Electronic Paper Makes Bus Stops Smart

The city of Aizuwakamatsu is home to Japan’s first smart bus stop. Developed by E Ink and Papercast, ePaper technology provides the content flexibility of displays paired with the energy consumption of regular paper.

Our daily commutes are not always going as smoothly as we would like them to. Cancelled subways, delayed trains and over-capacity buses tend to ruin our ways to work or school on the regular. And that is what living and working in a big city is like. Imagine living in a smaller more rural town where the bus doesn’t come six times an hour but maybe twice. Or maybe you are a tourist who does not have mobile data at all. Then you will more often than not have to rely on what the bus stop info point says.

Since displays are pretty rare at lowly frequented bus stops, in most cases paper will have to do. Small town bus commuters have a really hard time when it comes to getting information on their buses’ timetables, route data and service changes. Luckily that is exactly where E Ink and Papercast Ltd come into play. Combining E Ink’s eponymous electronic inks and ePapers with Papercast’s solar-powered passenger information display technology, the two enterprises set out to test Japan’s first smart bus stop in the city of Aizuwakamatsu.

Electronic Paper Works like a Display but Saves Energy

So what exactly constitutes a smart bus stop? The smart bus stop is basically like any other bus stop with an information window containing paper posters. Except the posters are not made from ordinary paper but from ePaper. Using said technology, Papercast’s data platform enables the local public transport company to remotely change the information on the poster. If to you that sounds exactly like the display situation every other train station has, you are not wrong. But you are not entirely right either.

The fascinating thing about ePaper is that it only uses energy when updated, meaning that as long as the information stays the same it does not consume any form of power. On top of that, reading ePaper behaves just like reading conventional paper making it more easily readable in broad daylight.

„By utilizing E Ink’s ePaper display solutions, we have developed a platform that is cost-effective, low-power and easy to use,“ said Rado Skender, director of Business Development at Papercast Ltd. „We anticipate that this partnership will enable widespread adoption in Japan and other countries as it improves the customer experience and encourages the use of public transportation among residents and out of town visitors.“

The Next Smart Bus Stop Might Be Just Around the Corner Soon

The smart bus stop technology is a breakthrough for public transportation since most bus stops globally still have no power connection. E Ink Holdings’ executive vice president Dr. FY Gan describes their vision:

„As cities become smart, E Ink will continue to play an integral part in the development of smart signage for transportation, retail and architecture. E Ink’s technology allows integrators to leverage alternative power sources, such as solar, saving municipalities the cost of not only ongoing electric fees, but the cost of construction to run new power lines for installations, and the impact to citizens as the construction occurs. Our partnership with Papercast is another perfect example of how we are enabling more convenient and cost-effective innovations that positively impact user experience and the environment.”

The smart bus stop shows a prime example of how print and digital technology can work together to achieve something great. We cannot wait until this rolls out everywhere!

Can you think of another field that could make good use of this technology? Tell us in the comments!

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