smart cities with digital paper technology

Revolution in smart cities with digital paper technology : According to the World Bank, cities generate more than 80 percent of the global GDP; however, they consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy. As more awareness is raised about low carbon energy and sustainability remains a growing priority for citizens and leaders alike, cities are rethinking ways to decarbonize and be a part of the global effort to slow climate change while delivering important information relevant to the community in real-time.

Sustainable digital technology can improve people’s quality of life and make urban operations and services more efficient, and it plays a key part in helping cities reach net zero goals by 2050.

Here are some ways that digital paper can help support smarter, more connected cities while addressing the challenges of climate change and sustainability.

Digital signage makes cities smart and connected

With 55 percent of the world’s population living in cities (according to data from The World Bank) and the increased speed of digital transformation taking place across urban spaces, cities are investing in display technology to connect people and their communities.

From transit stops to destinations such as retail businesses and tourist attractions, digital signage provides as an on-the-go resource for citizens to access information and stay connected. It allows cities to interact with citizens by providing updates in real-time, informing commutes, and enhancing citizens’ understanding of the space they are in to enrich experiences.

In cities such as New York City and Boston, dynamic display solutions are already a staple to help cities connect with their citizens in new and innovative ways.

For example, on the side streets or subway and train platforms, citizens and tourists have access to digital displays where weather information, route updates, schedules and delays are displayed. Among tourist attractions and retail stores across the city, citizens can also interact with wayfinding directories to navigate between destinations with ease.

Digital paper used for bus information. Provided by E Ink.

The future of smart cities is energy efficient and sustainable

In addition to interacting with citizens and improving the lives of communities, sustainable digital displays allow cities to accelerate change towards a net zero economy and empower the community to live in a way that assures a high quality of life for current and future generations.

Digital displays reduce the use of paper and paper waste. Additionally, when built with bistable technology, they can hold an image without using any power. The most widely known example of bistable technology is in eReaders: they only use power to “turn the page” or display new information.

To put things into perspective, an LED display consumes 40 to 100 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, whereas bistable digital signage only consumes 4 to 10 KWh.

When this technology is incorporated into signage across the city – from bus stops and train stations to wayfinding signage and directories – that’s a lot of energy saved and it amounts to a much smaller carbon footprint.

Another benefit of bistable digital signage is its long battery life. Due to its low power consumption, the battery installed in digital displays can last up to three months on a single charge. This also means that they can often be solar-powered and avoid plugging in to the grid. Whether under direct sunlight, in heavy rains or snow, these displays ensure readability and provide real-time updates to the community.

Paper, digital paper and an electronic tablet in sunlight. Provided by E Ink.

Protecting the night sky of smart cities

One challenge faced by cities around the world is the increased use of artificial lighting and the light pollution it causes. Billboards, streetlights, commercial lighting and outdoor displays are turning the blue planet into a glowing globe. In fact, Sky&Telescope reports that artificial lighting increases nocturnal sky brightness by 20 percent.

What does this mean for city dwellers and the environmental ecosystem surrounding smart cities?

The World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness report highlighted that 80 percent of the world’s population lives under skyglow. Excessive lighting negatively affects human health, increasing risks for depression and disrupting sleep schedules. Plants and animals depend on the daily light-and-dark cycle to govern life-sustaining activities such as reproduction and nourishment, and artificial lighting significantly disrupts that cycle.

Sustainable displays powered by digital paper technology are a solution to this challenge – they allow cities to become more connected without disrupting the environment with light pollution.

How can this be done?

Sustainable displays do not emit any light, instead using ambient lighting around them to be viewed. When incorporated into smart city signage or outdoor displays, digital signage offers an organic viewing experience without introducing bright light that disrupts the neighborhood or the environment.

To preserve the night sky, cities can collaborate with organizations such as the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) to provide education of the dark sky and gain citizen support of dark sky initiatives to promote the effective use of lighting and smart city sustainability.

Digital paper has evolved for variable light conditions and enhanced color representation. Provided by E Ink.

Final thoughts

In recent years, cities have come to understand that environmental sustainability and smart city concepts go hand in hand, aiming to increase efficiency and build resilience. Without a green environment, cities powered by smart technologies can’t be built.

To help drive the sustainability movement and climate action, sustainable innovations and signage solutions powered by digital paper technology helps cities improve the quality of life in the near- and long-term.

(2022, November 4). Paul Apen. Retrieved from