Plans for commercialization
While SEPIA has many applications, its suitability for large-area digital information display is readily apparent. In particular, its use as a digital billboard offers many advantages over other large-area display technologies, particularly light emitting diodes (LEDs), for the following reasons:
LED digital signs are very expensive (often >$250k for a 14' x 48' display), making it onerous to invest in digital advertising. By virtue of the materials used, SEPIA is expected to cost significantly less.
LEDs and other emissive displays generate significant amounts of light, causing problems for those situated nearby. Specific zoning regulations prohibit large signs for light pollution and other aesthetic concerns. Would you want to live right next to a LED billboard? I didn't think so. SEPIA is reflective, and would only be lit at night, similar to how printed billboards are illuminated, therefore providing a much less obtrusive alternative to LEDs, with all the beneficial features of a digital sign.
3. Color saturation.
Although direct comparisons between reflective (SEPIA) and emissive (LED) displays can be difficult because of their operating principles, SEPIA can be compared to other reflective displays such as the E-Ink Triton display
. Triton displays use laterally arranged red, green, blue, and white sub-pixels - when red needs to be shown, the green, blue, and white sub-pixels are turned off, meaning only 1/4 of the display area is actually being used to generate red. SEPIA uses every square inch to generate every
color through its unique stacked geometry, yielding a theoretical 100% color saturation, making blues bluer, reds redder, etc.
4. Weight. LED billboards can weight over 6000 lbs
(for 14' x 48' bulletin signs), requiring tens of thousands of dollars in retrofitting costs in order to reinforce existing printed billboard structures. The use of lightweight materials allows SEPIA to be constructed for approximately 1/5th of the weight per area, allowing for lower transportation and installation costs. Additionally, SEPIA may be used as a rapidly deployable digital display for disaster relief because of its ability to be stored and transported easily.
5. Energy use.
Although LEDs are generally considered to be energy efficient in generating light, digital displays actually consume an enormous amount of energy, up to approximately 30 times that of an average US home
. This is for two reasons: (1) there are a very large number of LEDs being operated at once and (2) LEDs need to be cooled in order to achieve their stated efficiency and lifetime, often achieved through energy intensive active cooling. SEPIA's operating principle allows it to use approximately 50x less energy per area than LED digital signage. SEPIA has the potential to be powered completely by solar panels located on or near the display.
6. Competiton with ambient light.
All display technologies that generate light inherently compete with the light that exists around you for attention within your eye - too much ambient light and the light coming from your display gets washed out. This is why reflective technologies, such as eletrophoretic displays (e.g. the Amazon Kindle), are much easier to read in direct sunlight. In the context of digital billboards, reflective displays have an advantage over emissive displays because in the US, most vehicular travel (~60-70%) takes place during daylight hours
. While it is true that emissive displays give greater contrast at night, more impressions will be made on travelers during the day. SEPIA's reflective nature is therefore advantageous relative to LED and other emissive technologies.
7. Operation in extreme environments.
Through careful selection of materials, SEPIA is expected to be operable in a wide range of temperatures and exposure conditions without active cooling or heating, making it appropriate for outdoor use.
8. Mechanical flexibility.
The flexible nature of SEPIA may allow it to be used for unique billboard or other displays that require conformal coating of complex geometries.