2019 is certainly the year of foldable displays in consumer technology. Samsung just released its foldable Galaxy Fold phone. Apple will soon follow suit with a new foldable iPhone. Within the next couple of years, this technology will make its way into marine electronics to revolutionize how we access information to manage our boats.
The first significant commercial application of these displays came just a couple of months ago at the Consumer Electronincs Show (CES) in Las Vegas. LG demonstrated a large TV set that unrolled out of a cabinet. It was the star of the show. Coincidentally, marine electronics made their debut at CES at the same time.
The fact is that investment in foldable, flexible screens has been going on for almost a decade. China’s Royole has raised over $1 billion in the past seven years to develop and market flexible screens. The company launched its FlexPai phone a few months back to try to beat Samsung. LG, Samsung, and Apple, of course, have the marketing muscle to make it widespread.
Certainly the current costs of these screens is sky high. Samsung’s Galaxy Fold will set you back $2K, so it’s clearly a niche product. But that’s how it all starts. You bring it to market at the high end, get the traction, and then produce at scale and lower cost.
We don’t know what Raymarine, Garmin, B&G, and others are thinking right now. You can bet you will start to see flexible displays for boats by 2020 or 2021.
Today’s marine displays are mounted in a fixed environment – and maybe they can pivot. You have to decide where they are going to go – at the helm, down below, on the mast, over the companionway. Flexible, foldable screens will open up far more possiblities for accessing all the data you need to operate your boat.
One of the most compelling applications will be with wearables. Imagine having a 9-inch screen attached to the arm of your jacket. Now you can glance at any vital data anywherea. Your nav station can have a display that unrolls when you need it. Your tablet can double in size when you need to split the display.
When you see what is coming out with flexible, foldable screens, you begin to sense how today’s displays will soon look dated. What we have taken for granted of the past fifty years will be upended. Sure these displays will need to be weather-proofed for boating – that’s just a detail if the market wants the benefit.
Flexible, foldable screens will no doubt contribute to making boating more accessible (once the cost drops!), safer, and more fun. Best of all, by using these screens you can even make them disappear. For those who see technology as something that gets in the way of enjoying boating, that could be the best benefit of all.