E Ink’s New Killer App

E Ink still sells a lot of electrophoretic displays (EPDs) for eReaders but, despite the recent introduction of new and significantly improved eReaders, that is now a mature market.

So the company is looking at other categories – such as smartwatches, smartphones and signage – to fuel future growth. There have been interesting design wins in each of these categories, which my colleague Steve Sechrist has described in his article this week from DSE 2015 (E Ink Plays to its Strengths).

But at Digital Signage Expo, held in Las Vegas last week, E Ink – along with its signage partner Global Display Solutions (GDS) – introduced what may well be its next killer app: a gas pump price sign. Wait. Don’t laugh, at least not yet.

Seeing this sign provided a eureka moment: the perfect combination of technology and an application that is not well served by the current approach – often printed cards in the US that are barely visible from the road.

E Ink Gas station sign 2

The E Ink/GDS solution has excellent contrast and sunlight viewability, and the implementation looks like a well-printed analog sign with no evidence of pixelization at practical distances. (I didn’t have a ladder so I was unable to look at the sign from ridiculously short distances.)

A reasonably close look at the module in the E Ink booth showed a solid, riveted aluminum frame. In other words, it looked like a late prototype or pilot unit, not something slapped together for a trade show.

I would expect the E Ink displays to start appearing in gas stations some time this year. But, since GDS is a global company with headquarters in Italy, the roll-out will probably start in Europe. Will the roll-out reach the US? My guess is yes, and possibly as early as late this year. – Ken Werner