A competent company would have pursued the signage market aggressively many years ago and would have had a massive revenue stream from that by now.
E Ink displays have recently started showing up as price tags on grocery shelves, which is promising for the future of low cost, low power displays. I am not sure if these are supplied by Eink or if patents are expiring and competitors are moving into the market.
Are you sure you know EInk/PVI's business better than they do?
Maybe they're more popular elsewhere, but outside of warehouse store price labels I haven't seen the technology.
Certainly not in large format.
I haven't seen them in the US, but they're not exactly uncommon in Europe and Asia.
One of the main purposes of a price tag is to draw and hold the shopper's eye, and in that respect they fail miserably.
There I was thinking the main purpose of a price tag is to tell you the price.
Product packaging is meant to grab your eye. Price tags are mostly functional (although some shops also use them to advertise offers).
Don't assume alignment of incentives. From the customer's perspective, the purpose of a price tag is to tell you the price. The customer isn't making the purchasing decisions for the price tags.
This is a typical example: https://cflvdg.avoz.es/sc/X71nZnU3spbY_97PpRRHtVnNB20=/x/201... - the price tags are standard, but the yellow sign with the eye ("you have a keen eye!") draws your attention to a particular tag. If they want to draw your attention even more they will use a larger sign, no problem.
By the way, eInk price tags in supermarkets here are common. Far from ubiquitous, but common.
I'm not sure that's really true.
What a supermarket like Tesco wants to do is sell stuff at a high price to people who don't care about the price (there are a lot of such people) while having stuff available at a low price to people who will only buy it if the price is competitive (there are also a lot of those people). One way to do that is to put the expensive stuff at eye level and the cheaper stuff on the bottom shelf. Another way to do it is to have periodic offers: some people will buy certain products only when they're on offer. Yet another way to do it is to make the prices hard to read or hard to compare. And the shops do that, in my experience. E Ink could be another tool for that. "Almost illegible from a distance of more than 40 cm" could be a selling point.
In certain areas, the consumer laws are such that the lowest of the register price and the displayed price must be used, and in other even friendlier jurisdictions, a discount of $10 has to be applied to the shelf price if the shelf price is lower than the register price (including giving away the item for free if the item is worth less than $10).
In those jurisdictions, ensuring that the price is correctly synchronized between displays and the registers is significantly more important than in jurisdictions with weaker consumer laws.
Handling all this data and keeping it up to date is much easier with digitised and synchronised displays.
I bought the requirements, and passed by a the crisps (potato chips) aisle on my way to the chocolate. A glance half an aisle away told me that one of the three or four kinds of crisps my partner takes to work was on offer, I had half an aisles walking where I thought about it and ended up buying it.
In the chocolate aisle I ended up buying a large bag of white chocolate that was particularly well priced (I could read every label from one place). As chocolate is a guilty luxury I've been known to leave without it if my deliberations last too long; being able to parse the information quickly led to a purchase.
So that is why. Most shoppers are both immediately price driven and don't want to be there. This can be used to increase spends.
Top reason was simply price and maintenance. Deploy this kind of tech to 3400 stores is seriously non-trivial (something I know, from having attempted to build and sell tech to Tesco), and even very low unit costs compound fast.
Tesco top concerns with this type of tech are:
1. Price. Tesco is very capex sensitive. They generally only want to spend money on assets that have multiple uses.
2. Will it work 100% of time, or very close to it. Incorrect price tags are a serious issue for Tesco.
3. Who fixes it when it goes wrong and how?
Again these don’t seem like hard issues, but 3400 physical store makes it hard. Especially when you can’t rely on store staff to deal with uncommon problems, they aren’t given the time or training, due to retails razor thin margins.
One of the interesting non-obvious problem Tesco had with eInk price tags was simply making sure the right product tag appeared on the right shelf in the right place. This is despite has a very competent stock management system that tracks exactly what item lives on what shelf.
With paper you just swap the tags and move on. With eInk displays you can’t do that because then physical location of a tag will no longer match it’s stored virtual location.
Same for the e-ink price tags, I've spotted them in two different supermarkets of the same chain so far but I'm 100% sure that in ~2 years literally all of them will have them.
At least not to the extent expected.
The closest explanation I can think of is that so much of store operations' focus is on standardization (which itself is a tough problem), that deliberately disturbing standardization seems anathema.
That said, it's definitely changing in some chains. But you'll still get tons of blank looks or red tape in most, if you want to run an experiment like that.
I am a field tech for retail stores and see new technology being piloted all the time.
Rollouts are how they survive. Every tech refresh cycle is an enormous project handled by roaming teams who travel. I have done a 9-month rollout project for a huge chain. It was a great year. :)
They advertise their % off original retail to increase volumes of sales.
Price is their theoretical business, if the products were enticing enough themselves they'd not have made it to Kohls.
Can't blame them to be honest, they probably get damaged a lot and they're competing price-wise with small pieces of printed paper.
I may very well be wrong, but I live a block away from a Coop, Systembolaget and a few other stores, I can do a quick sample test tomorrow. (I know they have tags similar looking to these but I couldn't swear they're e-ink. I always thought those tags were pretty cool but it drives me nuts when they aren't set and so you have to go around hunting for a price anyway. (Looking at you, Bauhaus!)
Electronic price tags are a huge business.
that said, you have a point, if tec was from china and/or was more open it would be everywhere.
There is the reality that if this sign costs tens of dollars, you can go through the old printing process hundreds of firms before it becomes viable to use these kinds of screens though
And would that add up to needing to hire even a single new employee, considering that most retail stocking is done by regular employees during their down times (it’s not like stores are gonna reprice and rearrange products on the fly during busy times).
And it’s not just the cost of a single eink sticker because they will get damaged or break down more frequently.
Another benefit of that is that it leaves the only regular stocking left which is the easiest part to automate. At that point you can cut out the grocery department entirely and leave the 10% weird cases to the front end staff.
Ah, but with networked electronic tags, they totally could try and maximize revenue even more by dynamically repricing products throughout the day.
I feel like you’d need to have people scan things as they picked them up to lock in the price. Then you’d need to automatically drop the price if the price goes down before the customer checks out (but don’t raise it if it goes up).
The real holy grail in price segmentation would be something like Google glasses that show individualized prices for each product. Then the store could do all kinds of targeted price promotion based on my buying history. Or even do promotional pricing based on my shopping trip for that day. Maybe it notices I'm about to checkout and I have hamburgers in my cart, it could offer me a promotional price on buns. Or lower the price of sale items as I walk past them without picking them up to try to find the highest pricepoint I'm willing to pay.
>In practice, this meant stores had to change their prices every day. The guy in the grocery store would walk the aisles putting new price stickers on the food. Shoppers would run ahead of him, so they could buy their food at the previous day’s price.
In addition to just price tags, they can then also show animation and ads at strategic locations.
It isn’t common yet, and I’ve only seen it at one of their test stores, but it’s pretty cool tech. But it is definitely not as set and forget as eInk.
But in large format I don't think I've ever seen one.
Never said that I do, and, yes they are NOW finally starting to pursue the signage / label markets. My point was that they could and should have done so 10 or more years ago.
I actually think there's a lot of room at the low end of the market to sell an on-premises ARM- or NUC-based server which interfaces with the tags over a radio link and provides aggregate data back to a cloud-based system for control and pricing updates. That would get you the millions of convenience stores who have to pay 3rd-party contractors to do their shelf labels. This would be especially brilliant if you combined a software fee with equipment leases so that your solution is an operating expense instead of an upfront capital cost.
I dunno, makes sense to me that you'd first address something where color and large sizes isn't very important, start making some revenue, do R&D on manufacturing larger formats and color and frame rate, and gradually introduce new products as they can be developed.
It's not like they've been keeping other color e-ink devices off the market with patents -- they didn't exist until today AFAIK. Other things billed as "color e-ink" substitutes that I've seen consume power in standby (and I keep checking from time to time with fingers crossed). I remember hearing stories about how much trouble they had getting from prototype (circa 1996) which I saw in lab to a model ready for production in 2007. 10+ years of process development to get to where it was in the first kindle.
And to be honest I'm not sure another company could just pick up the technology and start producing them in bigger quantities, these things are barely related to other displays at all and I imagine the production lines are super different. Plus patents from 1997 are expired now anyway, so if someone else could do it they are allowed to.
Knowing a fair bit about how their displays work, it's one of the few cases in electronic hardware I can think of that really seems to deserve a patent given how much creativity and time it took to start manufacturing, and how much money they had to spend to get it to the stage where it worked reliably at all. We could very easily be in a world where these displays didn't exist at all, plus or minus a few people making different choices about how to spend their money and time.
While LCDs still consume power just to display a picture, it can go very low : see how watches can run for a decade on a single tiny battery !
(I'm not even sure that e-ink would necessarily be an improvement there, considering that you'll want a watch to refresh a part of the screen at least once a minute...)
Your statement implies this is a recent development but many large retailers, like Best Buy and Kohls, have had these for well over 5 years, maybe even 10 I just don't remember precisely.
> They have been a terrible steward of the technology, limiting
> themselves to a tiny fraction of the addressable market (ebook
> readers) while shutting out a vast potential low power display
> market by pricing their panels far too high.
I would pay any reasonable - and even a slightly unreasonable - price for a full E-ink phone, because I am a business user and do not care about consuming media. Likewise for a laptop or desktop screen. Yet they are all but unavailable!
They are still very niche devices, though. Onyx made a similar thing back in 2013, but they never followed up because it didn't sell well.
FWIW, I do have a Kingrow K1, and I like it for what it is, which is a 5" Kindle that can also run the occasional Android app (like, say, OsmAnd or Kiwix). It's an excellent off-the-grid device due to battery life, which is precisely what I got it for. But for business use, I don't see much point - a dedicated business device to me would be something like Cosmo Communicator or Unihertz Titan.
With K1, I have a 400 Gb card in there that's loaded with stuff - not only my entire Kindle library, but also Kiwix loaded with offline Wikipedia and a bunch of other wikis, OsmAnd topo maps etc. Between that, and several days of battery life with occasional use, it's perfect for multi-day hikes out in the boonies.
If you mean the screen refresh rate, it's typical eInk, comparable to Kindle. For tasks that require fast refresh, it's certainly not a pleasant device to use - e.g. scrolling around in maps is a bit tricky - but it's manageable.
As an engineer my immediate thought was whether they update these on-the-fly with different prices depending on who walks in the door (they don't).
This severely limits dynamic pricing.
Essentially, if the price is wrong on the shelf, they can simply choose not to sell you the item if you refuse the correct price. In reality, larger stores won't want to upset a customer and generally will honour a lower price. It's more likely to happen when buying a loaf of bread than when buying a TV, or a car for example.
I wonder if there are any noticeable economical effects of being able to update prices live on the fly with those price tags, or if it's purely a matter of convenience.
Please share your evidence for this.
I was in a meeting with an eInk marketing person and saw a prototype of this display 2 years ago (the refresh time was hellish, 10-15 seconds IIRC, and their suggested applications suggest the refresh rate hasn't been brought down since then). He was relatively new to the company then, and mentioned that he'd reviewed their CRM contacts going way back, and found, among other things, an inquiry about a small eInk display from (my NDA probably prevents me being too specific) a little silicon valley tech start-up making an IoT wall-mounting thermostat, circa 2012. eInk failed completely to respond to that inquiry at all. What a massive lost opportunity.
I looked at their display range and had an idea for a demonstrator product - which is why we had the meeting, they wanted 3rd parties to help them develop novel applications for eInk displays - so I asked for data sheets on a few of them. I can't remember if we ultimately had to sign an NDA to get the data sheets, or if there was sufficient behind-the-scenes conversation between him and their Taiwanese owners to pull their fucking head in, but 2 weeks just to get data sheets wasn't a good start.
Along with the displays I looked at several of their dev-kits to drive them (before you design your own driver in your own product & get working hardware, so that s/w people can dev code for it before then). They had at least 3 completely different dev-kits for displays in the 1.5 to 4" range. Not only did they have quite different interfaces (signalling, pin-outs, connectors), but all the dev-kits were all based on different microcontroller brands, AND you had to have your own device-programmer for each of those microcontrollers to be able to update the dev-kit's firmware - as recommended by their own instructions before you start work. IOW, they ship dev-kits with outdated firmware, so you have to update them yourself at your own cost.
So I had a follow-up conf-call with this guy & someone new in the tech area and basically gave him the "srslywtf?" conversation about this appalling experience. They were appreciative of the feedback, but I never heard from them again. That marketing guy was in a new job less than a year later.
I found eInk displays from several other sources and moved on, never to bother with eInk Inc again.
The price-tag application has been around a long time now, 5 maybe 10 years, but precious few other applications (San Diego Airport's car-park comes to mind, tho that's ePaper, not eInk (i.e. whole panels, not dot-matrix displays)), but eInk have been completely wrong-headed about how to get eInk to go beyond the near-captive-audience of eBook Readers (which is mostly the Kindle), and the writing was on the wall for that product line to expand way beyond just eInk-based readers a LONG time ago. Sad.
Two things I think it's done really well- it has the ability to easily disable the touch screen so you can pass it around and work with it like it's a real piece of paper. Additionally, you can change the refresh rate to your preference, and set it per-app. Higher refresh rates lead to ghosting, but if I turn the refresh rate high enough, I can watch a YouTube video on ePaper (!!!) which is crazy to me.
The one feature I wish existed in every smartphone and tablet yet it exists in none. Perhaps I'm particularly clumsy but the amount of inadvertent interactions I trigger with my devices is infuriating.
I would say that’s better because it doesn’t take up more phone real-estate, and it can’t be disabled by a smart kiddo.
It's a bit hacky but kinda works (netflix doesn't like stuff floating over a playing video so you have to set touch lock to lock in 10 secs then press play, there's a sort of knack to it. Also it doesn't lock the power button so sometimes that accidentally gets pressed and I get asked why did it stop? :) )
If there are better options out there I'm all ears!
With the One Mix Yoga 2S it forms my on call tech kit I lug everywhere. I wouldn't use this for full time work but I only need a tiny shoulder bag this way vs carrying the 14" ThinkPad everywhere just because once every half a year we have an emergency...
You can see my loadout at https://imgur.com/a/xmRmYSn
If I am reading reviews correctly it has micro(?) HDMI and a usb-C port. However, the usb port seems to only be for charging/keyboards/data etc., not for display port (next model maybe?).
edit: I see that they're still shipping Android 6-based devices in 2020. Lovely stuff.
Overpowered hardware, stock android 9, no restrictions.
I wish Movies Anywhere existed for ebooks but there's no way Amazon would go for it. :(
I explain it all in this comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21041543
I recently deleted my Amazon account and now use the kindle as plain e-reader as far as that is possible (ie buy and load books from other sources).
How do you use it?
I use it for reading and note taking. It's helpful to jot something down quickly or to take more in-depth notes. You can also install Android apps on there too, so I use Firefox to browse the web (reading articles on Wikipedia, doing research into software products) and sync that with my phone to easily pass data between them.
These various applications sound like static images without fast refresh requirements. I wonder what the refresh rate is like on these.
I'm still waiting with bated breath for a reliable e-ink computer monitor comes out with a decent refresh rate. I'd even be happy with just greyscale.
A few of these, updating them maybe once a day, would be excellent.
Also for outdoor advertisement. Replacing those LED backlight. Unfortunately the video has shown the quality isn't anywhere near good enough. PPI and colour accuracy are too low.
The dream of someday coding on a high-resolution decent-refresh-rate color e-paper monitor is still alive!
Digital photo frames that cycle throughout the day, dynamic posters and murals with art that changes with the time or viewer, refreshing price labels, clocks with minute resolution, data visualization over large time intervals, informational displays...
You might not even have to paint the entire screen at once, but can perhaps update only the dirty regions.
Not everything needs to display video or respond in real time to human input. There's so much painted in the world around us that could have value added by letting it refresh on the day, hour, or minute.
Also interesting that the iMac doesn't have TrueTone, so he had to do the white-balance matching himself.
(Computer vision would be cool though, imagine if it was different every time you left and re-entered a room?)
That said, you could probably put a one-cell LCD (like those shadeable windows on the 787) over the screen to black it out during the update.
Honestly I'd say this is possible now. Modern two-color (usually black/red) e-paper panels can refresh at 5-10hz. Grayscale only panels can go even faster, but it's not a huge problem for text. My e-reader gets around 100 hours of battery life but drops under 10 if I enable wifi and any lighting. That's running a lightly modified android. I'd imagine a dedicated os just for text and vpn/git could do quite well. Currently the only players in the big e-paper market are going for ereader or "sketchbook" markets.
Dasung's current generation grayscale e-ink monitor comes pretty close, IMO. It even does adequate video playback: https://youtu.be/vnUACe8Bsyg?t=27
Even laptops would probably benefit from it, when you're typing some text or reading a document you don't need 60fps refresh rate (especially if you can only refresh portions of the screen). That might save a significant amount of battery.
There are already a lot of reflective LCD displays. For example in digital clocks and watches but they are all monochrome.
Pixel Qi promised reflective displays but I believe the reflective mode is only grayscale.
EDIT: Can't reply to TeMPOraL, but I think that's not true, they need polarized light. I'm not an expert on this but my intuition is there are unrealized advances to be made in the field of reflective LCD-based displays. I just don't think there's much demand to research these applications and connect the dots. I would be surprised if you couldn't make a pretty decent, high refresh rate reflective display using an LCD based approach.
E-ink is nice because it does not need a light source to be fully legible in any condition in which print is.
CLEARink have a best-of-all-worlds high-refresh rate color e-paper that want to release products around mid 2020.
As of last year they had only just partnered with a manufacturer and had yet to ship actual Dev or Demo kits.
For applications which need fast refresh rates and characteristics like good readability under sunlight, transflexive LCD displays seem to be more popular and economical.
Remember, eink works by physically moving 'ink' particles within each pixel using a magnetic field. It takes a lot of power and time compared to how quickly electronic signals usually propagate, and it seems difficult to get around that physical limitation.
(Even a drawing application could maybe handle it if you could refresh subsections of the display)
Brand like Pixel Qi offer those. They have 3 modes: backlight, reflective, and a combination of both.
But to be fair the reflective mode always looks monochrome to me.
Not OP, but I daydream of a big character cell display for console work, especially my development work which is basically vi and a few other tools multiplexed in tmux. Not sure how it’d play out in reality, but in my mind it’s just more pleasant to work with hour over hour.
TL;DR: probably not, but I'm still evaluating. (A proper stand for it might also help - what's included is laughably flimsy)
(It was actually a really neat little thing, I wish I still had it)
One of my main excuses has been the fact color is useful for programming books because you have syntax highlighting. Now I'm realizing reflective color screens may never really come, and it's probably better to devise some kind of software workaround. Some kind of system that would replace colored fonts with a system of very distinctive set of typefaces that work well in B&W.
1 frame / every 25 seconds = 0.04 frames per second
My oldest son is a voracious reader, and I would love to get him on an e reader, but I don't want to go for a traditional screen, so the lack of color e ink type option kinda stops me.
I would LOVE to have an eink reader that could fulfill this role. I have been watching and waiting for years.
Edit: original site is working now, it's them.
if anyone does that I'll find that person and kill them with dull spoon.
There is nothing more infuriating than that little thing - why would even anyone do that? what's the use case? why waste dev time on that?
And the sales guy did it because a prospect said we really like all the features and the price but your product doesn't have as much color and animation as Acme Inc's product.
And the prospect did it because they actually prefer Acme Inc's product but they don't like Acme Inc's price so if they are going to have to go with the second choice product then let's get something done about the colors/animation before we close the sale.
And then we have the product guy coming back and working out what is the least or least worst thing we can do to remove the sales resistance, close out the sale and have everybody paid.
AirBnB web team, if you read this. Fire your boss, their boss and then remove the org from your resume as you do a year or two traveling the world. Hopefully booking rooms by walking up and saying, ‘this places looks nice, do you have a room available?’
> Note that any other scrolls, such as those performed by the user, are not affected by this property.