Intel shows off its NFC-powered e-ink display tag

by: Andrew GrushAugust 20, 2013

IntelImage credit: NFC Brief

Partnering up with the University of Washington and University of Massachusetts, Intel recently showed off its new  ‘NFC-WISP E-ink Display Tag’ technology. Using an NFC-enabled handset, Intel and its partners were able to transfer a screenshot taken from an Android phone over to the tag’s display.

That might not sound all that special, until you realize that the NFC transfer was also able to provide more than enough energy to fully power the display tag without an additional power source.

Since it uses an e-ink display, the tag only uses energy when the images are changed. This means you can essentially keep the same image on the display for as long as you wish.

How does this work exactly? NFC uses inductive coupling to provide power. Intel’s e-ink display tag takes advantage of this power by utilizing a wireless power harvester microchip to store the energy over to a tiny 1mAh battery. The e-ink display also includes .5MB of FRAM, which is enough to hold up to 20 images.

Once the transfer is complete, the display has enough power to easily cycle multiple times between any of the stored images. Since it uses an e-ink display, the tag only uses energy when the images are changed. This means you can essentially keep the same image on the display for as long as you wish.

Is this a gimmick, or does it have real potential?

Right now the NFC e-ink display tag isn’t commercially available, but we certainly picture a few potential uses. Some of the obvious uses include using the tech to create a companion display for storing grocery lists, instructions and even things like maps. It could also make sense as electronic notes that could be placed around your house or workplace.

Thinking outside the box a bit, these displays could also make handy replacements for boarding passes, as a reusable movie/concert tickets or even as a proof-of-insurance cards for your vehicle. It honestly comes down to pricing and the limits of our imagination.

Sure, the ideas listed above might sound a little bit gimmicky, but cool nonetheless. How do you feel about the idea of an NFC-powered e-ink display? Is this something you could see businesses and consumers utilizing?

  • Joshua

    Shut up and take my money! In all seriousness, this looks like a great idea! It would be awesome to have a tablet like version and enjoy reading outside on a mobile device . I would hope for a little better hardware though.

    • Gabriel

      Or you could get a kindle. It’s not NFC powered, but you can send an e-mail from your tablet to transfer a book, and having to power in an outlet means you can go through many more pages

      • Calvin Owen

        You just don’t get the point, do you.
        Or you’re trolling.
        I’m going to go with the latter.

      • Joshua

        My idea was to have a super cheap, $20, and portable tablet. A kindle is more expensive.

  • john

    Intel does a lot of wonderfully terrible things. Remember when Intel pushed for USB and so on? Sure they didn’t quite invent them, but they made them norm. Same with ultrabooks, etc.

    I’m not gonna say Intel does not have a ulterior motives when they show things like this, but it’s Intel, you can be sure something will come out of it.

    For me, I’m looking forward to NFC e-Ink name tags. Reusable, efficient, and people don’t have to suffer my terrible handwriting.

  • End in sight

    This is big news and not to be overlooked.

  • Stephen Dix

    I can see applications in retail environments. Stores get in a lot of trouble when their incorrect price tags are discovered by Weights and Measures. Imagine being able to blast new prices out to electronic price tags which require no power.