Sunny Scots' dull quest

February 7, 2003

There seem few less likely projects for a Scottish university to tackle than the problems of sunshine. But the University of Abertay Dundee aims to end the frustration of bank customers being unable to read outdoor cashpoint screens because of glare from sunlight.

Abertay's Electronic, Photonic and Information Control Centre (EPICentre) is investigating how people handle information displayed by various machines.

Colin Cartwright, the EPICentre's manager, said the ergonomics of cash machines were strictly controlled, but not the displays. "You can be guaranteed to be able to use the keypad but not necessarily see anything."

The EPICentre is carrying out research in collaboration with the National Physical Laboratory and the Department of Trade and Industry to establish techniques to measure and evaluate aspects of the displays, including reliability, contrast and pulsed light.

The research is supported by a range of institutions including the Dundee-based NCR Financial Solutions - the world's leading provider of automated teller machines - BAE Systems and Jaguar Cars.

Dr Cartwright admitted that being based in Scotland was a problem when it came to checking screen readability in sunshine. The Abertay researchers used a BAE Systems sunlight simulation room in England, in which a cross-section of the population tested a mock cash machine. Many companies exported products with displays, and the room could simulate midday in summer in Dubai, Dr Cartwright said.

Mark Grossi, chief technology officer with NCR, said: "The global use of ATMs means that they can be situated in quite hostile locations, and it is imperative that we have ways of measuring the performance of the displays in various conditions."

* Mark Girolami, associate head of Paisley University's School of Information and Communication Technologies, is leading research into investigating automated methods of identifying counterfeit notes deposited in ATMs.

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