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Touch the future

In South Africa, touch screen technology is quickly taking off and it’s now being used in a diverse array of applications, including the fast-growing mobile, retail and interactive digital signage industries.

DisplaySearch forecasts that the total touch screen market will grow to $9 billion in 2015, from t$3.6 billion in 2008, with a compound annual growth rate of 14%.

Late last month, Tactile Technologies held a workshop for their Western Cape based customers on their TouchTools products and services offering. The workshop was attended by 35 representatives from some of the biggest retail and corporate groups that have successfully deployed touch screen solutions as a business driver including the Foschini Group, Virgin Active, GAAP (Point of Sale), Datacentrix and Clickthinking.

TouchTools is Tactile Technologies’ new touch screen self-service division. TouchTools offers application design and development, kiosk hardware design and manufacturing, project management, remote content and device management tools, as well as on-site support and service level agreements maintenance through approved TouchTools service partners.

Traditionally the first markets to implement touch screens as an interface are the restaurant, hospitality and gaming industries, but if we look at some of the applications for touch today, they are endless:

– Touch at points of sale

– Touch in information- and payment kiosks

– Touch for educational purposes (self awareness applications, health and safety in the working environment applications, training and review applications)

– Touch in automating processes (industrial companies that are replacing traditional keyboard and mouse setups by touch screen driven configurations)

– Touch in banking

РTouch in the medical industry (applications in and outside the operating theatre) and so the list continues …

‚There are many challenges facing retailers. A common challenge, in my opinion, is the continuous need to communicate with our customers. We are constantly exploring different channels that best meet the needs of our customers, and the touch screen kiosks provide opportunities for customers to explore product and service features at their own pace and empower themselves with respect to their purchase decisions. This service also creates brand differentiation in the market. TouchTools is creativity fused with functionality,‚ says Eddie Dryden FoschiniData Senior Manager: Enterprise Architecture.

They are currently expanding their four stores Proof of Concept in @home to a Top 20 stores rollout and exploring the potential of introducing TouchTools across their diverse brands.

The advantages of a touch screen interface are at the same time the business drivers:

Ease of use – isn’t that a feature that is pushed across industries? Touch screens are much more user-friendly and entries are much faster so it reduces required operating time. Time is money, remember?

Massive reduction of errors – Whether it is in the restaurant industry, a call centre, large factory or bank – a properly developed touch screen application will give the user a clear choice of actions available. Cases are known where error entries were reduced with up to 90%.

Attractiveness – If the solution is public focused, for example an information kiosk, the public will be much more inclined to use the solution when they are looking at an information kiosk that does not have a keyboard and mouse. Also keyboards and mice are slowly becoming obsolete in the business environment – everyone is using touch on their mobiles and PDAs already.

Product life cycle – Touch screens are very robust and will outlast a keyboard/mouse set-up several times.

Environmentally friendly – Touch screen solutions allow for more digital communication reducing traditional print. Less power is consumed and also less hardware is used (keyboard, mouse, etc) which means less hardware needs to be recycled.

According to Mauro Mercuri, Managing Director of Tactile Technologies, companies looking at implementing touch screens should consider the 5 most important key factors:

1. Type of touch screen (size, technology, desktop, kiosk or computer format) has to be based on the environment in which the touch screen will operate and the type of user.

2. Choose the right touch screen technology for your application.

3. Make sure that the products have been specifically designed for touch and not been added as an after-thought.

4. How long will the product be available? Does it carry a guaranteed product life cycle that your business and your client require?

5. Ensure the vendor is officially recognised to ensure that you get efficient support from the manufacturer.

The bottom line is, it should add to your business’ bottom line.

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