E Ink displays offer new paradigm for badges

By Hardy Kuo

Field Applications Engineer

Pervasive Displays

June 11, 2018


E Ink displays offer new paradigm for badges

With their small size and low-power requirements, a host of information can be stored on a badge.

Moving people can be difficult. In fact, there’s a branch of social psychology dedicated to its study, often referred to as “crowd management.” People don’t always like to be managed. However, despite our apparent natural aversion to order, safety and efficiency dictate that at least some level of control must be in place, particularly in public places or where large groups gather.

Order can have its benefits. Take exhibitions, fairs, and conferences, for example, where efficiency is essential because there’s often a timetable to follow. People who need to be in the right place at the right time would welcome more order if it helped avoid unnecessary delays.

To answer this need, the humble delegate badge has evolved from merely presenting your name and affiliation to fast-tracking your entry into a premium conference stream. In some cases, it may even be used to gain access to the auditorium. Calling these “smart badges” might be an overstatement; they simply need to feature the right bar or QR code. In many ways, the printed delegate badge is yesterday’s solution to tomorrow’s problem.

Secondarily, printing badges is a relatively slow process that can cause delays at registration desks. Too few people, it seems, pre-register and print their own badge at home.

Automating badge printing would require investment in additional hardware; not something every exhibition company could afford. But there is a technology that combines the benefits of a printed badge with the convenience of online registration, namely E Ink. An E Ink badge could be configured to present the right information at the right time, using electronic ink technology that retains its information even when power is removed. These daylight-readable displays are compatible with hand-held scanners but, unlike a printed badge, they can change or update their contents after being issued to the delegate.

This presents the possibility of badges that display time- or location-sensitive information. For example, they may display only certain information when inside a particular building or a specific room. But perhaps even more usefully, they could become “living maps” for delegates as they make their way through a conference center.

Of course, nobody wants to walk around with a large LCD on their lapel and battery pack in their pocket, so a low-profile and low-power solution is key. The E Ink display is both low power and low profile; its bi-stable nature means it only uses power when the display is updated with new information, so they can run from the smallest primary cell or even harvested energy.

Pervasive Displays’ 4.2-in. E Ink display is a candidate for this application. It has an active area of 84.8 by 63.6 mm and a resolution of 400 by 300 pixels, giving it a pixel density of 120 dpi, yet it’s barely more than 1 mm thick. It also features an internal timing controller, which means the driver technology is embedded within the display, allowing a simple low-cost, low-power microcontroller to drive the display.

As technology develops, it’s becoming easier to integrate low-power wireless connectivity; when coupled with an E Ink display, this could allow badges to react to the proximity of other badges, providing an easy and efficient way for delegates to network or groups to meet up. With such low-power demands, small profile, and durability, the possibilities for such badges are really only limited by the imagination.

Hardy Kuo is a Field Applications Engineer for Pervasive Displays.