e-paper has found its mass transit sweetspot.

Story: Christopher Holder

Imagine a cityscape where parking signs display information appropriate to the time of day — not four, five or eight possible parking restrictions. (Some parking signs are about as indecipherable as an iPhone service agreement.)

Imagine being able to book a delivery spot in the CBD and then it returning to regular parking after you’ve made your delivery. Ditto a disabled spot: those heading into the city with a disability could reserve a park outside their appointment rather than doing laps of the block. Once the appointment is complete, the spot returns to being for general parking.

Cities are becoming congested. They’re suffering under 21st century pressures while enduring parking infrastructure that hasn’t changed since the 1950s.

Parking and road-borne transport is hard work, yet so much about our cities’ infrastructure is archaic or not fit for purpose.

Who hasn’t sat impotently at an empty intersection waiting for a redundant red arrow to turn green? It’s as infuriating as it is damaging to the efficient flow of a city’s traffic arteries.


Visionect and Aussie company, Mercury Innovation, have joined forces to deliver better and more accessible public transport solutions. The deal combines Visionect’s e-ink expertise with Mercury Innovation’s experience in the design of customer-focused public transportation products and systems.

The first product to come from the collaboration is Urban, a solar-powered bus information board that has been deployed in Sydney by Transport for NSW.

Future products will all focus on e-ink info boards and notification screens that are cost effective to install, self contained, off the grid, solar powered and feature great visibility in all light conditions.

DigitalSignage spoke to Mercury Innovation’s Design Director, Enrique Esquivel, about Urban.

DigitalSignage: When did all this get started for you?

Enrique Esquivel: We went looking worldwide for a weatherproof, outdoor e-paper solution and got talking to Visionect. This was when we were working on the Moore Park electronic ink signage solution. There are now 365 e-ink signs out there and they’ve been working for around five years now.

[Editor’s note: the Moore Park signage system is used to manage traffic flow to and fro the city on event days.]


DigitalSignage: You took what you learnt from that system and began thinking about how to package it up into products for related applications, such as the Urban?

Enrique Esquivel: That’s right. We designed a hardware package that would be environmentally bulletproof — water, UV, tamperproof etc. — that would allow for a street deployment. Then we manage the content. In the case of the Sydney roll out of Urban we take the real time information from Transport NSW and our CMS interprets how it’s displayed — making it appropriate and useful for the location. They’re solar powered and autonomous, which really helps to keep installation costs down.

DigitalSignage: Do you pull content other than simply when the next bus is arriving?

Enrique Esquivel: Information is really important to consumers if a bus is delayed or cancelled. We provide that information, which allows the commuter to make choices about how to respond rather than wondering what happened to their bus. 

In some instances we’ll provide additional information about an alternative route on another stop or alternative transport, such as the train.

Another feature in Sydney is ‘seat availability’. So we can let a passenger know if the next bus is full and they can decide to squeeze on or perhaps wait for the following bus which may not be so packed.

DigitalSignage: I guess bad news is still better than no news?

Enrique Esquivel: That’s right. And that’s been an issue with the bus system. Unlike the trains, the service provider can’t talk directly to passenger at the point of contact. Now they can.

DigitalSignage: Every city in the world is potentially a customer?

Enrique Esquivel: We’d like to think so! We do currently have a number of other international trial sites.


Mercury Innovation: