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E-paper provides flexibility.

NEW YORK -- An innovative technology being used in a handful of supermarkets and specialty stores could become more widespread as drug chains across the country continue to expand their in-store marketing efforts.

E-paper is a portable, reusable storage and display medium that looks like paper but can be written on electronically thousands of times.

While the technology is still in its infancy, it is seen as having broad implications for such retail-specific applications as on-shelf pacing signs and foldable, rollable displays.

Already being used by such retailers as the Seattle-based health food chain PCC Natural Markets and the Italian grocery chain SISA SPA, e-paper allows information to be downloaded to an in-store sign through a computer or a cell phone, or created with such mechanical tools as an electronic pencil.

Xerox Corp., in partnership with 3M, created what is believed to be the world's first e-paper in the late 1970s. Called Gyricon, the electronic paper displays do not require backlighting or constant refreshing and are said to be brighter than reflective displays.

A Xerox subsidiary known as Gyricon LLC now markets the product.

Meanwhile, the E-Ink technology developed earlier this decade by what was then Lucent Technologies (now part of Alcatel-Lucent) and a company called E Ink is seen as a viable e-paper alternative.

Developed by United Kingdom-based ZBD Solutions, the e-paper technology used by SISA and PCC allows these retailers to change pricing or product information on the fly without having to print new labels.

Meanwhile, SiPix, a division of AU Optronics Corp., one of the world's largest makers of thin film transistor LCD panels, said earlier this month that it had found a way to make full-color e-paper commercially viable and will bring "a small number" of color E-Ink displays to market by the end of 2010.

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Title Annotation:MERCHANDISING/IN-STORE MARKETING; electronic paper
Publication:Chain Drug Review
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 28, 2009
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