The green guide to CES 2012


Updated. There’s not a whole lot that’s sustainable, efficient, or eco-friendly about the yearly Consumer Electronics Show. Hey, it’s a massive gathering of tech enthusiasts who have flown into Las Vegas and are spending a week handing out schwag and showing off gadgets. But every year we try to dig into some of the innovations around energy, batteries, energy-efficient homes and the smart grid at the event, and deliver them up for your reading pleasure:

1. Smart energy homes. Quite a few companies will be showing off their smart energy home gadgets and services, including the largest big-box retailers. Lowe’s will be kicking off a major home energy push with partner AlertMe at CES, and Best Buy will also be touting its home energy plans, launched a few months ago.

The telcos and their partners will probably have a decent-sized showing. Nest and its learning thermostat will be there taking meetings in the Hilton. Newcomers Wireless Glue and Allure Energy also showed off new devices.

Power and utility company Reliant and NRG Energy will have an updated version of its smart energy home on wheels at the show, and we’ll be chatting with them later this week. Chip company Marvell is also showing off how its wireless chips can be the silicon connector for the smart energy home.

2. Electric cars. Ford dominated the electric car news at CES 2011, and it will probably be the same in 2012. Ford also has the Detroit Auto show going on, so there will be a lot of news this week from them. On Sunday night at the Detroit Auto Show, Ford unveiled the plug-in Fusion Energi, which has 100MPGe and can drive on electric for 20 miles before the gas engine kicks in. Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally will be speaking at some point at CES. Read more on Ford’s digital dreams here.

Also at CES, there’s the Go Electric Drive Test Zone, which includes retailer Best Buy, electric charging company Coulomb Technologies, Mitsubishi Motors North America, Qualcomm and Siemens. In addition, Kia Motors plans to show off a new electric vehicle.

Solar iPod apps

3. Solar-powered gadget cases. Over the past couple of years, a variety of products have emerged that have embedded small solar strips on the back of cases that can top off gadgets with a small amount of solar electricity. Much of the value-add of these cases is often times an additional lithium-ion battery, as the amount of the power provided by the solar strips can be pretty weak. VentureBeat has some of the first shots of a case for a solar-powered Kindle, made by Taiwanese company SolarFocus, which says will make the Kindle battery last three times the normal duration. The cost is $80.

4. Sustainable Planet Section. CES has a sustainable section every year, which usually features a couple dozen vendors making gear like smart plugs and batteries; it’s pretty lame. But at the 2o12 CES, I was interested to see trash giant Waste Management has a booth in the Sustainable Planet Section. While Waste Management has a very interesting investment startup strategy, I’m looking forward to see what’s the connection with gadgets — e-cycling?

5. Cars in the cloud. The digital car isn’t always about sustainability, but car data, infotainment and digital systems are becoming a hot topic at all gadget events, and CES 2012 will be no different. And sometimes the digital car does lead to a more sustainable car. One of the first announcements to come out of CES 2012 is that GM’s Onstar has given the greenlight to third party applications, and one of the first will be from car sharing company RelayRides. Woot!

6. One Laptop Per Child. One Laptop Per Child is showing off its long-awaited XO-3 tablet at CES, and TechCrunch has some of the first pics of it. Is it eco-friendly? Not really, but it’s planet-friendly, and there’s so little green content this year at CES that I added one that’s only half-green.

Updated: 7. Cool lighting: Switch, the startup that makes a liquid-cooled LED bulb, is showing off its SWITCH75 LED light bulb at CES — it’s one of the first times the bulbs are being showed off to the public. The company is backed by VantagePoint Capital Partners.

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