What do the XMOS processor, the DesignTAG and E Ink Pearl display have in common? In case you are not up to speed on the first two, XMOS is a 32bit event driven processor (only an external event causes the processor to perform a function) and DesignTAG is a low-power identification tag on a processor chip.
So you haven’t guessed yet? Here is your answer - they all won The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) innovation award in the electronics category. It seems the electronics category has a pretty wide reach as other former winners include DNA analysis chips and low-power body monitoring systems. The photo below shows E Ink’s Sriram Peruvemba with his IET Award in London. This is a big deal, and he has a right to smile.
What is the IET award, you may ask? Here is a short description on what this award is all about.
"These awards are a great way to showcase some fantastic innovations taking place in engineering and technology worldwide," said Professor Mike Short, president of the IET. "The winners this year come from a wide variety of backgrounds and many have aimed to solve issues that impact our society; from saving lives to helping deliver a brighter and greener future. The IET Innovation awards offered are an important annual landmark for the IET, illustrating some of the latest and best ideas and designs that align with our core vision of advancing knowledge to enhance and improve people’s lives."
Having a display technology that is around for over a decade finally recognized as something that has changed people lives, is very encouraging for all of us in the display industry. We applaud E Ink for their achievement, and wish them more awards and business success in the future.
While it might seem strange that a few percent improvement of reflectivity (okay more than just a few) would bring the focus of the IET to this technology, the essence of the IET award description is how a technology will influence our lives. And it is here, where the Pearl display really shines. According to E Ink over 90% of all EBRs use E Ink displays. Furthermore, E Ink has stated that they expect to ship 25 - 30 million electrophoretic displays in 2011. A far cry from a million displays a year just a few years ago. Their technology has not only enabled a new kind of electronic device (the EBR) but in the wake of its success given rise of the tablet. Sure, there is no Pearl display in any tablet today, but it is at least questionable if the tablet would have been such a runaway success if the EBR didn’t open the mind of the consumer to a new form factor.
So, where does this leave E Ink in the years to come? Will they go away like so many other technologies that enabled a new market only to be swept away by a newer and more suitable technology? First of all, E Ink is also the manufacturer of FFS-LCDs and benefits here also from the tablet market it helped to inspire. A very good market position and good business strategy indeed.
From a technology standpoint, I believe that E Ink has a few more things up their sleeves that will keep them on top for years to come. While color is not the strongpoint of any reflective display, sunlight readability is. There are many other outdoor applications where the electrophoretic display technology will add significant value and will ultimately enter these markets. Then there is speed, we have seen these displays get faster and we have also seen video demonstrators in the past. This is certainly an area where we will see products in the market. Overall, electronic book readers are more appealing to the avid book reader than the LCD tablet, but the average newspaper enthusiast is more likely to use an LCD-based tablet for shorter reading periods. Many have commented on the reduced eye strain of electrophoretic displays versus LCDs, but very little scientific data are available about this subject. We will leave it as such; some people prefer reflective displays over emissive displays for reading. This is good news for E Ink.