Ads could one day come to a Tube window near you

Display ads could be installed in public-transport windows  (LG )
Display ads could be installed in public-transport windows (LG )

Step into any Tube station, and you’re bombarded with adverts. Adverts that slowly move past you as the escalator descends. Adverts on the platform while you impatiently wait for your train. And, of course, adverts onboard the carriage above the seats for you to stare at as you trundle on to your final station where you’ll be greeted with… more adverts.

But it turns out TfL is missing a trick, and there’s one spot that’s currently advert-free that needn’t be: the windows.

At InnoTrans 2022 in Berlin, LG has been showing off the latest iteration of its transparent OLED screens designed for trains and subway carriages. The idea is that these can flick from being transparent windows to the outside world, to multimedia panels displaying all kinds of information for passengers.

The technology, LG says, can be used for “a wide range of content, including driving information, transfer information, weather, and news”. But it’s not long before the A-word creeps in: “As OLED panels have excellent visibility, they can maximise the effects of advertising, and they can also support augmented-reality (AR) functions to provide new experiences that have never been seen before.”

InnoTrans is an event specifically targeting European railway-industry officials, so it’s possible that TfL — currently in pretty dire financial straits — could see this as an option for Tube carriages of the future. Though, of course, the outlay involved in replacing the glass on the 4,000 or so Tube carriages in use across the London Underground network would not be insignificant.

The screen windows displayed on board a Deutsche Bahn concept train built for the event showcased two varieties: a 55-inch panel for windows and a smaller 30-inch version for doors. The screens have been built to deal with the day-to-day rumbling of subway carriages using a special tempered glass designed to deal with impact and vibration.

An earlier form of the technology has been in place in large cities in China since 2020. Here’s a video showing what it’s like on the Beijing Subway: thankfully, they don’t seem to play any sound.

LG says it is hoping to expand its business to Europe and North America, though no timescale is provided. Hopefully, if it does come to our beloved Tube, TfL will have the decency to keep it transparent for the actual stops and outdoor sections.