Is It Really A "Smarter Planet" Solution? IBM Making E-Ink Shelf Labels

Uh oh. Looks like the subject of e-ink shelf labels has surfaced again. Not long ago, we covered news about Altierre Corp. developing LCD screens for grocery store price tags as a supposedly greener option than paper tags. However, this use of electronics is rife with questions about actual sustainability. But it looks like they aren't the only ones interested in trying to develop electronic versions of store pricing. IBM has decided to manufacture e-ink price displays for grocery stores as part of their Smarter Planet program. But this hardly seems like a smart idea. has a slew of images highlighting IBM's work on trying to link up smart electronics technology with appropriate uses. But this one seems to miss the boat - at least for now.

e-Ink technology is definitely green - it's a method of creating ultra low-power displays. The research is getting better, and we're seeing it used most heavily in cell phones, e-readers, and other small hand-held devices.

But grocery store price tags? Humm. It's certainly far better than the LCD screen idea, since the displays would use such minute amounts of energy. In fact, when we heard about the LCD displays, we immediately felt e-ink would be a better option in terms of power consumption. But the big issue we see that isn't yet addressed is with e-waste. These things are likely to be damaged often by carts, kids, workers stocking the shelves. Would there be a requirement or incentive for grocery stores to implement responsible recycling of the devices that are too damaged to use?

It'd certainly save paper, but does the idea really go far to save the planet? Or is it just another excuse to put a new electronic product on the market? e-Ink is certainly an up and coming part of the electronics market, but we want to see it used appropriately.

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