Electronic Shelf Labels (ESL), anybody?

Hi,

I’m interested in using electronic shelf labels (ESLs), the (mostly) radio-controlled, mostly eInk-based labels you can find in shops and supermarkets. I’ve been able to find a few brands and label vendors (e.g. on A**express), but failed to find any option to buy “just” a single ESL gateway (used for updating the labels).

My use case, e.g: have a large label on the inside of my door that tells me, in red, stuff like “You can’t leave yet, the following windows are still open: …” etc. Since battery life times are stated to be up to 5 years, ESLs look promising for this. However, what is sold is “solutions” for stores, including a lot of stuff I do not need for my purposes.

Has anybody ventured into this, based on openhab or similar platforms? Are there ESL gateway standards that I should be aware of, or is everything vendor-specific?

Thanks for any ideas and suggestions,
Rolf

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I love this idea!
I have no experience with ESLs (now I know what they’re called, though) but if I were to do this, I would roll my own using an ESP32 + eInk display. It could stay in deep sleep mode most of the time, and wake up, connect to wifi, pull the state, update the screen and sleep again once every few minutes. You should be able to achieve several months battery life this way, maybe beyond a year if it doesn’t have to wake up too often.

There are even ESP32 modules that include the e-ink display! Check out this youtube video.

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Please use a different acronym.

For native English language speakers, ESL represents “English as a Second Language”, usually referring to training courses teaching English to non-native speakers.

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For better or worse, cat’s out of the bag, check Wikipedia :slight_smile:

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You were confused that he wanted to put “English as a Second Language” displays next to his door? With long battery life…

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Well, Rolf doesn’t really have control over acronyms and there is almost always more than one definition for a given acronym. One of the online acronym dictionaries (I only consulted one) list 71 possible definitions of ESL, including “Electronic Shelf Label”.

Rolf defined the acronym before the first use so he is entirely correct to use ESL in this context.

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Who died and elected you king? Geez.

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Well it really depends on how many “updates” it gets.
One of my work partner showed me the same technology for our warehouse…but did not recommend it for places with high updates rate.

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Okay I can’t resist anymore, I’m ordering one of these:

image

It’s 7.5 inches, and can do both red and black. That’s a great big display for exactly this sort of thing.

And to drive it, I’m getting one of these
image

That’s a driver board with an ESP8266 microcontroller (with wifi) on board. They linked to it right from the display’s item description! Definitely maker-friendly.

Another fun new toy for a rainy day.

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@leif

Did you see this???

Looks cool! Not very cheap though but I will be watching your progress to see how you get on as something like this would be cool on the bathroom mirror to show important info before we head out.

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The 7.5" one is expensive indeed ($48), so I only bought one. :smiley:
Let’s not forget that this is the size of a kindle, though.
There’s also 9.7 inch version for $137 which is way beyond an impulse buy for me.
The pricetag-sized versions are much less expensive though, 2.13" is $10.

I didn’t see that actually!
Being a 433 MHz system, it could be possible to hack it so that you could feed a display data from an arduino with a 433 MHz transmitter rather than needing their proprietary gateways. But, hacking that could take a very long time, plus I’m already using 433 MHz remotes for several things, and having intermittent prolonged bursts of e-ink data would definitely interfere with the remotes, so I’ll have to pass on this and stick with WiFi which lets everything coexist.

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I’ve used a 2.9 "waveshare display for displaying weather data (Wemos D1 mini, GxEPD library) Unfortunately, the displays are only suitable for use cases where the display is not updated as often. I have measured the data every 10 minutes and transfered them to openHAB via MQTT and refresh the display every 60 minutes. It has lasted a little over a year then the display was broken.
Apart from that, the displays work quite well and together with the deep-sleep mode of the Wemos D1 this should also work battery-powered.

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Thank you for adding a little context. I’ll keep that in mind.

Nice alternative that might save me from having to worry about a gateway. Will look into it, thanks!

I’m sorry “ESL” is a bit counter-intuitive, or misleading. It wasn’t easy to even find the name commonly used for these “thingies”, so I made sure “ESL” is what they are called.

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Looks like an easy-to-use setup, indeed! I need to think about how to wire something like this to a proper power supply (WIFI means it’s not really battery-friendly) while it is hanging on my door. Let us know how your little project goes, please!

Thanks for sharing your experiences! By “broken”, you mean the display became completely dysfunctional? Or what happened?

True, WiFi is inherently battery unfriendly, but depending on how often you need it to update, it could work. It uses no power when it’s not connected :-).

You could also possibly do a hybrid approach of waking the microcontroller with a 433 MHz signal, at which point you could connect WiFi to request the latest update.

But, at this point, it may indeed be easier to just mount it on the wall next to the door rather than on the door itself, so that you can supply it with wired power.

In my case, I have double doors, so this would actually not work that well – the wall is too far away.

Edit: There’s one more way! I haven’t used this myself yet but I remember looking into it a while back. Search for ESP-NOW. It’s a proprietary power-efficient 2.4 GHz connectionless communication protocol supported by both ESP8266 and ESP32. This would let your device wake up quite often to see if there’s an update.

It means you will have to built your own WiFi to ESP-NOW gateway using two ESP32’s with serial communication between them (i think) but that’s totally doable. Maybe someone has already done it?

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I do not know availability but could something battery friendly like Z-Wave Plus be used?