E-Paper Display Updates Boston City Hall Plaza

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The first known civic use of an e-paper, solar-powered digital sign in the United States was introduced by GDS in partnership with the City of Boston and E Ink. The wayfinding digital signage is installed at Boston’s City Hall Plaza based on GDS’ 32-inch e-Tela display.

Nominating Company: GDS, Inc., Rockford, Illinois
Venue: City Hall Plaza, Boston, Massachusetts
Project: 32-inch solar-powered e-Tela Information Display at City Hall Plaza
Category: Public Spaces

BACKGROUND
GDS was asked by Boston Mayor’s Office of MONUM to develop a digital information display based on e-paper (E Ink) technology to provide real-time Information giving Boston a new way to engage with visitors and help them navigate all the city offers. GDS fulfilled this request with a proven 32-inch e-Tela digital display by providing a sign that could be placed inside an existing historical kiosk located in front of City Hall. The goal was to make City Hall more inviting by using a digital sign that looked like paper, was easily readable under all weather conditions, communicated wirelessly and was completely powered by a solar panel.

To achieve the result, e-Tela signage adopts special features, including:
• Sealed weatherproof enclosure to allow thee-paper panel to withstand the elements and humidity
• Optical enhancement treatment based on GDS’ G+Bond process, which reduces reflections and creates a rugged system

CHALLENGES
There were three main challenges:

The first was the display solution had to fit the historical kiosk without ruining the aesthetics or altering the size of the sign opening. As no drawings of the handcrafted kiosk were available, the mechanical design had to be precise but at the same time flexible. The second was the sign had to be able to withstand the harsh weather conditions of Boston such as extreme cold, extreme heat, humidity, rain, snow, dust and dirt. Third, since power was not available at the kiosk location, the sign had to be completely independent from standard electrical power sources. This required the use of a battery and solar power.

SOLUTIONS
The e-Tela module is laminated to a strengthened front glass with a sllkscreen around the display to allow for aesthetic continuity between the iron of the kiosk and the digital sign.

The laminated front glass, coupled with a sealed, weatherproof enclosure allows the e-Tela display to withstand Boston’s harsh environment.

Inside the kiosk, the GDS solar controller drives the power coming from the solar panels to the display and battery. To enhance the image quality, the GDS G+Bond optical bonding treatment is used to reduce reflections, dramatically enhance contrast, improve readability and thermally protect the display.

GDS e-Tela is based on E Ink technology, which is bi-stable. This means that the display retains the image when power is removed, and power is only needed when the content changes. The display is also reflective, so a backlight is not needed given sufficient ambient light, resulting in a very thin, lightweight display.

RESULTS
Installed since July 1, 2016, the e-Tela display is engaging residents and visitors alike with real-time information. A Wi-Fi router enables the 32-inch e­Tela display to be connected to cloud servers, enabling City Staff to easily update the screen content online.

The Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics collaborated with WalkBoston, an advocacy group focused on pedestrian issues, to improve the wayflndlng design and to provide accurate walk times to a variety of nearby destinations. The sign becomes an important landmark of today’s smart city network while remaining historically appropriate to Boston’s past.

PROJECT PARTNERS
E-Ink Corporation
City of Boston – Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM)

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