Larger, smaller, sharper and… pervasive

Displays of all sizes are to be found everywhere

By Morand Fachot

In recent years fast growing sales of CE (consumer electronics) and ICT (information and communications technology) systems, which doubled between 2007 and 2014, have driven a huge demand for electronic displays of all kinds. The emergence of new consumer and industry devices that rely on displays will continue to spur on growth in the sector. IEC standardization work by IEC TC (Technical Committee) 110: Electronic display devices, is instrumental in driving forward the development of display technologie.

foldable phone concept3
Foldable phone concept using advanced screen technology

Ubiquitous screens

The consumer electronics and ICT industries are the main drivers of display technology. Nowadays screens can be found everywhere, not just in the home or work environment, as consumers have taken to mobile computing and communications, adopting a whole range of new devices in the process.

According to Gartner, an IT research and advisory company, worldwide combined shipments of CE and ICT systems using displays will reach around 2,5 billion units in 2015, an increase of 3,9% over 2014. In addition to forecast sales of some 321 million desktop, notebook and ultramobile PCs, consumers are expected to acquire around 233 million tablets and over 1 900 million mobile phones. Some 30 million e-readers are also expected to be sold in 2015.

While CE and ICT are leading the growth in electronic display devices, demand for avionics and in-vehicle displays, including HUD (head-up display), is also increasing, and commercial, medical and other fields represent further important markets for electronic displays.

Huge market

HD Ready, Full HD/1080p, 4K, 8K… for some 10 years now the CE industry has been promoting ever crisper video quality on the ultimate home entertainment system: the TV set. The introduction of digital TV broadcasting that required new sets was central to the replacement of CRT (cathode-ray tube) TVs with FPD (flat panel display) sets, even though the transition came years after FPDs superseded CRT monitors in ICT equipment.

CRT-based TV sets still made up 99% of the market in 2002, before their share dropped dramatically to less than 10% in 2011; their production is now set to end in 2015.

A recent trend that is driving additional sales of TV sets in what had been described a saturated market is the replacement of existing flat panel displays. It accounted for 23% of sales in 2013 and is expected to make up 67% of sales by 2018, according to Strategy Analytics.

In addition to FPDs for TV sets and computer equipment, the emergence and widespread adoption of new CE mobile and portable devices such as tablets and smartphones, as well as their interconnection in the home environment, have given a major boost to demand for electronic displays.

Riding on the crest of the electronic display device wave

Standardization work for display devices predates the arrival of electronic display devices. IEC TC 39: Electronic tubes, created in 1952, prepared, among other things, International Standards relating to electronic tubes, including CRT equipment. It was disbanded in 2012 and its work taken over by TC 110, which was initially established as SC 47C in 1998 under TC 47: Semiconductor devices, focusing on the development of standards in the area of FPD devices such as LCD (liquid crystal display) and PDP (plasma display panel).

Following technological progress in the field of FPD devices SC 47C was transformed into a full Technical Committee, TC 110: Flat panel display devices, in 2003. Its remit was to cover standardization work relating to OLED (organic light emitting diode) displays, 3DDD (3D display devices), EPD (electronic paper display) devices, FDD (flexible display devices) and other emerging FPD technologies. Its title was changed to Electronic display devices in 2011.

No slowing down for IEC work

As consumers acquire more and different CE devices the demand for electronic displays shows no sign of slowing down. To meet the standardization needs of various display technologies, TC 110 keeps expanding the range of its activities, setting up new WGs (Working Groups), whilst winding down work in domains that are disappearing or fading away, such as CRT and PDP.

Market and technology trends give a good indication of the areas that are at the centre of the TC's activities.

LCD remains the most widespread display technology for TVs, monitors for PC and notebooks, sales of which have been fairly stable.

OLED is being used increasingly in TV sets; however, the steep price of OLED TVs means they are likely to remain high-end products in the coming years.

On the other hand, shipments of tablet computers and smartphones, which have been growing significantly in recent years, are lifting demand for OLED and even AMOLED (active matrix OLED) displays that offer higher resolution and sharper images. OLED is a major growth market with a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) forecast to be 36,7% over the period 2013-2018, according to Sandler Research. Likewise, a major boost for another technology, touch panel display, has been its introduction in tablet computers and smartphones, followed by its adoption in notebook PCs. Flexible display technology has been attracting much attention recently as it allows for the manufacture of non-flat displays and in the not too distant future will make possible the production of devices with displays that can be bent or folded.

Other technologies such as transparent displays are already used in HUDs and some wearable devices and are expected to become key products.

Boosting a huge global market

TC 110 has 7 WGs that cover the main current display technologies: LCD, OLED, 3DD, EPD, FDD, TID (touch and interactive displays) and LDD (laser display devices). The last two, WG 9 and WG 10, were set up in 2013.

TC 110 also set up a Maintenance Team, MT 62595, for Standards related to LCD backlight units; a Project Team to evaluate optical characteristics of electronic display devices, including mura (clouding), and an Advisory Group, AG 11, to "advise TC 110 on strategic business plans, specifically identifying and making recommendations on the TC 110 grand roadmap, WG structure, and establishment of projects in accordance with market needs".

Over 135 experts from 8 Participating Member countries take part in the TC's work. As of February 2015, 119 TC 110 valid publications are available and the TC's work programme includes nearly 40 projects covering measuring and testing methods for technologies as diverse as OLED, haptic, flexible, and laser display devices.

TC 110 standardization work will continue to support the display market, which is forecast to be worth nearly USD 165 billion by 2017, according to the US-based MarketsandMarkets research and consulting company.

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foldable phone concept3 Foldable phone concept using advanced screen technology
Kindle Fire HD Hi-definition Kindle Fire e-reader (Photo: Amazon)