• Are interactive whiteboards dead?

The interactive whiteboard was considered a major advancement in audio visual (AV) technology 25 years ago.

Yet, for all its promise and the investments made, from the education sector in particular, many were left under-used – becoming little more than expensive projectors.

Analysts have suggested that this was because the target audience simply wasn’t ready for this type of technology, there was a lack of training and the software was limited in what it could achieve.

“In the early 1990s there was an initiative to get interactive whiteboards in to every classroom but problems existed. For example, if a teacher moved on you would often have someone come in next who didn’t know how to use it,” said Rob Xenos, business and marketing manager at Sahara, which manufactures flat panel displays and interactive whiteboards.

The technology did, however, enjoy a resurgence thanks in part to the prevalence of handheld devices – most people are now used to mobile and touchscreen technology and feel more at ease using interactive whiteboards too.

Yet, according to vendors, investments in interactive whiteboards are now beginning to wane in the UK as the technology has been overtaken by its glossier cousin, the interactive flat panel display. Xenos said: “People will now only buy an interactive whiteboard when they haven’t got the budget for the interactive touchscreen. Interactive whiteboards certainly have their place but touchscreens have superseded them. It’s more of an investment but you do get that investment back over the life of the screen.”

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The future is flat panel

Interactive flat panel displays are now expected to overtake projectors and interactive whiteboards in market share by 2019, according to interactive screen vendor Alpha Digital Networks. “The forecasted uptake is on an exponential curve upwards. Once you’ve seen an LED flat panel display you’ll never want to put a projection-based system back in place,” said Paul Vitali, managing director of Alpha.

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“Extensive research and development is going on all the time and this has allowed us to use the screen as if it was a large Android tablet. We’ve also integrated Mirracast so you can cast up from a PC or laptop. In a classroom environment that means you can share information with other people, in other rooms and even other buildings around the world.”

The vendors predict that, as interactive screen become the norm, users will end up demanding even more from this technology. Xenos paints a future picture that would not seem out of place in the sci-fi film Minority Report, with multiple users displaying desktops from multiple devices, all at the same time. For the time being, however, he says anyone wanting cutting edge AV features should ensure their devices offer the high level of connectivity needed to facilitate features such as Mirracast and Airplay.