Interactive interiors with printed electronics

DIGITAL WALLPAPER GIVES YOU MORE SPACE TO SURPRISE.

There are smart TVs, smart thermostats, smart fridges and even smart kettles. Whatever next? Well, according to one team of researchers, it’s the stuff you put on your walls. Smart wallpaper can now make your interiors interactive. Researchers from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore have developed a new kind of electronic print that can be used to turn your walls into digital devices, fitted with speakers, sensors and all kinds of interactivity.

WHAT IS PRINTED ELECTRONICS?

‘Paper apps’ may sound like an oxymoron, but they offer remarkable creative possibilities for developing real-world projects quickly and cheaply, which also combine the best of graphics and interactive design. The idea is based on a technology called printed electronics. Many manufacturers already use it to produce circuits on flexible materials to wrap around objects such as car dashboards. It’s also the basis of future generation concepts such as electronic paper. Now designers and academics are tapping elements of printed electronics that are already available, creating revolutionary interactive projects for clients. The simplest type of ‘paper app’ uses capacitive touch, in the same way a touchscreen device does. In this case touching a ‘button’ on the paper connects part of the circuit. The circuit can be printed on the back of the paper so it doesn’t interfere with the creative design on the front, and embossing can create the effect of a button. Once connection is made, the chip does what it’s been programmed to do when it gets input – setting off an output device for example a speaker, or sending a message to a server, or sending an email or Tweet.

It’s interactivity at its most basic, but by combining multiple inputs – even from devices such as light or temperature sensors – you can achieve sophisticated results. The examples we’ve seen so far largely involve audio, and already these vary hugely in form and scope. IDTechEx, a UK-based market research, consulting and events group, predicts that the total market for printed, flexible and organic electronics will grow from $26.54 billion in 2016 to $69.03 billion by 2026.

HOW IS PRINTED ELECTRONICS USED?

One example of a printed electronics application used in branding with spectacular results can be seen in some unusual packaging created for Bacardi’s high-end Bombay Sapphire gin. A German company, specialising in the development of innovative packaging, used its own technology to create a folding box with printed, activated luminescent surfaces for Bombay Sapphire. When a potential customer picks up the box a mechanism activates a light animation on the front of the packaging and a multi-phase light sequence is shown. The show lasts for around 20 seconds, it then stops, and will be activated the next time the package is moved.

This example shows how printed electronics can set new standards for innovative packaging and point of sale brand promotion, positively influencing marketing and sales opportunities. End users are more likely to be drawn to luminescent interactive boxes on the shelves, and the positive and memorable experience for the customer will enhance and strengthen the brand. Another interesting application of printed electronics is the radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag, which is used to store information and transfer it wirelessly via electromagnetic fields. These ‘smart tags’ can link potential buyers to a product’s backstory. A bottle of wine, might virtually introduce customers to the region, vineyards, and even the growers that created the wine by linking stored data on the label to the buyer’s mobile device. Some electrically conductive inks can be printed on clothes to make ‘smart fabrics’ like sportswear that tracks a runner’s heart rate.

Now print can be brought to life, the creative possibilities for printed electronics to be incorporated into your marketing and promotional activity are endless.

Source: Wohlers report 2015

It’s not just electricity that can bring your print to life – talk to us to find out about other ways we can help put a spark in to your marketing campaigns – 0114 272 8888