Offering better visibility in bright conditions and lower power consumption, E Ink’s electronic paper screens are gaining in popularity as alternatives to LCD and OLED panels for digital signage, and the company has just made them even more appealing with an updated version of its color e-paper panels featuring much better contrast to improve color saturation and readability.
E Ink’s color screens have been slowly finding their way into e-reader and e-note devices through smaller companies like PocketBook, Hisense, and Boox, merging all the benefits of electronic paper without requiring users to consume content like magazines and comic books in black and white. However, the color screen technology has yet to be adopted by the biggest players in the e-reader space, including Amazon and Rakuten Kobo. The average consumer, at least in North America, has to go out of their way to find a device like an e-reader with a color screen, but there’s a good chance many have already experienced the technology without realizing it.
Where E Ink’s color screen technology has been more readily adopted is as an alternate to both printed and electronic signage in stores and public spaces. Grocery stores, in particular, have been quick to swap out paper shelf labels and price tags with compact E Ink displays. The tiny screens offer the same readability as printed labels, but can be wirelessly updated to account for price changes or sales reducing manual labor, and with a built-in battery good for up to five years, no additional wiring is needed to install them.
Most fast food restaurants and coffee shops have also traded printed hanging menus and other promotional displays for flat panel displays like LEDs and OLEDs, making them easier to update for promotions or other news. And that’s where E Ink is trying to expand its color display technology into next. The company’s new E Ink Gallery Plus panels—an update to its E Ink Gallery displays—uses cyan, magenta, yellow, and white color pigments to product a wide gamut of colors for every pixel, and now offers a contrast ratio that’s been improved by 40%.
E Ink’s black and white displays have always offered excellent contrast that’s comparable to printed text on paper, but its color display technology is just a few years old at this point, and is playing catch-up when it comes to important factors like contrast and color saturation depending on the lighting conditions. The improved contrast of E Ink’s new Gallery Plus panels, which will be available in 13.3-inch, 25.3-inch, and 28-inch size options, will help the technology better compete with options like LCD and OLED screens when mostly static information, such as menu items, are being displayed. E Ink technology still isn’t optimized for showing animated or video content, but brings with it other advantages like low power consumption which means it can be powered by rechargeable batteries, or even a solar panel, to streamline installation.
The company doesn’t expect the new color e-paper panels to replace the giant screens used by airports or other public spaces as information displays, but instead sees the new E Ink Gallery Plus as a more eco-friendly alternative to single-use printed posters used for advertising temporary information or promotions. E Ink hasn’t revealed when it will be available en masse, but the larger versions of the new panels are already in use in public transit stations in Taipei, Taiwan.