Small or huge – displays are everywhere

Supporting our thirst for multimedia content electronic displays are part of our lives

By Morand Fachot

The top categories of products presented at this year's Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show and due to come onto the market in 2014 include electronic displays that offer different characteristics and functionalities. Ultra wide monitors and TV sets, portable computing devices and wearable devices attracted most attention. All these, and any other equipment that uses electronic displays, rely on standardization work from IEC TC (Technical Committee) 110: Electronic display devices.

High-definition "Cloud" TV (Photo: Philips) High-definition "Cloud" TV (Photo: Philips)

Ubiquitous displays

Electronic display devices dominate the multimedia and ICT (Information and Communications Technology) markets and can be found in an increasingly wide range of other domains.

The TV and IT industries have always relied on electronic displays to transmit information to users. Initially this was achieved by using CRT (cathode ray tube) displays. CRT displays, first monochrome, then colour, were the only option for TV sets, computers and other systems for nearly 60 years before being phased out by FPDs (flat panel displays). The transition was rapid in the IT industry, but much slower in the TV domain. PDP (plasma display devices) and then LCD (Liquid Crystal Diode) screens came first, and now other newer technologies are gradually replacing CRTs.

Limitless range of applications

Beyond the traditional TV and IT areas, FPDs can be found in a multitude of other devices and systems such as cash dispensers and information boards. They are used in many domains, such as medical, retail, automotive, aeronautics and avionics and transportation, all of which rely on FPDs to operate smoothly and effectively.

Electronic displays have enabled the spectacular expansion of mobile computing and telephony. They have also allowed the emergence of entirely new devices such as tablet computers and e-readers which use EPD (electronic paper display), a technology designed to mimic the appearance of ordinary ink on paper. New FPD technologies are constantly being developed, opening up additional possibilities for existing devices and paving the way for new ones.

LED (light-emitting diode) backlighting, resulting in a better image contrast and lower consumption, has been gradually introduced into LCD displays. Different technologies using LEDs, such as OLED (organic light emitting diode display) and AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode), have been developed to produce new types of FPDs for mobile phones and now for TV sets

TC work central to FPD expansion

The FPD market, driven by high demand in emerging economies and an expanding range of possible applications, is expected to reach USD 110 billion by 2017.

LCD continues to be the largest product segment in the FPD market while the more recent OLED technology, driven by applications in mobile phones and television, represents the fastest growing sector.

TC 110 prepares International Standards in the field of electronic display devices (excluding CRTs) and specific relevant components. It works on terms and definitions, letter symbols, essential ratings and characteristics, measuring methods, specifications for quality assurance and related test methods and reliability.

It was initially established as SC (Subcommittee) 47C in 1998 under TC 47: Semiconductor devices, focusing on standards development in the area of flat panel display. It was transformed into a full TC in June 2003 when it began to encompass standardization work in OLED, 3DDD (3 dimensional display devices for 3D TV), EPD or non-volatile display devices, FDD (flexible display devices) and other emerging technologies.

To cover all devices, TC 110 established eight WGs (Working Groups), each one dealing with a specific area: LCD, PDP, OLED, 3DDD, EPD, FDD, touch and interactive displays – which are now to be found in many devices and systems – and LDD (laser display devices).

Close relationships

TC 110 works closely with a number of other IEC TCs, in particular TC 100: Audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment. As regulations in most countries now require reducing waste material and energy use through recycling, reuse of components and more energy-efficient appliances, it also works directly with TC 111: Environmental standardization for electrical and electronic products and systems.

The global significance and impact of TC 110 activities are illustrated by its relationship with many important international bodies. It works with subcommittees of the CISPR (International special committee on radio interference). CISPR is an organization within the IEC that was established to consider the protection of radio reception from interference. Its members include CIGRE (International Conference on Large Electric Systems), the EBU (European Broadcasting Union), ETSI (European Telecommunication Standards Institute), IARU (International Amateur Radio Union) and ITU-R (International Telecommunication Union, Radio Sector).

TC 110 also collaborates with the CIE (International Commission on Illumination) and ISO (International Organization for Standardization) TC 159/SC4: General ergonomics principles – Ergonomics of human-system interaction.

Improving existing technologies, creating new ones

TC 110 works constantly to improve FPD performance, in particular as regards resolution, and in rolling out new technologies.

Resolution is continually being improved. One of the technologies that attracted most attention at CES 2014 was UHDTV (ultra high definition TV), which offers 16 times the number of pixels of HDTV and has been demonstrated at various professional shows since 2006.

The initial intention was to introduce UHDTV in homes between 2016 and 2020. This timescale has contracted as large-scale sales of UHDTV-capable devices started in 2013. The second track of TC 110 work concerns technologies. The objective is to improve existing technologies such as HDTV, 3DTV and touch screens, and to develop new ones. Examples of the latter include OLED, with AMOLED, in particular, offering significant prospects for better TV and mobile device displays, as well as flexible, bendable and even foldable displays.

TC 110 has published a series of International Standards for OLED. The first Standard for flexible display devices was released in December 2013 and the TC has now started work on Standards for LDDs and for touch and interactive displays.

With the growing global appetite for higher quality and new functions in multimedia devices, the range of applications and demand for FPDs keep expanding. To support this expansion, TC 110, which has so far published over 35 International Standards, can expect a significant workload over coming years.

High-definition "Cloud" TV (Photo: Philips) High-definition "Cloud" TV (Photo: Philips)
High-definition Kindle Fire e-reader (Photo: Amazon) High-definition Kindle Fire e-reader (Photo: Amazon)
Lorry radio, navigation and telephone system with touch screen (Photo: Bosch) Lorry radio, navigation and telephone system with touch screen (Photo: Bosch)