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Interactive Flat Panels

Interactive flat panels, also called interactive displays, are among the most versatile and useful pieces of A/V technology available. They are collaborative powerhouses that can serve in both corporate and educational settings. And in the corporate world, they are particularly useful in any industry where media production is a key part of the job, like marketing and engineering firms. Interactive displays look to be a major asset going forward, but there are only a few manufacturers capable of designing and manufacturing high-end models.

Clevertouch offers the best mix of business and educational interactive flat panels. The company is fairly new to the U.S. market, but has achieved impressive success in Europe, where its flagship product, also dubbed Clevertouch, is the top educational display in the UK and on the mainland. Though the Clevertouch is designed with emphasis on classroom technology, it can do admirable work in conference rooms, boardrooms, meeting rooms and huddle rooms as well.

High powered brands, including Google and Microsoft, are also entering the industry, but their initial efforts, though sleek, are a bit more limited and much more expensive. As such, most businesses would be optimally served with the Clevertouch.

Promethean's ActivPanel is another clear leader in the interactive flat panel market and is another favorite among educators. Like Clevertouch, Promethean has made its initial mark in Europe, where it stands shoulder to shoulder with Clevertouch in the educational market. And also like Clevertouch, Promethean is scaling up its U.S. presence in a hurry, as U.S. schools are rapidly adopting interactive flat panel technology for their classrooms.

Before introducing both further, there is some confusion to clear up regarding the difference between interactive flat panels and interactive whiteboards. Some use the terms interchangeably, but this is not accurate. Interactive whiteboards operate using a projected image, which is controlled from a flat, uniform surface like a whiteboard. Interactive flat panels are self-contained displays, usually powered by LED technology. Interactive flat panels are a step beyond interactive whiteboards, in that they offer better picture quality, better interface and control capabilities, extended display performance and superior collaboration software. Unsurprisingly, school districts and businesses are quickly migrating from interactive whiteboards to interactive flat panels.

The Clevertouch

Although the Microsoft Surface and Google JamBoard are interesting interactive flat panel models, they are rather specialized and not cost-effective for most applications. The Clevertouch offers better cost efficiency without sacrificing functionality or usability. Here's a closer look at it:

The Clevertouch may have first established itself in Europe, but it is quickly gaining traction in America. Its primary offerings are the Clevertouch Plus and Clevertouch Pro, both of which can operate in educational or corporate environments. Clevertouch is well-known as a provider of educational technology, but its products are rapidly being integrated into professional settings, too.

The Clevertouch Plus and Pro produce 4K resolution and are available in several sizes. The Clevertouch Pro brings capacitive touch capabilities, which relies on electrical conductivity to read finger/stylus positioning and gesturing. In short, this makes for an incredibly accurate control method that can also reliably produce detailed handwriting.

Clevertouch has gone to impressive lengths to impart accessibility into its interactive flat panels. Every Clevertouch is designed with its LUX interface, which is heavily modeled after the Android interface. This was a conscious decision, as it ensures that most frequent smartphone users (and aren't we all, at this point?) will have no trouble in manipulating the interface and accessing the features they want. As such, the Clevertouch is perfect for organizations that have tech-resistant people on board, as they will require little training to get going. And if desired, the Clevertouch can be fitted with an i5 or i7 PC module preloaded with Windows 10. With the PC module, the Clevertouch remains perfectly compatible with Skype and other Microsoft software products.

Clevertouch has its own all-star lineup of educational and professional software offerings. Lynx is the whiteboarding and lesson planning option, and Lynx Pro is better suited for professional collaboration. Both make it easy to drop in media from the internet, from an attached drive or from the Clevertouch's own hard drive. Lynx Pro allows for extensive annotation, and with the Clevershare, it can be used to deliver wireless presentations and for group collaborative efforts.

Clevermaths is wholly teacher-focused, as it is a powerful mathematical graphing tool and science simulator, so experiments can be driven using the software. Snowflake, which is developed for both educators and professionals, gives the Clevertouch extensive multiuser collaboration power. It can be used to zone out the Clevertouch so multiple users can run their own applications, which is ideal for younger students that are learning at different speeds. It can also be used in a brainstorming session or project update meeting, as it can allow users to explore 3D models or organize thoughts into hierarchies.

There is a lot to the Clevertouch, and its versatility lends itself to nearly any application a professional or educator would want from it.

Promethean's ActivPanel

Promethean's ActivPanel is its primary interactive flat panel product, and hardware-wise, it is similar to the Clevertouch. It comes in several sizes, ranging from 65-inch to 86-inch, and with HD or 4K resolution capability. The screen is 4mm of acid-etched, tempered glass and can accommodate between 10 and 20 points of touch simultaneously, depending on the exact ActivPanel model. Connectivity includes several HDMI and USB ports, as well as a VGA port and OPS slot. This slot can accommodate Promethean's Android module, which allows the panel to be used like a tablet, or a Windows module to ensure compatibility with Microsoft software. Additional hardware standouts include stereo speakers, a 178-degree viewing angle and a light sensor that the panel uses to adjust its own brightness settings depending on ambient lighting.

What sets the ActivPanel apart is its InGlass technology and its own software offerings. InGlass technology makes the ActivPanel the single best interactive flat panel at recognizing and representing handwriting. This is a persistent problem among interactive flat panels, and the delay between input and output can be enough to affect legibility. InGlass ensures this isn't an issue.

ActivPanel software includes ActivInspire and ClassFlow, both of which are used for lesson delivery. ActivInspire is Promethean's pride and joy, and for good reason. It's been iterated on many time since its introduction, and many educators consider it the best piece of educational software available for interactive flat panels. ActivInspire comes with a smorgasbord of lesson materials, and Promethean asserts that there's more than 1,000 lessons available across every subject. Many of these lessons are designed for multiple users and encourage students to collaborate. ActivInspire also adds some interesting engagement tools, like Spotlight Focus, which narrows the viewable area on the ActivPanel to only what the teacher wants the students to see. It's ideal for quizzing and lessons with a competitive focus.

ClassFlow is the other standout piece of software and adds cloud functionality to its lesson delivery options. ClassFlow can be used to send lessons to student devices, whether they are in attendance or not, so it is ideal for students who are sick at home. These lessons can be interacted with from the students' devices, and teachers can monitor progress from their own workstation. ClassFlow adds a collaborative element on the educator side, as there are plenty of lessons that teachers can grab from other teachers, either using them as inspiration or integrating them into their own curriculum. Finally, ClassFlow can be used to send digital badges to students, rewarding them for good behavior or excellent performance. It's a simple way to keep those students engaged and motivated.

Interactive flat panels are both the present and future of group collaboration, and with Clevertouch and Promethean both leading the way, it's a bright present and future.