Weekly Update

Green Gadgets: What to Look for at CES

Each year, the holidays spill well into January for tech-obsessed geeks, thanks to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). In 2010, CES will continue that tradition with some decidedly green flair. Like Japan’s CEATEC this fall, eco-consciousness will be a major theme, from the show’s larger Sustainable Planet technology zone (hopefully with less solar junk this year) to a green press room that’s putting tight restrictions on the amount of paper exhibitors can dump on attendees.

What about the green gadgets?  There are bound to be plenty, but here are the ones that are sure to pique the interest of eco-minded, tech-savvy consumers.

E-book Readers Aplenty

Prime View International isn’t quadrupling capacity solely because it expects the Kindle and Nook to generate gangbusters sales numbers in 2010. No, the company is anticipating tons of e-book readers to launch next year, many of which will debut at CES. Plastic Logic is generating interest for its QUE, which boasts an 8.5- by 11-inch screen that’s based on new flexible backplane tech, resulting in a thin, lightweight device. But it’s Qualcomm’s MEMS-based Mirasol display that is likely to attract the most attention (and face the most scrutiny). Like e-ink devices, the display only requires power when the screen is refreshed, but it can also handle video; it will be interesting to see if the company can deliver on the battery life that consumers expect out of e-book readers.

Home Energy Management

AlertMe and Control4 will be displaying home energy management devices, but the standout is Texas energy supplier Direct Energy. Backed by OpenPeak, Best Buy and Whirlpool, Direct Energy’s Home Energy Management (HEM) center will offer consumption data and control over some appliances, but it augments the experience with communications and social networking hooks to prevent it from becoming just another screen to ignore. The best part is that beginning in 2011, Direct Energy customers can go to their local Best Buy and pick one up.

LED-backlit HDTVs

CEA — incidentally the producer of CES — didn’t rate too well on our Green IT 2009 Winners & Losers list because it fought a losing battle against California’s new TV efficiency regulations. It will be interesting to see how (or if) CEA plans to reconcile its stance with the fact that every major TV maker will flood the show floor with energy-efficient, LED-backlit televisions.

At CES, expect to see vibrant, energy-sipping displays in ever-slimmer form factors like LG’s 2.6 milimeter-thin, 42-inch model. In the budget category, David Katzmaier at CNET expects green credentials to make up for the lack of whiz-bang features found in higher-end HDTVs.

Of the three gadgets, super-slim HDTVs own the wow factor. However, Direct Energy’s HEM has the most potential to change the way consumers approach electricity use. It’s one thing to read about the energy-saving benefits of the smart grid and all the devices that deliver on those promises. It’s quite another to have one of those devices wend its way to market and end up on the shelves of Best Buy where folks can take them to the checkout counter. And ultimately, that’s what CES is all about.

Question of the week

What green gadgets are you most looking forward to seeing at CES?