to bring interactivity and content sharing.”
One reason for this change is that projector-based solutions were always much the cheaper option, but as felt panels have become more affordable, IFPDs have become a viable choice for more people. In addition, IFPDs overcome some of the disadvantages associated with IWBs and projectors, such as shadows thrown on-screen.
For Chris Parker, Senior Product Manager at Sharp Business Systems, the key reason for this shift is the superior performance of IFPDs. He said: “IFPDs have grown significantly in recent years. In fact, many older, projector-based IWB technologies are now being replaced with IFPDs. The fact is that IWBs have historically been projector-orientated and do not offer the same performance and reliability as a flt panel display. They cannot compete.”
Sharp has worked closely with several educational establishments on the replacement of old, projector-based systems, among them Caister Junior School near Great Yarmouth, which has swapped its projectors and interactive whiteboards for 12 Sharp BIG PADs.
Parker points out that the school was attracted by the interactive touchscreens’ ability to produce great quality images, even in daylight, and by their reliable long-term operation. “The school had previously used projectors with interactive touch screens but were looking for something with better resolution that offered an intuitive teaching aid that displayed content with a high degree of clarity,” he said.
Collaboration is a key trend for businesses today and interactive displays need to facilitate and support it. To this end, some vendors offer integrated touch displays with built-in speakers and cameras for video conferencing. Others have embraced the ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) trend by developing solutions that allow multiple participants in a meeting to connect their wireless devices and share content with others for easy collaboration and teamwork.
NEC DisplayNote software, for example, allows you to present wirelessly from your tablet and send content from your computer to any connected device in the meeting room. You can annotate over any kind of media, take and save notes, send messages and even conduct voting.
Multi-touch is another feature that fosters true collaboration, by enabling more than one person to touch and/or write on the screen simultaneously. Even gesturing or zooming in with a finger pinch requires multi-touch functionality and this is vital if you are live editing a document, says Sharp’s Parker.
“Increasingly, we are seeing users expect their display screens to behave in the same way as their smartphones and tablets. Today’s workforce is made up of digital natives who have grown up around touch-screen technology, so they will expect their working environment to reflect this. Poor touch response or difficult-to-use equipment is a huge turn-off,” he said.
Whilst multi-touch is important for collaboration, even more important is connectivity, says Panasonic’s Meredith. “Being able to work without connecting to a PC and having the ability to easily send content direct from the display are definitely some of the most important features for encouraging group collaboration,” she said.
Is bigger better?
The needs of businesses are changing, and some want more than the traditional meeting room has generally offered. For example, common screen sizes for interactive displays in meeting rooms are 55’’ or 65’’, but now there is growing demand for larger screens. Manufacturers have responded by introducing larger models, such as the 80’’ BIG PAD (PN-80TC3) from Sharp and NEC’s 90’’ (E905SST) and 98’’ (X981UHD SST) interactive flt panel displays.
Daniela Dexheimer, product manager solutions, Marketing & Business Development, NEC Display Solutions Europe, says that the trend for larger screen sizes has gone hand in hand with demand for higher resolutions. “For a lot of corporate customers, Full HD is not enough any more. They are starting to ask for UHD resolution. Especially with interactive screen devices, where the user stands close to the display, higher screen resolution becomes important.”
She adds that for businesses that truly believe bigger is better there is always the option to utilise a whole wall. “Interactivity no longer stops at one single interactive display or projector. Some corporates are looking into edge-blended projectors or even touch video walls to create one big interactive surface. Companies with a focus on creative work love the idea of a space which becomes their ‘pulsing hub’ fostering all their creative talent.”
At the same time, the emergence of smaller spaces for meetings, so called ‘huddle rooms’, has created demand for smaller screens, like the 40-inch DigiEasel interactive display launched last year by InFocus.
Commenting at the time of its release, Robert Detwiler, product marketing manager at InFocus, said: “We’ve all used big paper easels or dirty, old whiteboards in corners of the office or little huddle rooms when we’ve needed to spend a few minutes strategising, brainstorming or confiming plans. DigiEasel’s digital whiteboard lets you skip the search for a marker and instead lets you save your written notes to reference later and do so much more – just try surfing the Web on a giant pad of paper.”
In addition, manufacturers are seeing unique applications for IWBs/ IFPDs outside the office or classroom. Medical students at Queen’s University Belfast have transformed the dissection room of the Medical Biology Centre with Panasonic LFB70 series LCD displays that enable students to watch live demonstrations on screen.
Chris Parker of Sharp Business Systems tells of a recent request from a building company for an interactive whiteboard or interactive flt panel display for one of its building sites. “The purpose was for architects and contractors to examine drawings and plans and work together more collaboratively to confim building-site decisions. This was to be housed in a Portakabin, which is quite unusual!”
Steljes, the leading distributor of interactive technology, sees many different applications across all industry sectors. Group marketing director Natalie Harris-Briggs draws attention to the benefits of visual collaboration in the AEC sector, particularly for building and product design.
She said: “Introducing the latest interactive technology significantly reduces the different steps in the building design process. Designers can access the BIM software and bring the drawing up on an interactive screen in high resolution, and make any mark-ups with digital ink. One of the obvious benefits, aside from the quality of the visuals, is that every team member involved in the project, including those in different locations and on site, can interact and amend the digital content at the same time, and in real time.”
As businesses move away from projector-based interactive whiteboards, interactive displays are proving to be a versatile technology with useful applications in a variety of industries. Used well, they can create engaging and interactive spaces, even in specialist environments.