Industrial keyboards are peripheral hardware devices consisting of alphanumeric keys, electromechanical buttons or sensors, which the user presses to input characters to a computer. In general, keyboards are electronic or electromechanical device for entering data into a computer, a communications system or the user interface of an instrument. Usually the keyboard communicates with the computer via a serial line. Industrial keyboards are typically connected directly to the processor, allowing the processor to scan and detect which keys are currently pressed. Keyboards utilize a variety of layouts, but the QWERTY layout is the most common. Most have keys to generate the ASCII character set as well as various function keys and special purpose keys, e.g., reset or volume control.
Common applications for industrial keyboards include general purpose or commercial, industrial or factory automation, kiosk, marine or shipboard, medical, military or aerospace, point of sale (POS), telecommunications, and vehicular. Connection types for industrial keyboards can be cable or wireless. Keyboards with cables use a straight or coiled multi-conductor cable with a serial, PS/2 or other computer interface connector. Cables are also available with a "Y" split with separate connectors for keyboards with integrated pointing devices. Wireless keyboards utilize an RF or IR radio data link to transfer keyboard commands to the computer. The wireless feature can be useful in applications where an operator needs to move the keyboard away from the computer. The form factor can be desktop or enclosed, handheld or miniature, OEM kit or module, panel mount, or rackdrawer or rack mount. Important materials of construction to consider include the material for the enclosure or adapter plate and the keys or overlay material. Number of keys is something that should be taken into consideration. Interface choices for keyboards include IBM PS/2 or AT, parallel, serial, Sun, and USB.
Additional features to consider when searching for industrial keyboards include integral pointing devices, special features, environment or industrial rating, EMC specifications, military and aerospace specifications, intrinsically safe construction, and environmental operating parameters. Common choices for integral pointing devices include mice, pointing buttons or joysticks, touchpads, and trackballs. Special features commonly found on industrial keyboards include backlighting, ergonomic features, integral displays, integrated automatic ID devices, and speaker alarms or buzzers. NEMA gives environmental or industrial ratings. NEMA Standards are outlined by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) to provide general safety information on electrical equipment for architects, engineers, installers, inspectors, and other interested parties. Industrial keyboards that meet EMI or EMC specifications are designed to pass or meet tests, standards or ratings for electromagnetic conditions. Military or aerospace keyboards meet military specifications. Intrinsically safe keyboards are suitable for hazardous environments where explosive or combustible materials may be present. Also, known as non-incendive keyboards. Important environmental parameters to consider include operating temperature, vibration rating, and shock rating.