#ThingsIWishExisted – Battery-Powered eInk BLE Frame

#ThingsIWishExisted – Battery-Powered eInk BLE Frame

Every 6 months or so I do a search to see if someone’s created something that’s been on my wishlist for years–an always-on, battery-powered, internet-connected wall display:

(like this one from http://hackaday.com/2013/04/01/kindle-weather-and-recycling-display/, but battery-powered)

The requirements are:

  • Display of 6″ or larger (touchscreen would be nice to have but not necessary)
  • Aesthetically pleasing when wall-mounted
  • Updated wirelessly (WiFi or Bluetooth or some other RF?)
  • Runs on battery for a long time (> 1 month)
  • Less than $100

I can think of a ton of uses for this around the house:

  • I’d like to stick one to the door of my wardrobe with the current and forecasted weather to help decide what to wear.
  • I’d put one with the train schedule up next to the front door so I’d know at a glance when leaving whether I needed to hustle for it.
  • Another with my shared family Google Calendar events so I’d stop forgetting birthdays and such.
  • Another one that was easy to drop-in with current dashboard stuff that I’d want to track, like stats or logs from in-progress projects or a graph of my weight measurements from my connected scale (until that becomes too depressing).
  • Probably need one more to track the battery levels of all the other ones, lol.

So, it needs to run on battery since I don’t feel like drilling a bunch of holes in the wall and running power cables through them or having super long unsightly power cables dangling off of them. Which makes the eInk display sort of a requirement since there’s no other way to run a backlit LCD for more than a day off of battery. And it needs some low-power wireless update mechanism, since the essence of its utility comes from being constantly updated.

Very pretty. $400 (plus $5/month hosting fee)


Now, there are commercial products that do this sort of thing but they are super expensive because they are geared towards businesses that don’t mind blowing $300 on a meeting room sign (with monthly access fees) or $700 for a single custom development kit.  There have also been a bunch of homebrew projects that do this, but generally require you to do nerdy things like solder an eInk screen to an Arduino and write custom drivers for the display. And buying eInk/ePaper screens in low volume is pretty expensive, with a tiny 4.3″ screen costing over $50 and looking like a science project when hooked up to the circuit board.

Ugly. $100-ish. Very low WAF1. (From someone else’s project)
So, the punchline to this is that the device I want actually kinda-sorta already has existed for years:

Ta-da!! The Amazon Kindle. $79.99

The darn thing has a great eInk touch screen, the battery lasts for weeks and weeks between charges and it’s got built in WiFi (and bluetooth). Someone just needs to take the guts and write a bare-bones OS that streams data from the cloud to display and does smart power management things like going to sleep between updates. I want to buy lots of this product! Someone make it!!

It’s clear the technology already exists for what I want and the price could probably be even lower than my target (Start with Kindle-like bill of materials, take out the speakers, WiFi, most of the local storage, lose the touchscreen and use a much cheaper/slower processor possibly with Bluetooth LE to reduce the power draw).

Please. Someone make it. I’ll check back in 6 months.

  1. Wife Acceptance Factor
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