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Viability verification and market launch preparations for outdoor electronic message board displays

Final Report Summary - E-SIGNAGE-D (Viability verification and market launch preparations for outdoor electronic message board displays)

Executive Summary:
The aim of the E-SIGNAGE-D project was to explore the market potential and prepare for the market launch of a widely usable outdoor electronic signage and message board (OEMB) display module based on a new display technology in combination with transparent electrode front-plane layers. As an example, such an OEMB display module can be integrated into an OEMB device that consists of a display module and a power supply, i.e. a solar cell system, GPRS modules, software, and is used for transmitting visual information.

The demo-project drew on the outcomes of a successful FP7 project E-SIGNAGE (Nov. 2011- April 2013) where the developed outdoor electronic signage and message board (OEMB) device was based on an electrophoretic type of display technology provided by Visitret Displays OÜ (coordinator; SME, Estonia) and carbon nanomaterials (Carbon nanotubes and NanoBuds™) provided by Canatu (partner; SME, Finland). The developed device was able to receive data via GSM communication and used solar energy as a power source. However, usage possibilities of the display module under development as a part of the OEMB device under E-SIGNAGE-D were not limited to the original OEMB device structure. Therefore, in order to have a wider applications possibility and through this a wider impact on the SME participants / overall market, the E-SIGNAGE-D project partners focused on exploring its extended market potential. This exploration was followed up by viability verification and market launch preparation activities for reducing the gap between the OEMB display module developed by E-SIGNAGE-D and the market.

During the project the partners (all SMEs with one exception of a large company) verified the market potential of autonomous passenger information boards: 1) real-time passenger information board, 2) variable speed limit signage, and 3) electronic shelf label. It was confirmed that the market potential of the mentioned applications has grown and is higher than anticipated at the beginning of the project. The partners validated three specific product specifications, wherein one product is a new product that does not exist in the market, yet. In conclusion, the developed specifications will be clearly usable by the partners in their further product development phases.

Another clear value of the E-SIGNAGE-D project is marketable transparent conductive film on PET and other polymer substrates for touchscreen and displays. Canatu (Finnish SME) has developed a proprietary Carbon NanoBud (CNB) material, which is the basis for both its films and sensors. The markets are ready for revolutionary and aesthetically pleasing products and Canatu has already started commercialisation and is finalising a number of projects with high profile customers wanting to be at the forefront of cutting- edge technology. Canatu will further exploit its proprietary technology on various markets, such as flexible electronic displays, wearables, automotive and other applications and markets.
Project Context and Objectives:
The general objective of the E-SIGNAGE-D project was to explore the extended market potential, prove the viability and prepare the market launch of outdoor electronic signage and message board (OEMB) display modules based on a fundamentally new display technology (developed in the FP7 project E-SIGNAGE) in combination with transparent electrode front-plane layers (developed similarly in the FP7 project E-SIGNAGE).

The E-SIGNAGE-D project consisted of seven (7) work packages that each had separate objectives in addition to the above-referred general objective. The general objective of the project was realised by achieving the following specific objectives:
• Display module and conductive film performance data acquisition (WP2, WP4)
• Theoretical and practical validation of the OEMB display module on the market through market study (WP1) and actual display module testing activities (WP4)
• Pre-planning of manufacturing and panel fabrication processes in order to have a smooth transfer from the prototype concept to actual product manufacturing (WP3)
• Marketing activities based on the market and sales plan for securing preliminary sales (WP1, WP4, WP6)

Important results achieved by the end of the E-SIGNAGE-D project include:
- Extensive e-paper market study with 3 specific product specifications (WP1). After the detailed market investigations partners confirmed and concluded the high potential of real-time passenger information board, electronic shelf label and variable speed limit signage (VSM) applications. The developed specifications will be usable by the partners in their further product development phases.
- CNB (Carbon NanoBud) based transparent and conductive front-plane for electronic displays (WP2, WP3 and WP4). Canatu’s marketable and already in-early-commercialisation-phase technology was validated and tested during the project period.
- Implementation of activities relating to electrophoretic display technology validation and display module building, manufacturing and commercialisation (WP1, WP2, WP3, WP4 and WP5)

Moreover, at the end of the project, during the dissemination activities, the partners introduced the project to a wider audience, gathered feedback from actual display users and demonstrated the results.

The final results and objectives were demonstrated through the following different types of demonstrators:
- 260x124,8 mm active area real-time passenger information board
- 55,5x21,5 mm active area electronic shelf label
- 235x404 mm active area variable speed limit sign
- transparent CNB based conductive front-plane
Project Results:
The identified E-SIGNAGE-D project key results are the following:
• Active-layer and display module (developed and owned by Visitret Displays OÜ)
• Carbon nanomaterials (CNB) based front-plane electrodes (developed and owned by Canatu Oy)
• Specific marketable applications based on electrophoretic display technology and CNB based electrodes

VD developed a technology for low power, sunlight readable electronic displays for urban spaces. VD believed to have a unique competitive advantage, which is the combination of paper-like sunlight readability, no/low power consumption (enabling solar/battery power or very low operating cost), outdoor suitability, and large pixel size (required for public information displays that could be viewed at a distance). To VD’s management’s knowledge, no other display technology has provided / provides all of these capabilities at the same time.
Throughout the project, VD carried out technology and business development activities according to the project plan, thereby the E-SIGNAGE-D project activities created important value added assets. However, due to technical limitations of the twist-ball type of technology used, occurring in the second half of the project, VD could not achieve all the goals set at the beginning of the project, nevertheless the extensive technology development work created a considerable intellectual property portfolio.

Canatu’s nanocarbon films are highly robust and flexible, have low electrical resistance and exceptional optical properties such as high transparency, low haze, colour neutrality and excellent refractive index matching. Canatu films enable to provide truly flexible touch screens and flexible displays. Flexible displays are extremely contemporary and on-trend and Canatu can provide truly flexible touch solutions. Further, many wearables on the market, e.g. activity trackers and smart-watches, need to be easily and quickly readable – CNB’s no haze, no reflection properties provide devices an optically superb finish. Canatu will exploit its proprietary technology on various markets, such as flexible electronic displays, wearables, automotive and other applications and markets.
Potential Impact:
The E-SIGNAGE-D initial product was aimed to be specifically designed for the largest segment of public information displays, TRANSPORTATION SIGNAGE. In addition, the market requirements for passenger information systems as well as variable speed limit sign and electronic shelf label are well suited for two-colour products.

Three (3) display module demonstrators were put together in the E-SIGNAGE-D project, based on specifications agreed on between Visitret Displays and partners VISM, POLTECH, Pricer at the beginning of the project. The demos were tested in-house at the partner companies’ premises and thereafter presented to a number of potential customers/clients for initial market feedback and enquiring the exploitation possibilities of the technology by those very customers (i.e. by integrating the E-SIGNAGE-D display module into their varied products and applications).
The demos included:
• variable speed limit sign (VSM) – for intelligent transportation system (ITS) provider VISM (ITA)
• autonomous real-time passenger information sign – for device integrator POLTECH (SWE)
• electronic shelf-label – for device integrator Pricer (SWE)
As a further note, POLTECH and VISM are active in the public information display market; Pricer is the leader in providing electronic shelf labelling solutions to retailers.
During testing and initial customer validation the potential of the E-SIGNAGE-D display solution in the three specified application domains was positively evaluated. The clients contacted were interested, ready for market innovation and to include the display technology, once fully functional and ready, into their products.

In general, the market estimates show potentially high impact on the E-SIGNAGE-D partners and overall influence on the EUROPEAN DISPLAY MARKET. Passenger Information System Market is expected to grow worldwide to 18.2 billion EUR by 2019 (ref. to MarketsandMarkets). This forecast includes displays, announcement, infotainment, mobile applications, devices and components, services. This shows the high potential of the market and, therefore, a growing impact on the project partners.

From another angle, the E-SIGNAGE-D consortium addresses the speed limit road sign segment, willing to offer to the market a totally new product: variable speed limit road sign. According to the market estimate of VIS MOBILITY (VISM), the percentage of speed limit road signs out of the total road sign production is 0.4%. Considering the substitution rate (13%), the overall market segment has been assessed to be worth EUR 5.5 million (Europe).

Overall, the E-SIGNAGE-D prototypes will be widely usable in different applications in the high growth public information market and the digital signage industry enabling the partners enter to the market with innovative devices that meet customer and user expectations.
List of Websites:
Project Coordinator:
Invent Baltics OÜ (Ltd.)
Mr. Silver Toomla, CEO: +372 51 71 781
Ms. Eveli Kuuse, Senior Consultant: +372 556 515 79