Using e-paper technology in remote messaging systems

8 Jul 2021

By Rei Vilo
Being able to send simple one-way messages to friends or family to remind them about important events is really useful. But we’re not taking about sticking a post-it onto the fridge and hoping for the best – messaging systems have come a long way since the invention of the famous sticky note over 40 years ago! There are situations where a low-power remote messaging display, which can be wirelessly updated, can be a lifeline for providing daily reminders. And e-paper displays (EPDs), based on e-ink technology, have features such as bi-stable, sunlight readable screens which lend them to being the perfect choice as an unobtrusive method of displaying information.

Assisting the elderly to live independently

One key group of people for whom a remote display messaging system would be very beneficial are senior citizens who wish to maintain an independent lifestyle. Helping the elderly to live independently is a problem in many Western societies which struggle to cope with the needs of their aging populations. Age-related forgetfulness means that senior citizens are often reliant on family members or care-givers to prompt them to do things. A straightforward push messaging system would enable caregivers to provide support like sending reminders to take medication or to attend a hospital appointment. It would also allow the caregiver/family member to jog the elderly person’s memory that a family member’s birthday is coming up or remind them they will have a visitor the next day. These simple reminders can make a big difference in helping the person feel in control of their life instead of confused and upset about their forgetfulness.


Other use cases for EPDs

E-paper displays are extremely versatile, and there is also scope for this type of technology to be applied to many other use cases. For example, in an office environment, messaging units could go on desks to provide details of upcoming meetings, news updates from the CEO or could even deliver regular motivational messages. A wall-mounted unit outside a meeting room could give information on when the room is booked or available and what equipment is provided inside. And in a restaurant, for example, an EPD screen could display details of daily specials or menus and can be updated wirelessly whenever changes need to be made.


Elements of a simple messaging system

The messaging system uses two elements in its setup: firstly, a remote unit with an e-paper displays which receives and displays text and/or images. The hardware contains an integrated clock enabling the date and time to be updated. Secondly, the remote unit is supported by a cloud-based back-end which receives the message data. It then authenticates and timestamps the data before sending it wirelessly to the remote unit.


Benefits of using EPDs in remote messaging systems

EPDs offer strong resilience to sunlight and superior readability both outdoors and indoors. The advanced units from Pervasive Displays give a high contrast output with 130DPI resolution. Since the addition of red or yellow to offer three color displays (with black and white), the black-white-red screens in particular can be used to draw attention to particular messaging on the screen. E-paper is less intrusive than TFT or STN displays with no flickering or emitted light coming from the screen, making EPDs well-suited to remote messaging systems as they are discreet. They do not have a negative impact on the user or their environment; the screen is just there in the background, for someone to glance at whenever they choose to.

A huge plus point for e-paper is that the technology is bi-stable meaning that the screen only needs power when the image is first rendered. After that, the screen stays the same until it receives new text/image data. This makes e-paper technology ideal for remote, battery-powered applications, as operation will continue even if no power is subsequently supplied to the back-end after receiving the message data. The remote unit continues to display the message until power is restored to the back-end and new data is received. On receipt of the data, the remote unit compares it with what was already stored on its non-volatile memory, and makes changes accordingly.


Designing with EXT3 Kit Gen 3

Pervasive Displays launched its Extension Kit Gen.3 (EXT3) board in 2021. Designers can use this along with any e-paper display module from Pervasive Displays to create a simple messaging unit. Click here to find out more.

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