According to a recent estimate, the value of the international multi-touch screen market will touch the $8 billion mark by the end of 2020. Close to 96% of all smartphones used across the world at present are touchscreen models – and the number is expected to go up even further over the next couple of years. In addition to mobile and laptop displays, high-res touch screens are increasingly being used as display areas (for large audiences), in ATMs, for projection screens, digital cameras, and a variety of other gadgets and purposes. Let us here take a look at the most interesting trends, stats and figures from the global touch screen market to look forward to in 2017:
Spurt in global shipments
As many as 1.3 billion (approx) units of touchscreen devices were shipped globally in 2012. Think that’s a high figure in itself? If yes, sample this: by the time 2016 draws to a close, the figure will have more than doubled – to nearly 2.9 billion. It can be reasonably expected that the total sales of touch screen gadgets will cross the 3 billion units mark within the first couple of quarters in 2017.
The revenue factor
With greater sales come greater revenues – this one is almost a no-brainer. The touchscreen market has been forecasted to yield a global revenue of $23.9 billion by the end of 2017 – a 178.3% jump from the 2011 revenue figure ($13.4 billion). From a relatively low $4.3 billion revenue in 2009, the touch screen technology has grown fast – and the rapid rate of revenue growth is a clear sign of that.
Types of touch screens
Different types of interaction technology are used to create touch screen displays. Resistive touch screens – the ones with highly flexible top layers for electrical connectivity – were originally the most widely used variety (their cost-advantage also played a part). Sometime in 2010, capacitive touch screen technology overtook resistive screens in terms of popularity – thanks to the much-improved optical clarity, selection accuracy (with pixel grids) and much better overall reliability. In advanced gadgets like freescale semiconductors and analog devices, capacitive controller ICs are generally used. There are also the capacitive sensors - which are custom-built depending on the type of app/software in which the technology will be implemented. Other types of touchscreens that are expected to witness higher adoption rates in 2017 and beyond include surface acoustic waves, light pens, near field imaging and infrared-powered LED screens.
Note: The number of touch points on a touch screen varies from 1 in resistive screens, to 32 in optical and infrared screens. Projected capacitive touchscreens typically have 2 to 10 touch points.
Moving beyond mobile screens
The first thing that comes to our mind when we listen to the term ‘touch screen’ is a smartphone, right? Well, as 2017 rolls in, touch screen technology is gradually being implemented on larger screens as well, like curved screens, point-of-sale (POS) terminals, touch panels, automated teller machines and high-end security panels. The focus is firmly on the use of new, more durable materials – ranginging from high-tech glass to polycarbonate – to create larger, tougher, more usable (read: more responsive) touch screens. The technology is no longer limited to mobile phones – the spectrum of touch screen usage is expanding rapidly.
Not surprisingly, the United States has by far the largest number of touch screen technology users in the world. What’s more interesting is that, the Asia-Pacific is the fastest growing touch screen market segment geographically, with a 18%+ compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) in 2015. Europe has also witnessed a sharp spike in the total count of users of touch screen devices over the last few quarters. As the need for quickly accessing digital media resources is increasing and form factor miniaturization trends are gaining momentum, people are getting the opportunity to choose from a truly wide variety of touch screen tools.
Application in different domains
In 2017 and beyond, the limits till which touch screen technology can be productively and effectively used will be pushed further than ever. In the medical sector, there will be terminals with touch screen panels at many places – and patients have to interact with it to ‘sign in’, and register their presence at the locations (say, clinics). In the transportation industry, touch screens have already found widespread acceptance for check-ins, ticket-purchasing and collections, map views, and a myriad of other functions – to enhance user-experience. In leading eating joints and bars too, large touch screen displays are used by people to order food, check out menus, and even play games. Businesses are also increasing their reliance on touch screens to improve their brand presence and to grab eyeballs, at trade shows and exhibitions.
Evolving market trends
The demands from users will continue to change as the touchscreen technology develops further in 2017. Current stats suggest that there is a growing demand for touch-based digital signage applications and gaming consoles/devices. In the mobile phone segment, users are increasingly opting for multi-touch devices, while there are upward movements in the demands for flexible display screens.
Note: Among the 11 types of touch screen technology, capacitive screens take up a whopping 70%+ of the total market share. They have replaced resistive screens – which were once the market leaders.
Touch screen in education technology
In the concept of ‘smart classes’, touch screen technology, arguably, plays the most important part. This trend is expected to grow stronger in the next 2-3 years, with interactive devices being introduced to help students grasp lessons quickly, easily, and in a more effective manner. In the United States, the total spending on advanced education technology tools (like interactive whiteboards) will be only a shade under $27 billion by 2018, as per a recent Deloitte report. The intuitive screens will facilitate the learning process of kids – and simultaneous participation will become simpler too.
The growing wearable technology sector
The value of the wearable tech market is already inching towards the $15 billion mark. By 2020, the sector is expected to jump to $35 million – with more than 410 million wearable gadgets being sold globally. The rapid growth of the wearables sector will be one of the chief drivers behind the expansion of the touch screen technology market in future. Apple Watch 2.0 has already been unveiled, there is a cool new lineup of Fitbit trackers, Samsung Gear S3 and Microsoft Band 2 are in the news, and there are strong rumors about the second-generation Google Glass. Wearable tech has every opportunity to pick up more pace in 2017, and touch screen technology will grow with it.
Application in smart homes
2017 is expected to be a big year for Internet of Things, and ‘smart homes’ are a vital cog within IoT. Apart from smartphones, tablets and laptops, there is every possibility that touch screens will be implemented in regular household items like mirrors, tabletops and kitchen countertops. Touch functionality will be seamlessly integrated in these home devices, allowing users to interact in them in a more intuitive manner.
Note: There will be more than 27.5 billion ‘connected devices’ by the end of this decade. The forecast clearly underlines the white-hot growth of Internet of Things worldwide.
11. Dominance of new players
There are more than 250 leading touch screen suppliers around the world at present. Interestingly, a large percentage of these suppliers started out in the last 5 years – indicating that touch screen is still a relatively ‘young’ industry, holding out promises of further, and fast, growth. In particular, the number of suppliers of capacitive screens has witnessed remarkable year-on-year growth figures since 2012. Immersion Corporation, 3M Company, FUJITSU and Nissha Printing feature among the biggest corporate players in the global touchscreen market.
12. The competition
In 2017, the worldwide touchscreen sector is likely to become more competitive than ever before – with service providers always looking to go one up on their rivals, and grabbing clients. This, in turn, will pose problems for new entrants – and should prevent any company from earning big profits as well. The average profit figures in the touch screen technology market (5%-15%) – while higher than several other software markets – is still on the lower side. The price competition will cause many new players to make losses, and established companies will retain a significant advantage.
13. Touch technology in retail
Think that mobile shopping apps and online shopping portals are the biggest advances in the retail sector? If yes…well, think again! With the help of touch screen panels and displays, the concept of ‘direct purchases’ is expected to grow popular in future. The innovative ‘swipe-and-shop’ technology will allow people to make purchases simply by tapping the item(s) displayed on the screens. The challenge will be on retailers to come up with marketing plans/advertising campaigns that actually manage to connect with the new-age buyers.
14. Moving beyond touch screens
Along with advanced forms of touch screen technology, there is also a definite focus on creating alternative platforms for better interactions of individuals with digital resources. Holographic technology is one such solution under the scanner – and it is likely to grow in 2017 and beyond. The application of this technology will be truly revolutionary: for instance, in a holographic shopping complex, all that people will have to do is view the displayed items and initiate a series of hand gestures – to access all the relevant information. It’s not without reason that Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, has identified holographic technology as the successor of touch screens.
Touch screen technology has come a long way since its discovery and application by E.A. Johnson in 1965 (for air traffic towers). The form factors of touch screen devices will become more varied, and high-end tools like Touch Video Walls – primarily for presentations at business conferences – will be used more frequently. The touch screen market is all set to expand significantly from 2017 and 2020 – and the technology shall gradually become more immersive with our daily lives in future.
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