Reading text from a display for extended periods of time has always been problematic for a large number of electronic readers. Since the advent of the e-paper display, most of the inconveniences of traditional displays have been reduced. In fact, e-paper displays have become the de-facto standard for eBook readers.
The key advantages to using e-paper displays in eBook readers are also beneficial to other applications. They’re easy to read, immune to the effects of bright sun glare, and are extremely power efficient. Hence, e-paper displays are suited for signage applications that change frequently, such as those that display schedules or other live information.
Indoor/outdoor signage is a good example of an application where the benefit of clear readability and glare resistance shines. Further, e-paper requires little power to operate. Battery powered units could be remotely deployed and last for years with one battery. Combine the battery with solar or even energy harvesting technologies and the system could run indefinitely. Note that building e-paper displays into watertight and/or reinforced packages may be necessary to protect against the elements or vandalism.
Often the display choice for public transportation information is an LED matrix. If more information is required, TFT-LCDs can be used. Both systems have their respective pros and cons. LEDs are bright enough to be read clearly in bright sunlight. However, they consume a lot of power. Alternatively, TFT LCDs consume considerably less power but are hard to see in bright conditions. With e-paper you get both—an ultra-low power solution that’s visible in bright conditions and easy to read.
The low power characteristics of e-paper displays could allow for unique placement of live updated transit information. Transit operators would have a means to deploy real-time data in remote or rural settings. Battery-operated signs could use solar power to keep batteries fresh, minimizing battery replacement.
Now, let’s look at the display from a service perspective. An e-paper display installed with a call bell unit would be useful in providing information back to the person who initiated the service call. The information displayed could indicate that someone is on their way as well as how long they are likely to have to wait. A call bell design with a built-in e-paper display can be used in both indoor and outdoor settings. As with other applications, information can be updated wirelessly, and the power advantage would allow installation virtually anywhere. A two-way call bell service can further improve the customer experience.
Room occupancy status
Commonly seen on the doors of conference or meeting rooms are live display boards providing room occupancy information. Sometimes live scheduling information can also be found via complex LCD systems. As useful and as easy as these devices are to use, they are far more complicated to install. Most occupancy and booking system installations require mains supply and possibly network connections. In many cases, surrounding infrastructure must be modified. E-paper displays eliminate this need. A completely wireless, battery-operated solution could be designed that can hang on a door or wall. This install-anywhere approach makes such a product more appealing to potential buyers.
Scott Soong is the CEO of Pervasive Displays and has over a decade of experience in both the software and display industries. He sits on the board of several other technology businesses as a consulting partner, including One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), which looks to provide children in developing countries with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop. Scott has an MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley as well as a BA from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, US.