E-Paper Hits The Road On German 18-Wheeler Billboards

September 12, 2016 by Dave Haynes


If you drive busy highways, you’ve no doubt seen your share of the back doors of 18-wheel transport trucks. So what if that space was used for location-specific advertising and traffic tips?

That’s the idea behind RoadAds interactive, a German company that is, in effect, putting eight giant Kindles on the back doors of a transport truck.

The effort is a partnership with the Slovenian tech company Visionect, which is focused on selling electronic paper solutions into the marketplace.

RoadAds involves a pair of four tiled 32-inch E Ink displays in billboards mounted at the rear of a truck. Running on electricity from the truck battery, each electronic paper truck display is equipped with GPS, 4G and Wi-Fi modules. A truck’s location can be determined to within five metres accuracy, and the screen content adapted to create location-targeted messages delivered in the language of choice.

The system is managed by Visionect’s platform.

The technology, says a press release, can be used to display real-time ads that are actionable, such as the next turn to take to reach a nearby restaurant or a local business, and can also provide drivers with GPS-triggered notifications on traffic conditions, road safety and more. Electronic paper was chosen because it uses energy only when changing content and features paper-like readability in direct sunlight, foregoing the need for backlights which are not allowed on European roads.

This GPS-triggered messaging on the road not only delivers ads for businesses and services available nearby, but also real-time notifications about traffic conditions, road safety, weather warnings and more. Electronic paper truck displays can warn other drivers of traffic jams or accidents ahead, of diminished road visibility, can communicate the distance to the next gas station, the next turn to take to make it to the nearest McDonalds, and even warn of changes in road signals.

Sort of similar, but in most ways different is this demo project called Safety Truck, which shows a live feed ahead of a big-ass truck, so the driver behind said truck has a better sense of whether it is safe to pass.

I think the set-up is a little challenged by the muted visuals and works better on text than images. I also wonder about overall viewer counts, as on a two-lane highway, it could be the same motorist stuck behind that truck forever. But that’s for the ad sales guys to figure out and massage.

I also wonder if the European regulations around backlights mean these signs will be invisible at night – because e-paper needs a backlight to be seen in darkened conditions.

By coincidence, this week’s 16:9 Podcast is with Visionect CTO Luka Birsa. We get pretty deep on electronic paper, but I didn’t know about this project when we chatted last wee. The podcast will be up at midnight Tuesday.

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