The South By Southwest festival will be a coming-out party of sorts for an Austin technology company that’s been quietly growing for four years.
Digital Touch Systems Inc. has developed 30 interactive kiosks that will be sprinkled around downtown this month to assist tens of thousands of tech-savvy festival attendees. The informational displays, which each include two touch screens, are scheduled to be in high-traffic areas such as hotels.
The company, which employs 10 workers, appears to be in the right technology place at the right time. It develops interactive tables for restaurants and bars while the adoption of touch screens has risen sharply, industry experts say.
Global shipments of touch screens are expected to surge 17 percent this year compared with 2012. Although 73 percent of the screens are for handsets, shipments of personal computer touch screens are projected to rise 251.3 percent, according to Taiwan-based Digitimes Inc.
Digital Touch Systems has built its business on the touch-screen tables it develops for bars and restaurants. But the kiosk and display has been another revenue source while the company perfects its tables, CEO Bryan McCarley said.
For South By Southwest, it developed floor-model kiosks with 42-inch screens displaying information about bus routes and hotels. Getting the attention of event officials and then reaching an arrangement to have products used by attendees took years of networking and patience, he said.
In 2008, the company got an unlikely start when McCarley was unhappy with the service he received at an Austin restaurant.
He wondered why the table didn’t include a button he could push to order a beer. That thought evolved into a larger and more significant proposition: Why not shift all the ordering to the table?
“My conclusion was that there’s a high demand for it,” he said.
McCarley then launched Digital Touch Systems in Round Rock with $5,000 in 2009. Last year, the company moved to Austin and generated more than $1 million in revenue with sales in seven countries.
In Austin, Digital Touch Systems is not the only touch-screen developer.
N-trig Inc. also develops such technology, but with a much different business and funding model. The company, which was founded in 1999 as Gamalong Inc., develops a screen that can turn LCD monitors into touch screens.
In January, N-trig Inc. completed an $11.4 million financing from 16 investors, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
In 2009, when it was based in Israel, the company completed a $24 million Series B round of funding from a syndicate of investors. The financing increased the amount of venture capital raised by N-trig to $73 million, officials said at the
Last year, N-trig reported receiving $14.8 million of a planned $25 million financing from 18 investors.
At Digital Touch Systems, McCarley said interactive tables have proven to work best in quick-serve casual restaurants such as sports bars. Patrons at higher-end restaurants want the service and interaction with waiters and waitresses.
The restaurant tables typically cost venues $1,900 to $2,500, he said.
Touch-screen technology has grown in popularity and use in recent years, prompted mostly by the proliferation of the screens in smartphones and other mobile devices such as vehicle navigation displays. Lately, the technology has become a
common feature on personal computers.
The market for touch-screen modules is projected to double in coming years, from $16 billion in 2012 to $31.9 billion in 2018, according to DisplaySearch LLC.
Notably, Digital Touch Systems has been able to accomplish growth without any investment capital. But that’s about to change. McCarley said he’ll be considering financing this year to capitalize on the sudden demand.
“There’s a bubble in this space right now,” he said, “and we need to find a way to market to the masses.”