Ebook screen tech is changing how Australia sees the road

Sydney has introduced E Ink traffic signs that, in the near future, could revolutionise how traffic is managed. Designed by Visionect – and funded by the city’s Road and Maritime Services agency (RMS) – the signs can be updated over the air, and even be read in bright sunlight. As a result, the new technology could enable authorities to provide diversion and traffic data to drivers in an instant.

How do they work?

Sydney’s new traffic signs use E Ink, a technology most commonly found in ebook readers such as the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite or Kobo Glo HD. Unlike LED or LCD screens, E Ink uses minimal power to display static images, making it perfect for road signs.

“The hardware components are managed by server software programmed to ‘wake up’ the sign for certain pre-scheduled windows of time, when the content on the sign will be changed using 3G technology,” explained Rok Zalar, Visionect’s head of product development. “Outside of the ‘waking’ time, the traffic signs use no power.”

The solar-powered signs offer greater efficiency and also more reliable operation in Sydney’s warm climate. Manufactured to withstand direct sunlight without malfunction, the signs are easy to read in direct sunlight – another strength of E Ink displays.

The future of roads

The signs are another example of the way technology can already improve our roads. Innovations such as plastic roads, autonomous driving and connected cars represent the route our traffic infrastructure will take in the future, but innovations such as these are changing things now.

By using existing display tech and the Internet of Things, the signs could ease traffic congestion by allowing authorities to provide real-time diversions and information to road users. Thanks to its low-running costs and easily updated infrastructure, it’s only a matter of time before the use of such technology spreads to cities across the world.

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