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How Does a Touchscreen Work?

by Parker Davis | Nov 01, 2016

Monitronics customers enjoy being able to control their security and home automation systems with a touchscreen panel, as well as remotely through their smartphones and tablets. Whatever the use, touchscreens have become the standard for security systems because of their reliability, ease-of-use, and ability to create intuitive user interfaces.

Although scientists and engineers were working on touchscreen technology in the late 1960s and early 70s, widespread adoption did not occur until the introduction of the smartphone in early 2007. Prior to Apple’s iPhone, the touchscreens that did exist were limited to airline and military applications, and a small selection of video game consoles. Now they are everywhere.

Like other sophisticated technology, we use touchscreen devices so much that we take them for granted. You don’t need to know how it works in order to use it to protect your home or monitor your video, but it’s kind of fun to look beneath the surface (excuse the pun).

A Touch of Glass

Believe it or not, there are no fewer than 18 different touchscreen technologies. Device manufacturers can choose just one or combine multiple technologies for specific applications. The three most commonly used today are known as resistive, capacitive, and surface acoustic wave.

A resistive touchscreen is used on devices like home security panels, ATMs and in-flight entertainment screens. It monitors electrical current that flows between two panels. Imagine a single glass panel that is covered with a conductive layer with just enough space in-between for an electric current. Using pressure to touch the screen with your finger causes the conductive layer to make contact with the glass, interrupting the current in that one spot. That communicates the position of your finger on the panel to perform the appropriate command.

You’re probably carrying a capacitive touchscreen in your purse or pocket – on your smartphone. It works by reducing electrical current rather than interrupting it. A capacitive touchscreen consists of a glass panel and a second layer that stores the electrical current needed to detect movement. Touching the screen – without applying any special amount of pressure – causes a small amount of electricity to transfer into your finger, reducing the amount still in the device. Software can then pinpoint exactly where current is escaping.

Finally, surface acoustic wave technology utilizes sending and receiving transducers to measure an electrical signal that travels just underneath the glass panel. There are also reflectors in the glass that help keep track of the signal. Placing your finger on the glass interrupts the electrical signal; the interruption is detected and measured in an instant thanks to all of the reflectors in play. SAW technology is typically used for large-sized applications such as kiosks or medical equipment.

The Latest Technology

MONI is thrilled to be able to offer the latest home security and automation devices with touchscreen technology. Touchscreens are making the traditional “keypad” obsolete, increasing the adoption of home security and automation by making programming and modifying equipment easier than it has ever been before. Operating your system with the smartphone is a useful bonus.

If you would like more information about any of our touchscreen devices – or how to use your smartphone to control your system – contact us directly or get in touch with your local Monitronics authorized dealer. Find out how our technology can make your home safer and more efficient.

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