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Summary:

NFC isn’t just for digital wallets and device pairing: The wireless tech can also provide a small bit of power to E Ink displays, making it a good option for getting data on a small second screen.

nfc epaper

You probably knew that NFC can be used for digital wallets and simple device pairing, but did you know you can create power with Near Field Communications? Don’t run out and cancel your electric service just yet: The wireless component can only make a very small bit of power. It turns out that’s just enough for a small E Ink display though.

Liliputing spotted this interesting tidbit on the NFC Brief site, and while it sounds gimmicky, I can see some practical use here. E Ink displays only require power when the screen is refreshed to show new information. So if you have important information on an NFC-enabled smartphone, for example, you could tap your handset to a special E Ink display, wirelessly providing both the data and the power to display it.

Check this example video to see the concept in action:

The special NFC tag was jointly developed by Intel Labs, the University of Washington and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

There’s no commercial product yet available with this technology, but the concept and demo are both compelling. Imagine companion displays in your car, on your desk or perhaps built into the backs of laptop bags. You’d be able to show static, but useful information on these secondary displays without the need for more power.

  1. John Dietrich Tuesday, August 20, 2013

    Will the image on an e-ink display eventually fade if you were to never give it another boost of charge? I haven’t used them enough to know if the display will last forever or just a long time because you always end up refreshing the screen when you are reading an ebook.

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    1. Nope, the image should stay put.

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    2. Fernando Cassia Tuesday, August 20, 2013

      What sets apart e-ink from other displays is that it needs NO POWER to display stuff, just to UPDATE the screen. That’s why e-Ink readers like the Kindle and Nook can have such long battery life.

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  2. This is how passive tag systems have always worked. The reader has to send power to the tag for the tag to communicate back the info, but in this case you’re using the device to just send power.

    But what you overlook is that you are 100x more likely to have run out of battery on your Android device than your Kindle e-reader.

    Can we agree to stop making up crazy edge cases to show the value of NFC enabled smartphones?

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