Forbes’ magazine recently published their annual ranking of the 400 richest Americans, and the company Display Werks, located in Olympia, Washington, is more than happy to admit that their LCD touch screens are installed in three out of the top ten residences from that exclusive group.
Display Werks’ owner and President, Mark Harriman, started business in 1994 designing and building custom LCD control interfaces for a major residential project on Lake Washington. Since then, their library of unique LCDs, which combine cutting-edge high-end technology with sophisticated architectural design elements, has grown as impressively as their client list.
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“When we started out, LCD touch panel technology was still a very new idea. On top of this we were building other technology into the panels that is still very advanced even ten years later.” says Harriman. “We were lucky to be able to cut our teeth on the very pinnacle of home automation systems.”
Display Werks’ forte has been developing highly custom touch panels for equally custom residential control systems. These systems are essentially huge networks that integrate environmental control, lighting, security and often broadcast quality audio/video systems. A custom user interface is designed specifically for each project by software developers. Display Werks’ touch panels have been built to mount into walls, pedestals, hidden in decorative boxes, pop out of bedside nightstands and even mount in the outdoor bulkheads of ships.
As Display Werks continued within this custom niche, they were also watching the growth of the consumer residential systems market and thinking about ways to dive in. Harriman explains, “We were continuing to provide custom solutions but soon realized that every custom application had one thing in common, we were interfacing to a standard PC. Meanwhile we were watching the increase in popularity of X10, and seeing companies like AMX and others start to open up their proprietary systems to the PC world. The time was right to take our products to the mainstream home systems market.”
Display Werks also realized that if they were to come out with home-control touch panels, they would have to differentiate themselves from the other players. They had to deliver something that solved multiple problems and was flexible enough to work with almost any system.
Display Werks’s answer was the 1510 15″ XC Display. XC stands for Extended Computer and this is the most unique feature of Display Werks’ touch panels. The touch panels have one RJ45 connection for accepting analog RGB, serial, stereo audio, mouse and keyboard signals from a PC located up to 500 feet away over a single CAT5 cable. On the PC side, there is a small box that takes analog RGB, stereo audio, RS232, PS2 mouse and keyboard signals and transmits them over the CAT5. This means that the PCs don’t have to be in the proximity of the touch panels. Instead, they can be located in remote equipment racks or wherever space, power and cooling is more abundant.
“Building a PC or any â€˜smarts’ into a display is risky business.” says Harriman. “Technology is changing so rapidly that proprietary displays can easily become inadequate or obsolete. We wanted the display to be independent of information processing and to be able to handle anything the system could dish out. This includes full color user interfaces, animated buttons, viewing television, watching movies or viewing security cameras.”
A typical installation might include interface to an AMX Netlinx Control System. In this case, an AMX NXP-TPI/4 is connected to the small Display Werks XC transmitter (analog RGB, RS 232, stereo audio). A single CAT5 cable up to 500 feet long connects the XC transmitter to the Display Werks 1510 XC touch panel mounted within a wall. The 24Vdc version of the panel allows AC power to be remote located and DC delivered using low-voltage cable.
Microsoft’s new Media Center is sure to change the role of the PC in home entertainment and it’s expected that the link between home entertainment control and home environment control won’t be missing for long. There are several companies selling Microsoft-approved Media Center PCs and Display Werks’ 1510 XC Touch Panel integrates easily to each. For a Media Center system, Display Werks recommends connecting the PC to a Display Werks’ dual XC transmitter. This single-unit, dual transmitter allows local or remote access of the same PC. For example a PC in the office could be viewed and controlled in the bedroom, without additional PCs for networking. Display Werks also offers a 17″ desktop version of the XC without touch. The desktop looks like a stylish desktop LCD but has the RJ45 connection for signals in, stereo audio out, and PS2 connections out for mouse and keyboard.
The 1510 15″ XC Display has a wall box kit for flush mounting into a wall. The wall box is built for standard wall construction and mounts between 16-inch studs. Harriman explains that building panels into a residence or office is always a challenge for system designers, architects and contractors. “We have done enough custom work to know exactly what installers are looking for during field installation. More often than not, the residence is being constructed and sheet rock is getting hung while the system is still being designed. So now system architects can go run CAT5 and low-voltage cable, put in wall boxes and then sleep at night knowing that the displays are going to work with virtually anything they come up with.” Display Werks’ display module then fits into the wall box assembly. They offer multiple finish options for their standard bezel types and can also create custom bezels for additional costs.
For audio, Display Werks has a version of the panel that incorporates two 1-watt speakers into the unit. Line-level audio is accessible on all panel versions from the rear connector plate allowing users to integrate into a localized sound systems. PS2 mouse and keyboard are also available for local input control in addition to the touch screen.
“We took many of the ideas and solutions that we had developed for the high-end custom clients and boiled them down into the 1510 XC touch panels. You no longer have to be on the Forbes’ list to take advantage of the technology.” jokes Harriman.
To find out more about the 1510 XC Display visit Display Werks site at www.displaywerks.com or call them at 1-877-705-1319.