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E Ink interview: Low-power displays are what the world needs right now

Tim O’Malley from E Ink shares details about the company's cooperation with BMW and more.

Published onJanuary 7, 2023

At CES 2023, we interviewed the Assistant Vice President of E Ink, Tim O’Malley. The company is well-known in the tech world and produces e-ink displays that are used in e-readers, laptops, wearables, phones, and many other products.

Mr. O’Malley revealed a lot during the interview, including details about E Ink’s cooperation with BMW, its plans for expanding to other industries, and much more. You can read a brief overview of the interview below or check out the whole thing in the video above.

Q: Can you tell us a little more about your collaboration with BMW? Also, what challenges did you have to overcome to make it possible for BMW to put your color-changing material on their car?

BMW iVision Dee

A: A big announcement happened at the keynote, with BMW introducing its concept electric car. The car has a color-changing surface all over it, and we at E Ink are thrilled that we were able to work with BMW and supply them with the material they needed.

They really care about the lines and curves of the car at BMW in order to get the design they want. Some of these lines and curves are not the friendliest to work with, so we had to bend the material and build in ways to relieve the stress on it. There’s a big team at BMW we worked with to figure all this out.

Q: How many colors is the car capable of displaying?

BMW iVision Dee

A: The concept car uses 32 colors and can switch between them on any of its panels. However, the product we’re coming out with first will only use eight colors.

Q: Are there any products in your portfolio that you’re particularly excited about?

lenovo thinkbook plus twist eink closeup
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

A: There are quite a few. We came out with the Gallery 3 product last year that brings full color to the e-reader platform. There are seven companies that are already interested in using it.

We also brought saturated full-color to retail, and we’re continuing to make progress in this area. I’m also really thrilled about some of the wearables like the Fossil Hybrid watch announced earlier this week. It combines fashion with the elements of great design and the use of our display.

Then there’s also the recently announced Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Twist, which spins to reveal an OLED display on one side and an e-ink display on the other.

Q: What about energy efficiency? Have you been able to make your products more energy efficient over the last few years?

Amazon Kindle 2022 Screen Saver
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

A: Yes, we have. The energy efficiency has a lot to do with the fact that our products are relatively low voltage. There’s no power being used when a display is showing an image. We use power to update the display, and once that’s done, the display is not drawing power anymore. So a lot of the demos we carry around show full images, but we don’t actually have any power cords with us.

So a lot of the applications our products are a great fit for have a lower use cycle. Think of a retail store that only updates its prices on e-ink displays every now and then.

Q: What can you tell us about your transparent displays?

A: We have a product line called JustTint at E Ink, which can switch from transparent to mostly opaque. We’re continuing to advance the technology and are working with partners to bring it to market. We’ve discussed using it for automotive sunroofs, for example, which is really exciting.

So if you look at electric cars, it can get really hot when you open the sunroof, but if you then turn on the AC, you can’t drive as far because the battery life takes a hit. So with our products, you won’t have to make those tradeoffs.

Q: Who would you say is your biggest competitor?

e-ink tablet with charts

A: We generally say it’s paper. We’re trying to bring additional functionality to places where people usually use paper. These include reading, note-taking, smart city signage, and retail shelf tags. These started as paper applications. We know that in some devices people choose LCD displays if they make sense for their use case, but e-ink displays can also be used in many cases and are better for our eyes.

Q: What do you see for the future? If we look 15 or 20 years down the line, do you think it will still be possible to improve your products and technology substantially?

e ink gallery 3
E Ink

A: Absolutely. We’re working on transparent films, which aren’t even full products yet, and we’ve just started our journey when it comes to color displays. I recently heard a quote by Bill Gates that I really liked. He said, “We overestimate what we can do in two years and underestimate what we can do in 10 years.”

We want to expand our business to cars, billboards, and more. The application of low-power full-color technology in this space is what the world needs right now.

This is just a quick overview of the conversation we had with Tim O’Malley from E Ink. If you want to learn more, check out the video at the top of the page.

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