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Freescale gives touch screens a software twist

PORTLAND, Ore. — The growing popularity of touch screens in mobile devices is fueling new touch-sensitive interfaces for everything from automobiles to industrial controllers, according to Freescale Semiconductor.

In response, Freescale has unveiled a software initiative to improve resistive touch screens, multitouch interfaces and transparent ITO (indium tin oxide) panels.

“People are getting used to having their personal-area network devices like their cellphone and their multimedia devices respond to their touch, and are starting to expect the same response to their touch in their automobiles, homes and even their workplaces,” said Mauricio Gomez, Freescale's regional marketing and engineering manager.

The emerging touch-sensing market is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 23.8 percent, according to iSuppli Corp. (El Sugundo, Calif.). The market researcher predicts the market will top $3 billion by 2011, when touch sensing formobile phones alone is expected to grow to 400 million units.

“The new generation is expecting to use touch to interact with their electronic devices–to touch them and get a response,” Gomez predicted. “For device designers, it means you can add the 'cool factor' to your device by adding a touch panel that enhances its look and feel.”

Freescale currently offers a range of touch sensing chips for adding flat-panel keypads and rotary dials. It is expanding into new features like ultra-lower power consumption for battery-powered devices. Freescale is now offering a software solution for its microcontrollers that enables designers to add touch panels with no additional hardware.

“You can add a range of touch sensing to any of our microcontrollers,” said Freescale engineer Bryce Osoinach. “We have profiles already set up in the software for keypads, sliders, rotary dials, matrix and touchpad.”

Freescale's software library is said to work with a variety of its microcontrollers, implementing in software the same touch panels as touch-sensing chips.

Freescale predicts that by 2012 it will extend its hardware and software into multi-touch solutions as well as new touch sensing chips for resistive touch screens and transparent ITO panels.

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