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Interactive Digital Signage: Touch Screens Poised for Dramatic Growth

A friend of mine recently upgraded his cell phone to an HTC EVO running the Android operating system and proudly was showing me how he accessed his contacts, apps and the Internet by touching the handsome screen on the mobile computer. Not to be outdone, I couldn't resist pulling my Apple iPhone from my pocket and demonstrating its big, bright screen with the same type of touch screen interface.

My encounter with my friend points out just how commonplace touch screen technology is becoming among consumers. According to a Wikipedia entry 6.4 million iPhones are active in the United States. Worldwide the number is 41 million as of February 2010. Ditto for Android phones with 400,000 being activated daily, according to Google, and a total of 100 million in use worldwide.

Add to these numbers the millions of consumers who have purchased an Apple iPad as well as the momentum growing among consumers for Motorola Xoom tablets and other such devices and one thing seems so apparent that I risk winning the "Captain Obvious" award for stating it: People love touch screen interaction with their devices.

The same is true, it turns out, with digital signage. Perhaps fueled by their appetite to navigate around their phones and tablets with their fingertips, consumers will soon reach out and touch digital signage in record numbers.

A new research from IHS iSuppli, finds shipments for touch screen displays for signage and the professional market will grow by a factor of seven over the next three years, reaching 2.97 million by 2013. Last year, shipments reached 404,999. The forecasted increase between 2009 and 2013 represents a 96.3 percent compounded annual growth rate, IHS iSuppli said.

The research firm forecasts the growth of touch screen digital signage in several sectors including: public spaces, hospitality, health care, government, corporate retail, transportation and education.

By market segment, IHS iSuppli forecasts growth of:

* 41.8 percent in public spaces, hospitality and health care applications

* 31.2 percent in the government and corporate sectors

* 20.7 percent in retail use

* and the remainder of the growth in transportation and education.

According to Sanju Khatri, who authored the posting on the IHS iSuppli website detailing the forecast, not all of the dozen or so technologies used to enable touch screen functionality are appropriate for non-consumer displays 32 inches and larger. The most likely candidates to help enable the forecasted growth are optical imaging, resistive, projected capacitive, bending wave, infrared and surface acoustic wave (SAW).

All of this projected growth points to the need digital signage users will have for the talent to develop content that taps into consumer interest in touch screen technology. Managers responsible for digital signage content used by their organizations should begin planning now for exploiting the power of touch screens to advance their communications goals.

Certainly, interactive touch screen technology is not appropriate for all digital signage applications. However, in those sectors identified by IHS iSuppli for growth in touch screen functionality digital signage messaging has the opportunity to grow equally in relevancy as viewers interact with signs in search of the information they need.

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