Taking a complex electronic item outdoors requires a more detailed and well-thought design process to ensure that the machine will continue to work both in the warmest and coldest times of the years. Not only this, but it will also have to deal with the british weather - rain!
Having survived all that the weather can throw at it, a touch screen kiosk for outdoor use must be tough engough to cope with some fairly harsh use.
Touchscreen kiosks are often used with a number of input devices and other peripherals such as telephone handset and it is vital that all components of the system are designed for the environment it will be used in. Telephone handsets are available with ruggedised plastic casings and armoured cables. Keyboards are availble in stainless steel, reistant to all including the worst rain, snow and ice.
Touchscreen kiosks all have LCD screens and a touchscreen covering and the designer must give some thought on how to protect the screen from vandalism whilst still providing a pleasant usege experience. In direct sunlight it may be difficult for the user to see the LCD so think about how the metalwork design may help to provide some shade to the screen. Alternatively take a look at high-brightness LCD screens or sunlight visible LCDs using transflective technology.
The main motherboard will have a temperature specification detailing the lowest and upper operating temperature which the motherboard has been designed for use. Operation of the motherboard below the lower temperature or above the higher operating temperature may stop the system from funtioning correctly. Proper heating and cooling of the system is therefore required to ensure reliable operation year round. The system can be kept warm during the coldest winters by using a small heating element inside the kiosk. Cooling can be done using fans to create an airflow out of the enclosure. However - ideally cooling holes would allow heat to escape from the system but this is a compromise to stop ingress of water.
A watchdog timer, if present, will help in many situations if the hardware locks-up for any reason. A watchdog timer is a device usually on the motherboard of industrial motherboards which is a simple timer which needs to be reset periodically. If it does not get reset then the watchdog will cause the motherboard itself to reset thus rebooting the system.
Networking, while it may be possible to connect the kiosk to a local area network over WIFI this will only work if the kiosk is within 100m or so of the nearset router. The kiosk could be hard wired using an ethernet cable or you could look at using a 3g modem such as those at Sequoia technology (http://www.sequoia.co.uk) to provide a fast wireless internet connection.
In short, designing systems for use outdoors is a complex task with many pitfalls. If your looking into using kiosks outdoors and need some help then please talk to us first.
Please take a look at our standard range of kiosks each of which is designed to create a base layer upon which a wide range of additional options can be included. Kiosks4business approved options include chip & pin, bar code scanner, printers and much more.