Plastic screen outfit teams with Epson to offer screen on your plastic
Will a credit card that shows your balance be popular?
Plastic Logic, the failed ereader company which nearly went bust trying to prove one could print electronic components onto plastic, is targeting diminutive displays with a new driver from Epson as it continues spending Russian cash.
The new screens, and driver chip, will be demonstrated at trade fair Electronica 2012 from tomorrow, but the focus is on screens from 1 inch to five inches, as the electronic-paper pioneer looks to push its technology into cars and cards - where LCD will never be a superior alternative.
Plastic Logic started out making really big screens, 10.7 inches to be precise, when it had aspirations to compete in the big ebook business and realised a plastic screen could outperform a glass one. But the big ebook business never materialised. Even Amazon dropped its oversized Kindle DX last month as the iPad and its ilk have met any need for more heavyweight reading devices.
Plastic Logic was only one of the companies who lost that bet, Dutch developer iRex being another, but Plastic Logic's Que reader still occupies pride of place on display at Churchill College, Cambridge, celebrating the company's close connections to the university and pioneering work in laying down electronics into plastic surfaces.
Plastic Logic spent $250m failing to sell the Que, and was just about out of cash when a fairy godmother turned up with a deal worth $700m from Russian-government-owned RusNano, in exchange for locating a factory in Zelenograd where the company has been making surprisingly average ereaders for Russian schools.
The company is most interested in licensing the tech, and has some impressive demonstrations of flexible colour screens which work in full daylight, but despite that it's not had a lot of luck. Plastic Logic's technique for putting components onto a plastic substrate can be applied to any circuit, but the process excels at making screens, so with the big screens all sewn up by rapidly evolving LCD, the focus on smaller applications makes sense.
Competing with LCD is a mug's game, but e-ink has its own advantages. One of the most impressive applications of electronic ink was the Lexar USB key with a screen showing the capacity remaining. E-ink screens don't require power to run, only to change, so the screen was updated using power from the USB connection but displayed its data all the time.
Plastic Logic reckons its flexible screens will fit into credit cards and car dashboards, not to mention anywhere else LCD would be too big, expensive and/or heavy, all powered with a driver chip from Epson. ®
Popular with consumers? Yes
Popular with credit card companies? God no.
Having your balance on a credit card is like having "smoking kills" on a fag packet - It's a constant reminder that you probably shouldn't buy what you're looking at. The whole appeal of a credit card (IMO) is that you don't have to "worry" about paying at the same time that you're impulse buying - you delay thinking about payment until it becomes just another bill to pay. Whilst most of us can control out habits, for big spenders I can see this as having a prophylactic effect on purchasing - great for the consumer, bad for the card issuer.
Now I can put my PIN on my card so I never forget it!
Re: Popular with consumers? Yes
Don't show the balance. Show how much credit limit you have left. It will get some people to spend up to their credit limit.
Pretty much what you'd need...
... if we're going to be forced to pay electronically everywhere.
Now for electronic payment cards that are actually anonymous and where the credit can be freely swapped, taken out as cash, as well as put in. Being able to see what the card in your hand is worth is but the beginning.
The problems with the current crop of non-cash payment "solutions" is that they're ment to lock you in, entice you to spend spend spend, and track your every move. Not to mention the often Goldberg-esque ways you're supposed to use them. In short, they're productionizing you, not serving you.
Credit and bank cards?
Hell, no. Advertising to all who manage to get a peek at them what your balance is?
The infamous Dutch OV-Chipcard, OTOH, could well use this feature, showing whether you've actually checked in or out, and on what travel 'product' you're travelling at the moment*). Balance again? No thanks.
*) apart from the overall fail that it is, there's a specific fail when you transfer from, say, bus or tram (traveling on card balance) to train (traveling on subscription). You have to check out when leaving the bus, and check in when boarding the train, but if that's within 3 minutes the system considers this changeover to be 'continue using the previous travel product', which means it's NOT using the subscription. A travel mode display would show whether it's using the intended product or not.