E-Paper Digital Signage Displays Still Very Much About The Future, With Just 400 Units Shipped Globally In Q1 2024: OMDIA

June 6, 2024 by Dave Haynes

Those walking the exhibit halls of InfoComm next week in Las Vegas will see several display manufacturers showing their adaptations of e-paper displays – talking about their future as replacements for static messaging more traditionally done using printed paper.

It’s definitely a somewhat limited part of the future if unit costs can come down, but new OMDIA research reinforces how this is still very much a future thing.

The research firm’s Public Displays Market Tracker incorporates e-paper displays (using the acronym EPD) for the first time with Q1 2024 reporting, and it showed all of 400 units shipping, globally, in Q1.

EPD display shipments are reported for the first time alongside the ProAV display industry’s established LCD and OLED display technology coverage. Initial global shipments surpass 400 units in 1Q24, with the majority of EPD shipments sold in Western Europe, followed by Japan. In Western Europe, key countries in this region are imposing stricter guidelines for energy efficiency for digital signage and professional displays based on updated EU regulations in recent years. Current adoption in North America remains low, as the price point remains the biggest barrier to quicker uptake since many customers are still comparing this newer display technology to LCDs, albeit with interest rising as further understanding of the latest color e-paper technology become apparent.

An OMDIA analyst’s blog post summary of the Q1 tracker is, in certain respects, an introduction of the tech.  

Currently, both Philips and Sharp have partnered with E Ink to develop color e-paper displays specifically for digital signage use utilizing the Spectra 6 platform. Philips offers their 13-inch and 25-inch 16:9 full-color e-paper displays capable of displaying 60,000 colors, an Android SoC processor, and remote content management all with low power consumption, only requiring a power source when updating the content shown.

In February 2024, Sharp also announced the launch of their new e-paper displays in 13-inch and 25-inch sizes as well, with availability starting in March 2024. Larger color EPD sizes, such as 32-inch, have also been announced earlier this year at Integrated Systems Europe (ISE), with further details on these products anticipated in June during the upcoming InfoComm 2024 in Las Vegas.

Since EPDs are a digital alternative to printed paper posters and signage, they are ideal for updating static content with very low power consumption, while using zero power when viewing a static image. However, video playback and content are not currently supported due to slower refresh rates, so these displays are not an apples-to-apples comparison to LCDs, by any means.

Pricing is also another downside, as current 25-inch or 32-inch sizes are still nearly 3x more expensive than a comparable-sized LCD display.

I think 3X is generous. When I have compared the PPDS and Sharp NEC e-paper products, they’re more like 10X the cost of similarly sized LCD monitors.

That will likely change over time, as there is a long history of display technologies starting out with ghastly price points and coming down with time. Twenty years ago, there were retailers spending $25,000 to put a big plasma display in a store – a unit that would now (as an LCD or OLED, plasmas are gone) cost maybe $1,000-$2,000 depending on several variables.

I would have thought shipments would have been much higher than 400, but we’re clearly still at the stage of end-users deploying small numbers of these to communicate their green/sustainability  initiatives.

The biggest real world deal I’ve seen so far would see Deutsche Telekom working with PPDS (Philips) on a field test this summer of E Ink-based displays as out of home posters on the housings of public phones in Germany.

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