Transport for London tries out e-ink signage

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TfL believes the low-power, high-resolution screens will allow it to reduce energy consumption and installation costs(Credit: Transport for London)

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E-readers are already prolific on London's public transport – and now the same tech is being built into the transport infrastructure itself. Transport for London (TfL) is trialling e-ink digital displays to provide passengers with travel information. Maps, timetable and arrival times are shown in real time.

Transport for London, the government body for Greater London's transport system, is constantly innovating its public transport offering for the UK's capital. This year alone, among other things, it has announced cyclist detection systems at traffic lights, run trials of energy-recovering tube trains and introduced the world's first zero-emission double-decker bus.

"We're constantly seeking new and innovative ways to provide the best possible real-time information to our passengers to make their journeys easier," says TfL's Head of Bus Systems and Technology Simon Reed. "This trial has the potential to make a huge difference, giving us the ability to get a variety of real-time travel information to customers at bus stops whilst also cutting waste and increasing efficiency."

In addition, TfL believes the low-power, high-resolution screens will allow it to reduce energy consumption and the related costs, as they are powered by a solar panel and require power only when content is changing or being updated. The lower weight of the screens than those typically used is also said to make them cheaper to install.

A screen has already been installed at a bus stop on Waterloo Bridge, with more due to be installed at at Parliament Square, Piccadilly Circus and Sloane Square in January. The information fed to the screens is syndicated from TfL's open data feeds, which means it is the same information that appears on the web, in SMS notifications and in mobile apps. Info is being sent to the the sign on Waterloo Bridge via 3G.

The trial will help to find out if the new displays can meet TfL's criteria for low and sustainable power, for being lightweight and for having easy-to-read text. Additionally, the screens must fit within existing bus stop structures.

The technology is being delivered in partnership with framing and illumination tech firm Technoframe, and is powered by Visionect's digital signage platform.

Having begun in November, the trial will end in the middle of next year.

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