E Ink Gets Anti-Light Pollution Certification; Don’t Expect LED DisplayCos To Follow Suit

February 16, 2022 by Dave Haynes

With most outdoor LED display manufacturers making brightness a key selling attribute, there’s not much chance of any of them joining E Ink in being certified by an organization that is all about combatting light pollution.

Taiwan-based E Ink – by most if not all measures the market leader in e-paper tech – has announced its “Dark Sky Certification” from the International Dark Sky Association (IDA).

E Ink, says PR, is the first display technology to be certified through the IDA. As a reflective technology, E Ink displays do not emit any light, and rely on the ambient lighting around them to be viewed. For night viewing, a simple, small LED strip can illuminate the display without the need for significant wasteful stray light that disrupts the neighborhood or the environment.

The main applications for outdoor e-paper, to date, have been transit update displays at stops along roadways, as well as some smart city display totems. The screens don’t need any illumination during the day and usually rely on modest, solar-driven, stored solar-power lighting once dark.

Says IDA and E Ink:

As cities continue to become smarter, and strive to provide timely information and communication to their citizens, the balance between delivering that information, environmental concerns and the aesthetic of a town becomes more important. Cities are striving to keep citizens safe and informed, while also considering their carbon footprint, and the electricity wasted on lighting that is overly bright, poorly targeted, and sometimes unnecessary.

Recently, Pittsburgh, PA became the first large urban city to pass a dark-sky ordinance, and there are a large number of smaller cities and rural or natural areas that have registered their commitment to reducing the light pollution emitted with IDA. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), as of 2016, at least 17 US States and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have laws in place to reduce light pollution, including Arizona, which has light pollution laws dating back to 1986.

One hundred years ago, you could walk outside your door and have a clear view of the starry sky above you. Today, artificial light – from street lights, to house lighting, to city signage and advertising – has hidden our view of the sky. This light pollution can have an affect not only our view, but it has environmental concerns for people, for wildlife and for the climate. E Ink believes strongly in providing environmentally friendly products that diminish light pollution, and deliver energy savings benefits to customers. Due to the unique attributes of the electronic ink, power is only required to switch images, not to continually display it, meaning the displays can be run using solar power, alleviating the need to be connected to the power grid.

“E Ink is very excited to receive our Dark Sky Certification”, said Johnson Lee, CEO of E Ink, “Our sustainable displays are already deployed in thousands of transit and public areas throughout the world, providing solutions that contribute less light pollution and use less energy. This certification underlines our commitment to bring products to our customers that can be beneficial to the public, and to the environment.” 

In a big city, Digital OOH posters, billboards and spectaculars – as well as other types of outdoor signage – would represent a teeny percentage of the overall light being generated. But it is noticeable for a few reasons:

So while there may be much bigger “offenders” in terms of light pollution, ad-based and other kinds of outdoor digital displays might get more than proportional attention if anti-light pollution initiatives get traction with local governments.

In Pittsburgh, with that dark sky ordinance in place, would something like that eight-story mesh LED that just lit up in Atlanta be allowed?

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