So what happened to all the other uses of eInk?

The Kindle and Nook use eInk, and it’s marvellous.

Which makes you wonder – Why isn’t it used in other devices and for other uses?

There are a few small watch companies making eInk powered watches.

Update: Thanks to Common Sense and Maxine and Russ for some more uses of eInk.

We have a technology that has helped transform Publishing, one that does some pretty amazing things such as not use any power to display an image and power a device to 1 month of battery life. It really should be used for a lot more uses.

What else could eInk be used for?

Let’s make some wild guesses -

  1. Displays on other devices.
  2. Price Tags in stores.
  3. Notebooks.
  4. Outdoor displays. Tack on a solar cell to an eInk display and you have a great low-cost display.
  5. Posters and even wallpapers.
  6. Medical Charts.
  7. T-Shirts. D A N C E.
  8. Labels to use around the house. Peel a label off one jar, change the caption, and put it on another jar.
  9. Reflectors – Switch eInk to all-white when you want more light, and switch to all-black when you want less light.
  10. Board Games – Scrabble where you don’t have to place letters on boards.
  11. Name Tags.

The one thing that keeps coming up is the lack of color. In fact, once color eInk is cheap and plentiful we might see some drastic changes.

Color eInk Uses

Well, here are a few possibilities -

  1. Color eInk instead of Advertisement Posters and Hoardings.
  2. Color eInk Sheets handed out instead of flyers.
  3. Menus that use color eInk instead of paper.
  4. Clothes. Sooner or later someone is going to figure out that clothes that can change color and patterns to match the rest of your outfit are a killer idea.
  5. Heating and Cooling. eInk Panels outside houses – In summer they are all white and reflect out heat. In winter they are all black and transfer heat indoors.
  6. Replace screens of all sorts.
  7. Traffic Lights. Instead of having lights that consume a lot of energy we could use eInk to run lights (at least during the day) using very little energy.
  8. Public Signs.
  9. Road markings and dividers. eInk reflects so it’s a good candidate. This might be a bit of a stretch.
  10. Shipping Labels. Re-use the same label 10,000 times.
  11. Accessories. Bracelets that can change color to match your clothes.
  12. Color eInk panels and labels built into devices and bags and books – Set your name and address and then you never have to worry about tags and address labels.

I’m still stuck in the box of thinking of eInk as mostly a paper replacement. There have to be more ways of using color eInk. The Arizona State research team is building wearable solar-powered eInk panels for soldiers. There are just so many possibilities.

Why aren’t people implementing newer, other uses of eInk?

In a way all of us readers are helping take eInk to a stage where it is cheap enough to power lots of other uses. Currently, 6″ black and white eInk panels are probably $40 to $60, and 6″ color eInk panels are probably $50 to $100.

We may, in 2 to 3 years, hit a point where the same sized panels are $2 for black and white eInk and $5 for color eInk. At that point a lot of other uses (posters, labels, clothes) become viable.

eReaders are the first market eInk is taking over/creating. Over the course of the next 5 to 10 years we might see eInk show up in a lot of surprising places.

11 Responses

  1. E-ink is used on some scientific applications, such as electronic lab notebooks. Has been for some time (not least by the scientists who developed the technology, but also in many academic scientific institutions and labs).

  2. I think one of the reasons is that it’s still too fragile. I dropped my Kindle and caught it before it hit the floor and the eInk screen broke even though the rest of the Kindle was just fine.

  3. E-Ink is also used on some cell phones such as the Samsung Zeal. My wife has one and it’s actually pretty clever – the keys are even backlit.

  4. Oops – that wasn’t very helpful. Copied and pasted from the wrong tab. Feel free to manually edit my post with the correct URL: http://www.cnet.com/8301-17918_1-20022219-85.html

  5. Khols has some type of electronic display that appears to be wirelessly updated. I didn’t look close enough to confirm whether they were eink or another technology.

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