Which keyboard type?

  • Hi all,

    I thought I'd run something by everyone and see if it sparks a few ideas for future devices.

    Customers usually take time deciding which keyboard type is best for them. Numeric? Alpha numeric? In reality the decision to use numeric only comes down to the application and the data to be captured. A popular environment for numeric is freezer environments. End users with gloves find it easier to hit big buttons. Right?

    But, what other keys is the customer losing out on by being forced to choose a particular keyboard type as a result of their operational needs?

    Lets think outside the box for one second. We've all heard of OLED technology. That flexible, super thin touch or non touch screen. The latest flat screen TVs use this technology. There is research happening now to eliminate the need for a hard keyboard for notebooks. Check out this video;


    So lets consider this for industrial devices. What would this technology offer us;

    1. One solid screen covering the surface of a HHT or VMT device either all touch or part touch.
    2. The ability to soft code any keyboard layout you want with endless number of keys to select. Skip screen left to go to keyboard layout on page 2, for example. Of course, this increases the need for software development. Good or bad?
    3. A super thin display with less power consumption would lead to longer battery life, smaller, lighter devices.
    4. You could pack a bigger battery or additional technology into a space that was previously occupied by a thicker LCD display.

    So, is this a good idea? Is it possible? Is it appropriate for industrial units? Can it be utilised but remain rugged and reliable? Would the touch screen response be good enough for challenging environments?

    How about a flexible VMT unit that can discreetly molded and flexed into the corner of a forklift truck?

    Any other ideas for this technology?



  • Interesting thoughts!


    The decision between a numeric and alphanumeric keyboard depends on many things like application, customer and... the country. Yes, that's right, there are differences in the keyboard preference between customers in different countries, even if the application is the same! So, creating a keyboard that satisfies every customer is just not possible.


    On-screen keyboards with variable big buttons are a good compromise and we see more and more SCL applications which are HTML or Java based and use the touch screens to display on-screen keyboards. They are slowly but surely replacing text-based emulations.


    A LCD display is actually not so thick. Using a thin OLED would not make a device much thinner. We have to put some stuff around the display to make sure that our products withstand shocks and vibrations. Also, there is the touch screen which needs some room too.


    OLEDs are already common for small mobile phones but the bigger ones are still quite expensive. If we would use one today, the cost of a VMT would dramatically go up. However, the cost of OLEDs will go down within the next years.


    Touch screens are key for on-screen keyboards and the ideal one doesn't exist yet. Currently, mostly resistive touch screens are used for industrial environments. They work with fingers as well as with gloves, pens, (or screwdrivers Indifferent), but they wear over time because of the mechanical stress on the layers. Capacitive touch screen as being used on smart phones are not that flexible when it comes to input possibilites. If they are made for finger input, signature capture with a pen doesn't work. Their advantage is that they work without direct contact and can therefore sit behind a thick hardened glass. On the downside, they are more sensitive against dirt on the screen.


    Another disadvantage of on-screen keyboards is the lack of tactile feel and ergonomics. A key click tone is not really a replacement, especially in noisy environments.


    This is my ideal VMT keyboard: Only 10-20 big keys made of thick glass and as rugged as an ATM keyboard. Each key has a little display inside which would allow changing the key characters on-the-fly. That would combine the flexibility of an on-screen keyboard with the tactile and ergonomics of a hard keyboard. It could be configured per customer or even by the application software. Alpha keys in the morning for username and password and numeric or function keys during the work shift. Even pictograms and non-Latin letters are possible. Wouldn't that be cool?

  • Hi Alexander,

    So you are saying there is a chance Big Smile

    Your idea achieves the same results but is more practical for real world applications. I like it! Big Smile