Sydney’s World-First E-Paper Digital Road Signage

Posted 24 months ago · 3 minutes to read

August 28, 2020

In 2013, the Australian Road and Maritime Services installed the world’s first e-paper digital road signage in Sydney, Australia’s largest city by population. The hardware has since proven itself invaluable, with many years of continuous service and a failure rate of zero. In this blog, we look at the details of Sydney’s experience with e-paper signage and discuss how digital signage could apply to your city.

How were the displays created?

Created in tandem by Visionect and Mercury Innovation, the e-paper displays were specifically designed to be hard-wearing, so that they would last in outdoor environments. Visionect was able to deliver the expertise needed to translate e-paper technology into signage, and Mercury handled development to create a highly efficient piece of technology.

With Visionect’s background in e-paper displays across many other industries, Sydney was able to develop signage with the city’s heat, humidity, sunlight, and wind as key design factors. By creating displays with a focus on durability, Sydney has managed to avoid costly replacements and dangerous downtime, proving that e-paper signage can be a cost-effective and safe long-term infrastructure investment.

Why did Sydney implement digital road signage?

Sydney’s decision to invest in digital traffic hardware was driven (at least in part), by a desire to better manage daily transit and simplify the network. By creating a framework of digitally-connected infrastructure, the city has been able to lay the foundations for further digital improvements to civil services.

In terms of specific advantages, Sydney’s digital traffic displays update in real-time to adapt to changing conditions, something which static signage simply cannot do. Conventional solutions for changing conditions come with power and connectivity issues, whereas e-paper signs are highly visible, always connected, use less power than standard emergency signage, and don’t require any manpower to alter any passenger information. After all, when an emergency occurs on the roads, delivering updated information to commuters is vital, and time spent manually rolling out emergency signage or altering existing signage is time wasted.

How do they work?

The signs always needed to be a wireless solution, so the decision was made to leverage the city’s mobile network. In this way, Sydney’s digital road signs never malfunction due to heat or power blackouts. The signs consume very little power themselves, capturing and storing energy from the sun to use first and foremost. Because the signs are based on the same e-ink technology that many recognise from e-readers, they only require power when the display changes—a fraction of a second in most cases. Holding one particular pattern doesn’t actually consume any power at all. Stored power is instead used mostly to boost visibility at night, as the signs can automatically detect the setting of the sun and trigger lighting across the display.

Over time, further functionality has been implemented, such as detection of location coordinates and tamper alerts, both of which make it much easier for road services to carry out repairs or maintenance on the network.

Want to bring your own city into the future?

Radiola has smartsign solutions ready to deploy. From public transit signage to e-paper road signs like those that Sydney has embraced, Radiola can help transform your cities transport infrastructure and help you bring your city into the future. Talk to us today to find out more.