Display interfaces – the products that provide machine performance information to the operator, such as an instrument cluster or graphical display – on mobile equipment are about to experience a significant transformation. Typically, these products have been designed as dedicated devices, permanently installed in the vehicle. But the proliferation of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets into the commercial market has changed the way people think about displays and it has changed the pace of display technology development. Let’s take a brief look at the history to understand how we got here and why this represents an upcoming transformation.
Display products have continuously evolved over the years making use of more sophisticated technology as it was available. Not too long ago, displays used air core gauges and indicator bulbs hardwired to the vehicle. Gauges were eventually replaced with electronically controlled stepper motors, and bulbs were replaced by LED’s. Instrument clusters emerged that packaged these components into one enclosure and were capable of communicating with the rest of the vehicle over the J1939 CAN bus.
Eventually, these instrument clusters began using simple segmented LCD’s followed by monochrome LCD’s and eventually color TFT displays. Touchscreens were added creating a very nice user interface, or at least we thought so at the time.
But while heavy equipment OEMs focused on the evolution of their products, the commercial market also began to make use of similar technology with the release of the smartphone. In a world that was already so dependent on cell phones, the smartphone exploded into the market and today most people carry one of these devices with them all the time. So while OEM’s and their electronic suppliers continue to invest heavily in the development of dedicated rugged displays for mobile equipment, the commercial market now offers an alternative approach.
The exponential growth of the smartphone, and eventually the tablet, will soon begin to impact the display products installed on mobile equipment for a few reasons:
- People are very accustomed to the user interface provided by their smartphone or tablet and expect similar performance out of any display device;
- The mobile device market has begun to drive the development of display technology due to the shear size of that market. The pace of evolution is high, and the lifecycle of mobile devices is much shorter than the lifecycle of heavy equipment;
- The smartphone brings a degree of connectivity to everything we do, both in our personal and professional lives. The ability to connect mobile machinery in a similar manner brings a number of benefits to the operator, the site manager and the OEM; and
- People enjoy using their mobile device because they have customized it to their own preferences, it is familiar to them, and even further it identifies them.
To read more about the impact of these changes as they relate to displays on mobile equipment, access our Market Insight on the future of these displays and the mobile devices.