Expanding electronics raise the stakes for protecting kiosks from extreme cold
Outdoor kiosks for campus wayfinding and information recently functioned without a glitch at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania. Photo courtesy of URWay Holdings.
Outdoor kiosks have been on a roll of late, partly because of the ability to prevent exposure to extreme temperatures from damaging equipment. Advances in heaters, fans, thermostats, regulators and lighting have enabled kiosks to function efficiently in almost any environment.
But as kiosks introduce new capabilities like virtual reality, augmented reality, biometrics, RFID, etc., there are more electronic parts, many of which have temperature and humidity specifications to consider.
Steve Gregorie, owner of Swift-Protect LLC, recently received a request for a kiosk to control access to a transportation center in a very cold environment using facial recognition. Atmosphere facing interfaces were vulnerable to the elements in the unit the customer wanted to use, he said. For example, the customer hadn't considered that the opening in the control panel where the user places his thumb could get filled with snow.
Electronic components come with specifications for humidity and temperature, Gregorie said.
"Every piece of equipment is going to have those kind of parameters," he said. "Whoever's manufacturing the workstation has to be aware of those specifications. If you don't, you're going to be open to a part failure."
Impact on radio signals
"The weather/atmospheric conditions directly affect propagation of radio waves," said Michelle Branson, director of business development at Stego Inc. "Increased humidity is one of the major factors which cause drops in say, cell phone signals."
Companies need to ask kiosk suppliers what signals and networks the kiosk will be using, where the machines will be located and whether or not the kiosks are insulated, Branson said.
"Weather affects all radio signals, however, temperature inversions, where a layer of warm air is trapped above a layer of cool air, can create atmospheric 'ducts' that bounce radio signals over longer than usual conditions," Branson added.
When installing Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G and 4G networks, URWay Holdings uses an industrial grade commercial antenna designed for vehicles, said Ed Crowley, company president and CEO. Such antennas can withstand extreme temperature and most forms of vandalism.
"Technological advancements have helped in the massive adoption of outdoor kiosks," said Crowley, an 18-year kiosk veteran. Six to eight years ago, outdoor kiosks were far more sparse and deployments were much more maintenance intensive.
Advancements in temperature control
Manufacturers today are able to manage enclosures and monitor temperatures and how air is moved and exhausted through the correct type and placement of fans, Crowley said.
"You're able to do a lot of things without a full-blown A/C system now with the improvement in the outdoor rated monitors," he said.
Manufacturers can change the thermostats, as well as the type, size and shape of the fans for airflow and heat, depending on where the kiosk is being installed and its specific purpose, he said. Thermostat controlled radiated heat plates and fans can move subtle heat between the monitor and the touchscreen glass.
"As the temperatures rapidly decrease, you don't want condensation build-up," he said, especially between the touchscreen glass and the monitor. "As the temperature breaks down to 50 F, you're blowing gentle warm air across the enclosure and over the surface of the monitor, inside of the glass, to keep the enclosure at a fairly controlled temperature."
"Thermal management is necessary to maintain internal kiosk temperature above the dew point," Stego's Branson said. "This may be needed during winter or nighttime throughout the year, even in warmer weather seasons — when humidity is a factor, preventing condensation from forming is paramount for the longevity of the sensitive electronic components within the kiosk," she said.
Crowley believes the most significant advancements have been in the LED backlighting for the monitors, which reduces heat buildup and burn-in of the monitors, he said. Kiosks have evolved from using compact fluorescent lamps serving as a back light to illuminate the glass, to LEDs.
"The LED backlight is considerably more efficient and it produces more even light and considerably less heat and has a longer operating hour life cycle," he said.
Experts agree that when selecting an outdoor kiosk, the customer must know the weather conditions and where the kiosk will be located specifically.
"These considerations will determine how we tweak the enclosure and multistage airflow system for the environment of use," Crowley said. Tweaking refers to adjusting the type, style and size of the blower or the fan, and the type, style, size and rating of the heater.
"By utilizing a proven design philosophy and following best practices, you can foresee and overcome any challenges," Crowley said.
He noted that wayfinding and informational kiosks have been installed near the ends of piers overlooking the ocean. There are 32-inch wall-mounted kiosks at a boating center on a harbor that provide information on weather condition, ocean and wave patterns and local ecosystem and wildlife.
URWay Holdings' 47-inch wide outdoor kiosks for campus wayfinding and information recently functioned without a glitch at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania, despite eight feet of snow and minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit, including wind chill. By following proven design practices, Crowley said the kiosks are able to guide students and faculty reliably in all types of weather.
Companies: STEGO, Inc.
Elliot Maras is the editor of KioskMarketplace.com and FoodTruckOperator.com.