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IoT and Touchscreens

12 August 2016

Unless you’ve been sitting under a rock for the past 5 years you’ll have heard about IoT, or Internet of Things.

Simply put, IoT is a network of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other items that have been embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity to enable these objects to gather and exchange data.


The term was invented by Kevin Ashton, a British entrepreneur working with a network of objects connected by radio-frequency identification, or RFID. The intention was if all objects could be “tagged” and identified by computers, then they could be managed and inventoried. “Tagging” could be done through NFC (near field communication), barcodes and QR codes.

IoT as we now know it, goes beyond this initial idea and encompasses machine to machine communication, and the interconnection of embedded devices (including smart objects). It is expected to rapidly accelerate integration and automation in nearly all aspects of our daily lives.

Why is it useful?

As with any new technology its success will depend upon whether it makes something better (faster, cheaper, more efficient, easier to use, etc.), and if it improves on what’s already available. IoT should allow more connectivity between people, the machines they use at home, work and play, and the organisations and infrastructures that they rely upon.

IoT is expected to become an exceptionally powerful way to collect contextual (i.e. real time, in location) data and to present it for rapid analysis and use. As a result, people, companies and organisations will be able to tailor their services and products to individuals or groups as never before.

So, how could it be used?

Smart homes

Linking your kitchen and home appliances with IoT will allow you to remotely manage day to day activities more efficiently. For example, by connecting diverse appliances such as central heating systems, lighting, refrigerators and cookers, the IoT could enable you to keep track of when you will run out of food (and order more), reduce your gas and electricity bills (by only consuming utilities when they are required), and have a meal waiting for at whatever time you return from work.

Advances are already being made in home security, by linking small cameras and sensors around homes to connected devices, so it is now possible to monitor activity remotely, be notified of changes immediately via smartphone apps, and if necessary contacting the appropriate emergency service.


smartwatch-828786In the last couple of years there has been an enormous uptake of wearable technologies, such as fitness monitors and smart watches. More and more people are monitoring their physical health digitally, linking their device to apps monitoring heartrate, steps taken and calories burnt etc. Recently a man’s wearable tech was hailed as a hero, when doctors were able to diagnoses a serious medical condition based on the data collected by his device.




Smart Citiesalien-1294088_640

IoT could offer modern cities dwellers wide-ranging solutions for common problems and irritations. From improved traffic management, to efficient water distribution,
and from better waste management to environmental monitoring – easing traffic congestion reducing pollution (and improving air quality) and generally making city life cleaner, safer and more secure.

Connected cars

self-driving-carsWe’ve all had the dream; stress free travel as our car expertly weaves through traffic, finds its way home, and parks up all by its self, while you relax in the knowledge that everything is safely taken care of…

With the development of IoT, this dream of a self-driving car may be with us sooner than we think. The concept of the connected car is becoming more real everyday with major technology companies such as Google, Tesla, Uber, Microsoft, and Apple all investing vast amounts of money on its development. However we wouldn’t recommend you tear up your driving licence just yet, as governments are struggling to keep pace with the rapid pace of development and decide how self-driving cars, pedestrians and conventional vehicles can all co-exist safely on our roads, and then legislate accordingly.


Smart retail

Retailers and B2C (business to consumer) companies are likely to use IoT in new Targeted Proximity-based advertising; where companies can track people’s shopping and browsing habits to display relevant adverts based on this behaviour. For example: you use your smartphone to look on a store’s website at a product, but chose not to buy it. Using connected devices and beacon technology, the next time you pass the high-street retailer you might automatically receive an email or SMS, together with MBS - 164a discount coupon enticing you to make the purchase.

Stores will also be able to benefit from the masses of data produced by interactions instore and online to improve the customer’s in-store experience. Using sensors and sophisticated cameras to follow customers’ paths through a shop, and even track what they are looking at, retailers will be able to  optimise and tailor advertising to each individual consumer “real time”, ensure efficient product placement and even adjust store layout, getting the most from their “bricks and mortar” locations and increasing turn over.

It remains to be seen if consumers will appreciate this new development, or whether it will be regarded as a “creepy” step too far? Is Big Brother watching a little too closely perhaps?


So what does all this have to do with Touchscreens?

Human interaction will always be a big element in the success of IoT, and in the future we expect to see more advanced and intuitive interfaces on both personal and commercial devices.

Touch screen technology has grown to become the preeminent method for people to interface with technology, and projective capacitive sensing has in turn become the most widely used touch technology.


One of the main drawbacks of touchscreens (compared to mechanical buttons and switches) is the lack of tactile feedback. However, the latest generation of systems and devices are increasingly providing some level of affirmation of touch – either through a small vibration or tapping on the screen (from piezoelectric actuators beneath or around the screen), or in the case of more rigid touchscreens used in commercial devices such as kiosks, from “force” or pressure sensing. These screens react differently depending on the level of pressure a user applies to the screen, and with an intelligently design user interface, nearly as much feedback can be obtained from the touchscreen as a mechanical keyboard, often with some form of audible reaction.

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Multi touch

Multi-touch enabled devices are also allowing software and system designers to be able to create more compelling and intuitive user interfaces, particularly useful in the acquisition of data from multiple users, in public areas and social environments

Large format multi-touch screens and tables used in retail, leisure, business and educational applications encourage and enable an immersive, shared experience.

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Low cost computing

The surge in interest and uptake of relatively inexpensive and powerful single-board computers, such as Raspberry Pi and Beagle Boards is indicative of the shift from traditional PC’s to smaller, cheaper computing hardware for  higher volume, application specific, commercial applications, making them ideal for projects involved in connected devices and IoT. At the heart of these devices are Operating Systems such as Android and Linux. Consequently, it is crucial that any touchscreen interface for these simplified computers is capable of supporting such software.

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Contact us to discover more about our unique touchscreen technology and how it can be used in a variety of application and IoT projects.