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Touchscreen Directories Modernize Lobbies

Dec. 22, 2010
Touchscreen directories modernize your lobby and update visitors easily.

From offices to hotels and hospitals, touchscreen directories are growing in popularity (and size). Tough, yet trendy touchscreens can incorporate wayfinding software with custom maps, announcements scrolling past on news tickers, and more to keep your building’s tenants organized and informed.

Let Your Needs Lead the Way
Modern touchscreen directories can do much more than an old static directory with name strips. An office building, for example, might choose a kiosk with a directory allowing visitors to enter the tenant’s name, call his or her office to check in, print a customized map and directions to the tenant’s office, and create a photo ID and name badge. A convention center can add an events calendar and scrolling news updates.

Or, like the 17th Street PNC Bank building in Washington, D.C., a directory could pair up with an interactive touchscreen display to highlight the tenants’ achievements.

"They wanted a secondary touchscreen to educate the public about the LEED features of the building," says Natalie Bobila, vice president of sales and marketing at Interactive Touchscreen Solutions of Crofton, MD, which provided PNC’s display. "It had to be visually interesting and appeal to people who were going to come up and learn."

Ask yourself the following questions when considering a touchscreen directory:

  • How will I use the directory? Don’t settle for a small 17-inch screen if you have hundreds of
    tenants – visitors will have to spend too much time scrolling through a long directory and may not use it.
  • Where am I? Your unique situation may require special features. Large medical centers and universities benefit from wayfinder capabilities because visitors appreciate help navigating their large campuses.
  • Where will it be? The screen or kiosk must complement its surroundings. Custom enclosures help achieve a comprehensive look, but also consider the directory’s location. Make sure it's eye-catching and inviting.

The technology is catching on the fastest in office buildings, hospitals, colleges and universities, and courthouses, especially older buildings where aging plastic directories become expensive to maintain and update as tenants change, says Will Pymm, director of business development for Long Island, NY-based manufacturer RedyRef.

"They’re getting beat up," Pymm says of traditional directories. "Every time a tenant changes, they have to order one of those old strips." Custom enclosures for touchscreens can fit the interactive directory into the old space formerly occupied by a static directory.

Keep an Eye Out
Like televisions, bigger seems to be better for touchscreen customers, Pymm says. Two years ago, standard touchscreen directories came in 15-inch and 17-inch sizes; today the regular size is 19 or 22 inches.

"The hardware’s been out longer, so it’s getting cheaper," Pymm adds. "The 22-inch costs the same price as the 17-inch used to, hardware-wise. Now that the price is the same, people are upgrading. Everyone wants bigger."

Be sure to choose a touchscreen that complies with ADA regulations. For example, placing the highest operating point at or below the ADA height limit of 54 inches ensures that customers who use wheelchairs will have no problems using the directory. People with sight impairments may need a Braille keyboard or a voice prompting option that reads the screen’s contents aloud, Bobila says.

Software provided by many touchscreen vendors makes it easy to add tenants, news, or even advertisements to the touchscreen system with the click of a mouse – or, as Pymm puts it, "It’s almost like using Word. Add, edit, or delete, fill in fields, and save it."

The user-friendly interface makes it easy to keep the touchscreen system updated and fresh.

"With a static directory, you’re dealing with plastic or film strips that are a little bit more fragile and tend to look old rather quickly," Bobila says. "With touchscreen directories it’s a flat screen – LCD or LED. We’re actually using a computer to operate it." B

Janelle Penny ([email protected]) is associate editor of BUILDINGS.

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About the Author

Janelle Penny | Editor-in-Chief at BUILDINGS

Janelle Penny has more than a decade of experience in journalism, with a special emphasis on covering facilities management. She aims to deliver practical, actionable content for facilities professionals.

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