The rapid rise of tablet computing has created an interesting phenomenon in public spaces like retail and airports – AV and IT systems people trying to turn small, hand-held consumer devices into useful self-service tools that can survive endless use and abuse.
With some exceptions, it hasn’t worked out too well. Tablets are designed for the loving, careful embrace of their owners. They’re not designed to be poked at all day by a parade of people who don’t normally care if the units last much beyond their own time in front of them.
Consumer tablets are also just the right size for a pair of hands, but pretty small when locked in a kiosk stand or fixed on a lot of display shelves.
They also, particularly when it comes to Apple’s tablets, have locked-down operating systems that require both development and approvals from the people in Cupertino.
So … what are the alternatives?
For a few years now, we’ve seen the big PC makers roll out all in one computers and displays that power a touch experience on a larger, unified surface. But they’ve been purely consumer-grade devices ill-suited to being left to the use and abuse of the general public. And the touch experience has been somewhere between disappointing and terrible.
The better way is an industrial-grade all-in-one unit that has all the key ingredients:
– a large enough screen to be noticed;
– rugged, public-ready design;
– sufficient computing power;
– proper touchscreen experiences.
Advantech recently rolled out what we call the Ultra-Thin Computer, or UTC-520A. It’s an all-in-one computer and display that we think “ticks all the boxes” when it comes to getting touch screens right in retail and other public spaces. It’s designed for everything from retail point of sale and shelf-level digital signage to fast-food self-service and factory automation.
These are more than tablets – with full operating system support to do anything done when the PC and display are separate pieces. The advantage here is a single design that minimizes the footprint and makes no compromises on performance, capabilities or operating lifespan.
It has a 21.5-inch LCD screen and touch options that include projected capacitive technology (PCT), the same swipe, flick, pitch and zoom experience you get on today’s latest smart devices. There are also other touchscreen options available that can be tuned to applications.
The unit has a clean, protected design that nicely bridges durability and elegance, and has rear connectors that users to add things like webcams (for audience measurement, one-to-one remoter meetings and registration photos), RFID, bar code and mag strip readers, and printers.
It’s also low on power demands, and fanless – meaning reliability should be ultra-high.
The UTC series has also been designed to support multiple computing platforms, so our customers can put the Intel or AMD CPU in that best suits the processing and graphics demands of the project.
The 21.5 is the core product, but versions are available for 15.6-inch screens and as large as 32 inches.
Whether it is interactive or just a better, sleeker display that reduces the installation footprint in a retail or public space, these new UTC units are in many ways the smarter, better alternatives to making tablets something they’re not meant to be.