Why do I need these Interactive Flat Panels?

The Beginnings of Interactive Whiteboards

Smart Technologies[1] invented the Interactive Whiteboard in the late 1990s, but it wasn't until 2008 when they became popular. Boosted by government funding in the UK, sales of Interactive Whiteboards jumped from 3,000 to 60,000 units a year.  Other countries around the World, including the Unites States, quickly followed suit. The Interactive Whiteboard became the norm in the Classroom.

Not ideal technology

Interactive Whiteboards, although a great teaching tool and a step up from regular white boards and chalk boards, do have their challenges. While I may come across as being somewhat negative about Interactive Whiteboards, I'm not at all. My business partner and I started TouchIT Technologies by designing, manufacturing and selling Interactive Whiteboards! That said, there are some problems.

First, the projector. Even with newer high-tech projectors, there is still a shadow on the screen. With the standard projector that a school can afford, the image is not that bright, resolution is low, and over time the image becomes duller and duller. The lamps burn out periodically and filters need changing regularly. Overall, the actual cost to run and service the projector is high.

Next there are the dreaded drivers. Pretty much all of the Interactive Whiteboards on the market need a driver installed so that they can be used. This presents a challenge to the school’s IT department ̶ they need to make sure the technology is on all of the teacher’s computers. It is a regular occurrence to hear “well I wanted to use the SMART BoardÒ[2] but I didn't have the right drivers on my laptop.

And finally, calibration. If the Interactive Whiteboard is knocked by a student’s backpack, or the projector moves even ever so slightly, the unit needs to be re-calibrated; a daily task for most teachers.

Emergence of the Interactive Flat Panel

Most manufacturers in the industry knew that the classroom of the future had an Interactive LED or Flat Panel (also known as an IFP). The main barrier to the emergence of the Interactive Flat Panel in the market was the cost.

As time went on, certainly over the last five years, the prices have fallen to a level where the cost of an Interactive Flat Panel is almost the same as a combination of Interactive Whiteboard, Projector and Installation. This has prompted many manufacturers, us included, to discontinue our Interactive Whiteboards in favor of the flat panel technology.

To give you an idea of cost, when TouchIT Technologies launched its 82” panel in 2011 it had a retail price of $19K! Today, we have an 85” with a retail price of $7999 - quite a price difference!

I’m sure you’re now thinking, well if I wait another few years, will the price go down even more? The answer is even the manufacturers are not sure. Price is usually driven by market demand. The market for flat panels is smaller than for regular televisions. It is only schools, universities, businesses and a few other buyers that are helping drive the cost down; there aren’t many other factors affecting the current price.

Advantages

Interactive Flat Panels present a whole host of advantages over their predecessor.

  • There’s no shadow, as the image is coming from the panel itself rather than a projector.
  • For many units there are no drivers
  • The units are brighter, last for around 50,000 hours, have very few serviceable parts, and to top it all off, most don't need calibrating

In short, the Interactive Flat Panels will last longer and ultimately have a lower cost of ownership than the Interactive White Boards they are replacing. They’re also much easier to install, but we will talk about installation later in the eBook.

Time for Replacement

When we founded the company back in 2008, we were at a stage where the market, the Schools and Teachers, were still coming to grips with the concept of what an Interactive Whiteboard actually was and what it could do. That was a totally different set of challenges and learning curves from those we have today.

Today we are at a stage when the initial Interactive Whiteboards are out of warranty and coming to the end of their serviceable lives. Schools and School Districts such as yourselves are looking to replace the old technology with Interactive Flat Panels.

Putting replacement Interactive Whiteboards into the classroom doesn't make sense. Most manufacturers are not making them anymore and more importantly, the Interactive Flat Panels offer a better solution at the same price with lower total cost of ownership.

Since replacing the Interactive Whiteboards with Interactive Flat Panels presents a whole new set of challenges, let’s take a look and delve deeper into what you need to explore and the decisions you will need to make.

This Blog post is an extract from the eBook "Bring Back My Whiteboard!" - Written by TouchIT Technologies CEO Andi Brabin. Enter your email address below to receive your free copy.

 

[1] www.smarttech.com

[2] SMART Board and SMART Notebook are registered trademarks of Smart Technologies Inc in the United States and other countries around the world. www.smarttech.com.