Continuous Improvement Starts at Home

Steve_Atwood_4_C_NEW___tif by Stephen Atwood

Similar to the mantra being chanted at nearly every commercial company I know, we at Information Display are always asking ourselves how we can do better and what lessons we can learn from our experiences so far. By doing this, we're following the well-known practice of "continuous improvement." In the publishing business, improvement opportunities come in many forms, some mundane and procedural, some artistic in nature and having to do with look and feel, and some in the form of the fundamental elements of the content we produce. Of course, in order to be effective at any continuous improvement, you need to know your customers and listen to them when they or the marketplace around them are trying to tell you something. The challenge is often not in just listening to your existing customers, but also in better understanding what your customers' customers are telling them. In this still-challenged economy, almost every activity is being constantly scrutinized for maximum efficiency and value to the next level of consumer in the chain. That's a fancy way of saying that everyone in every conceivable supply chain today is demanding more value for less cost and faster turnaround with less risk. At ID, we view our business as having three distinct groups of customers: the first and most important, as always, consists of our readers, including all the members of the Society for Information Display and many more in the industry who receive ID by qualifying subscription. A fairly new group of readers has recently joined us on-line through our Web site,, where we invite one and all to join and read frequent industry news updates as well as all the articles, columns, and features printed in the magazine.

Our second and equally important group of customers is represented by all the great businesses that support ID each month through their advertising and related support. Their products and services are prominently featured in each issue and we strive to give them the best value possible for their marketing dollars. We understand that they are under tremendous pressure in the current economy. In this vein, we are frequently looking at ways to improve our value to advertisers, recognizing that ID can play a valuable part in the process of connecting display companies to their target customers.

The third customer group includes the many Guest Editors and individual contributing authors who work tirelessly each month to create the great features we get to publish. These individuals offer their time and talent to help educate the rest of the industry. In most cases, they do so with the support and encouragement of their employers. Nonetheless, their efforts are almost always "extra-curricular" and therefore it is important for us to provide the best possible experience and a compelling value for those who want to write and be heard in the industry.

I've described these three groups so I can better explain why we are undertaking some changes to the format of ID, implementing what we believe will be improvements for all three of our customer groups and hopefully producing additional value for all those associated. Specifically, beginning with this October issue you will notice some new features and a slightly broader focus to our coverage of the display industry. Displays are, in fact, a segment of the larger electro-optical industry and display technology is used in or alongside practically every conceivable electronic system. In order for those in the broader community to optimize their products, they need to understand the full breadth of opportunities display components and technology can offer. Similarly, I also believe that those of us who focus on display systems and components would enjoy reading more about what is happening in the broader industry around us. It is for these reasons we are creating two new feature categories that we have titled "Making Displays Work for You" and "Enabling Technology." In the former feature you will now find regular monthly articles focused on the application of display technology, including how-to features and tips on ways to get more out of display components in new and existing designs. In the latter case, we'll be looking outward into the electro-optical industry and identifying those technologies that may have a meaningful impact on the requirements for display components or the demands on new products using displays.

We have also been listening to our customers and recognizing that a magazine focused purely on technology, especially in today's economic climate, is not giving our readers the full picture. That's why we have added a monthly feature titled "The Display Marketplace," in which we plan to cover many current events from a business perspective and provide an economic context for what may be happening in the industry. These articles will tackle tough business issues and focus on helping our readers better navigate the display marketplace.

However, while we have made these changes, we have not strayed too far from our original purpose and will still be providing our conventional technology-intensive features each month under the "Frontline Technology" header. Here, we will continue to offer the carefully researched, objective, leading-edge display technology articles we have always provided, still contributed by leading scientists and engineers from our industry. So, in effect, we have added much more value to the same familiar product and that should be an improvement everyone can appreciate.

This month our technical theme covers a variety of topics related to displays for mobile and hand-held devices. In our first Frontline Technology article, "Enhancing Mobility through Display Innovation," author Jim Cathey from Qualcomm provides a comprehensive survey of the needs, both met and unmet, for displays in mobile devices and then describes the state of the art in microelectro-mechanical systems (MEMS) as a possible solution to those needs. I was recently invited to visit the Qualcomm laboratories in San Jose, California, and was very impressed with the technology as well as the care and attention the team puts into its work as researchers. I think you will find this a very interesting read.

We also have a comprehensive article from Sharp Corp., written by Kiyoshi Minoura, Yasushi Asaoka, and others describing their latest work in "Making a Mobile Display Using Polarizer-Free Reflective LCD and Ultra-Low-Power Driving Technology." This article is a follow-up to an earlier paper given at Display Week 2009, with new information that shows how compelling a solution their technology may be. I'm very bullish on the opportunities for reflective technology because of the inherent power savings and reduced packaging demands for mobile devices. These innovations can keep LC technology on the forefront for reflective applications.

Making displays work sometimes involves making better user interfaces and we have all seen persuasive evidence that touch screens are here to stay. It's hard to find any handheld product paradigm today that does not involve touch. However, as we also know, touch interfaces do not provide the same user experience that keypads do. Haptics refers to technology that interfaces with the user via the sense of touch by applying forces, vibrations, and/or motions. Researchers have been working on haptic devices in conjunction with touch for a long time, but very few successful implementations have reached the marketplace. In their article titled, "Haptic Feedback Solutions for an Enhanced User Experience," Pacinian Corp.'s Michael Levin and consultant Alfred Woo explain why this has been the case and how recent advances in the technology can be used to enable a new generation of haptic-enabled interfaces for many applications.

The Display Marketplace this month is analyzed by longtime friend Paul Semenza from DisplaySearch, who evaluates the technological innovations in the world of mobile devices and gives us his prediction on the requirements for displays and touch screens for the foreseeable future.

Finally, this month we take a closer look at 4G wireless technology and examine what impact it is likely to have on requirements for displays in mobile devices going forward. Beyond the obvious increased demands on battery life and pixels, there appears to be some new wrinkles worth thinking about, not least the idea that the immediate requirements of 2.5G- and 3G-based mobile communications devices have yet to be met in terms of available bandwidth. I'm very pleased with the work our own Jenny Donelan put into this feature for us.

I hope you all enjoy this first issue in our new format and as mentioned earlier, we do this to please all our customers. We welcome your feedback, so please take the time to send your comments and suggestions to us at •