It’s plain to see that people like touchscreen technology. It is projected that 100-million iPads will be sold globally by the end of the year. It is clear that the touchscreen truly is an object of modern desire.
The image on the left shows the dash of the new Tesla which is NOT a touch screen and then a huge 17inch touch screen on the right.
I am fascinated why touch screen technology works in some applications but fails in others. Originally I started as a software specialist in the 1970’s writing APL and Fortran code to model engineering concepts. Punch cards were used then, followed in the 80’s by screens with keyboards. Finally it is mainly touch pads with some keyboard activity. This progression has highlighted my personal theory on when touch screens work. If a touch screen shortens the time to get information… significantly… then the touch screen takes off.
Here is an example of when the touch screen has failed to some people: As an engineer, I’m used to using my hands a lot around parts getting a “feel”. As a photographer with digital cameras it has been interesting to see the tactile importance of buttons and dials return. The touch screen here has had mixed success. If you are rushing to take that photo, the tactile dials and buttons leave a touch screen for dead for speed and ease of use. However, if you are setting up the camera, a complex menu system by rotate and select, is for the birds! The new NikonDF camera has reverted to using both!
In my opinion, it is all about the navigation and “drilling down” for more information, quickly. Using menu driven software to “touch” what you want makes getting the information more intuitive and effective.
We are always interested in simplification and ease of use so we went looking for the best application of touch screens in a difficult environment. We found in the “technology quadrant” of Germany, a small company who build the best touch screen systems for European Yachts and motor boats and persuaded them to expand to off road trailers and caravans.
Touch screens in an off-road camper trailer or caravan.
- reduce the size of gauges
- reduce duplication or multi-plicity of buttons
- allow nearly everyone to understand the information
- use less power with an “auto-off” feature
- Clearly show an alarm
- touching the alarm takes you to the next level
They give the user this information:
- Fresh water tank level
- Grey water tank capacity
- Battery capcity
- Solar panel output
- Other charging devices output
- Inverter usage
However, it is the “drilling down” that makes it more interesting, whether from an alarm or display. Lets step through an example:
It is a very overcast wet day and you want to watch a movie on the “big screen”. The battery levels are low. You want to know how many hours do you have until the battery capacity goes into alarm?
The steps on the touch screen are:
- See the battery symbol showing the percent full
- touch this battery and the screen switches to remaining time to capacity alarm or estimated time of charging (at existing current usage)
- touch the screen to switch back
There is good usage of colours:
- Dark Blue
If you want to see how much power is coming from the solar panels:
- Touch the energy display, it shows the current coming from the solar array.
- Touch the solar panel on the display and it allows you to “reset” the counter
- You can now measure how much total power is coming from the panels after reset. So at the end of the day, you can touch and see how much has come in from the solar panels.
The same applies to the battery charger , or optional fuel cell.
If you have a large inverter, it is probably a “combi inverter/charger”. The touch screen lets you see the neet get a low battery level alarm, you may want to know, is the solar not putting in enough power or are we using too much power?
What about fresh water level?
- Touch the tank display, it shows the capacity of each tank.
- Touch the display and it shows capacity in percent or litres
- Alarms can be set for each tank as either a low level for fresh water
- or a high level for grey water
In the energy display screen, touching the battery symbol will drill down to a detailed analysis of each battery system.
This is all the user needs to know.
Under the hood, the secret to this system lies not only in the smart touch screen but also in where the data is stored and how it is measured. The electrical power measurement is done with traditional shunts but each shunt has an intelligent “compact head” which does the computations. These heads are connected with waterproof ethernet cables and connectors.
The water tanks are measured with ultra sonic tank sensors and this means the grey water condition doesn’t foul up the traditional conductance measurement system. it also means that smaller percentage changes than the traditional “quarter segment gauges’.
In the camper trailer range, the touch screen is under the gullwing for immediate visibility into the awning area. See the image below:
How does the cost of these systems compare? The installation time for a comparative hard wired gauge system is about half the time, giving a lower labour cost for new instalations.
The equipment itself is reasonably priced but there is more off it. The display itself is around $350. The shunts with the ethernet ports are around $280 each. The individual parts are not sold but the entire system is available as standard or an option on all models. The size of the system depends on the number of tanks and power sources you have to connect.
Once customers use this system, their knowledge of energy use and the capacity of their system is excellent.
To see more on the touch screens in the Kimberley Kruiser off-road caravan, go to this link HERE .
To read a BLOG article about this system in the Kimberley Kruiser full size off road caravan, CLICK HERE.
To see more on the touch screens in Kimberley Kampers off-road camper trailers, go to this link HERE .
To see more on the touch screens in the Kimberley Karavan off-road caravan, go to this link HERE .
To see more of the range:
Also see this eBook on high performance energy systems highlights the importance of knowing the status of your system easily: