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Hyperlocal urban e-ink news screens


Electrophoretic displays (E-Ink) as an alternative to posters, billboards and newspapers for displaying hyper-local news stories in the exact area (public space) where the story is most relevant.

Mathias Løkke Madsen

M.Sc. IT Product Development, Aarhus University

Project partners:

Introduction:

Currently the most common ways for news to flow in the public space is through three main mediums, the first of which is posters.

Posters are great because they’re easy to place and have no technical requirements. On the other hand, however, they are slow to update, as you need to print out new ones each time, which in turn makes them quite expensive.

The second medium is billboards, whether printed or digital LED-displays. Printed billboards have the same issues as posters, but LED billboards are smarter, as they can easily be updated. This comes at a high price, though, as LED billboards draw large amounts of power, are difficult to place, are expensive, and to some extent light-pollution to the public space.

The final medium is traditional newspapers, as their frontpages are displayed at kiosks and newspaper stands. Again, these carry much the same advantages and disadvantages as posters; have no technical requirements, but are slow to update and expensive.

What if there was an alternative?

Through my thesis, I’m working with electrophoretic displays (E-Ink) as an alternative to posters, billboards and newspapers. This is a technology which is easy to place, easy to update, requires almost no power, is relatively cheap and carries a paper-like aesthetic which looks great outside, unlike LED-displays.

Specifically, I’m working with a product developed by the company Visionect, which bundles an E-Ink display with wireless connectivity (WiFi and 2G/3G), a small display-driver, and a battery. This product will last on a single charge for weeks and when hooked up to a solar-cell, indefinitely, making it an ideal replacement for posters, newspaper-covers and, as the technology develops, eventually large billboards as well..

The thesis perspective

The culmination of the project will be a field study in collaboration with Nordjyske Medier, in which prototypes, developed by me, will be tested in Northern Jutland; the home of Nordjyske Medier. A large part of the prototype effort will be aimed at getting the best possible content for such a product. Because of the technology’s main advantages of being so easily placeable and looking great outside in the sunlight, I have decided to explore HyperLocal news as the primary content. Put short; HyperLocal news is news which is extremely local, for instance geographically or in its relevance to the readers. By using this type of news, I will be able to place prototypes in specific places, and target the readers exactly there, as outlined in the figure below.

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