Printed Electronics Changes Course
Printed electronics is growing up. The debate about what is organic and what is inorganic (most devices include both) is abating. The unimaginative marketing of printed and thin film electronics as incremental improvements in flat screen and mobile phone displays, for example, is being questioned.
There is something to learn here from the history of RFID. Many RFID tags are partly printed today and many will be totally printed within ten years, so the parallel in marketing terms is interesting. Both printed electronics and RFID are enabling technologies, not specific products or solutions. In the early days, imaginative backers of RFID realized that the “low hanging fruit” was not the replacement of bar codes by head-on competition. It was the creation of new markets. The automobile key that opened and closed your car from a distance was an example of this and $2 billion of these have been sold, if we include the reader in the car. The key was not replaced.; it was a market created out of fresh air. Innovision repeated the trick in 2002, landing the world’s largest order for RFID tags - 80 million of them. To go with them, it sold a world record number of RFID readers - millions of them. For what? It was the Hasbro Star wars toy and it enhanced the function of the toy - nothing to do with bar codes. It created a new market.
At Printed Electronics USA, being held in San Francisco on Nov. 13-14 (www.idtechex.com/peUSA), IDTechEx will move this approach forward. Hasbro will present on “The Future of Toys: the Need for Change” which will be about printed electronics, not RFID. Elumin8 will share what happens when you put artists and giant printed electroluminescent displays together and Soligie will show how its form of collaborative innovation in printed electronics is bearing fruit. Cubic Corp. will talk on “Where Mass Transit and Retail Meet RFID” looking at the opportunities for printed electronics.