Save paper, go virtual

Gartner believes this energy efficient initiative is the way of the future

July 14, 2009

Gartner believes this energy efficient initiative is the way of the future

The use of electronic paper, also known as ‘e-paper’, is increasing as a result of its ultra low power consumption, a similar user experience to real paper and ‘green’ benefits, according to a new report from Gartner Inc.

E-paper is a display medium intended to mimic the appearance or ordinary ink on paper while being rewritable.  Gartner said that despite disadvantages of poor colour and refresh rate characteristics, e-paper will have significant benefits over other display media and will positively impact the traditional paper market, the retail display sector, a number of consumer markets and the office environment in years to come.

“E-paper does have has some barriers to overcome before gaining credibility with the mainstream market,” said SJ Chae, senior research director at Gartner.  “However, it is generating a great deal of interest and we expect adoption to increase steadily over the next few years as the technology improves.”

E-paper also has the advantage of providing a similar user experience to real paper display.  Its thinness gives users the benefits of a portable, paper-thin rewritable display while its readability in bright sunlight gives a similar user experience to that of reading a paper display.

According to Gartner, low power consumption is the main driver for e-paper adoption in most cases and this is enabling initial applications in signage (for retail and roadside applications), static displays (e-books) and small information-centric screens.

Despite these benefits, there are a number of disadvantages to e-paper that must be overcome in order for it to gain more widespread adoption.  Overall, e-paper content is limited and the current colour capabilities of e-paper displays are poor.  E-paper is also typically weak in its handling of moving images and a compromise must be found between the requirements for full-motion video and low power consumption.