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CES: 'Green' tech goes from gimmick to mainstay

Greentech
Sony's new W series notebook eco-friendly PC is on display at the Consumer Electronics Show. Twenty percent of selected parts of the W series notebook are made from recycled CDs and DVDs. Credit: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
For years, the technology industry has been "going green." At this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, most businesses have finally gotten there.

"Green" exists less as a buzz word and more as a prevalent ideal among the technology leaders compared with years past, analysts say. A potential driving force could have to do with manufacturers having discovered business advantages of earth-friendly products -- ones that don't rely on charging consumers more to "go green."

In many booths, you'll find a station advertising eco-friendliness alongside the newest products. Samsung has a visual detailing the PET recycling process, which uses water bottles to make the plastic in television sets and cellphones.

Virtually all of the big electronics manufacturers were showing some sort of ecological message. Some have traditionally been ahead of others. For example, "Sharp has always had a green message," said Steve Sechrist, an editor and analyst for trade news company Insight Media.

But it's been adopted practically en masse this week. "Green is a strong message for this industry," Sechrist said.

The big players have a strategic reason to invest in the low-power, high-performance thin-film transistors (TFT) that power newer LCD TVs. Thanks to advancements last year by Mitsubishi, those TFTs could be used to build solar-powering units.

"If LCD tanks, they could always go into solar cells," Sechrist said.

As the green gimmicks fade, David Berman, an expert in home power automation, notes that the Sustainable Planet Exhibit was noticeably disappointing.

However, there were a few standouts innovating in the power-consumption space. Plug your computer, mouse and peripherals into the BITS Limited Smart Strip, and it watches to see when the PC goes idle -- at which point it dims the energy consumed by the accessories.

For more enterprising energy savers, the KVAR Energy Controller is a device that sits between a home power meter and the appliances. It significantly reduces wasted energy, saving green on your energy bill. Like magic.

But that's not to say the gimmicks have completely withered.

Panasonic pledged to be carbon-neutral at the show -- a promise that, as U2's Bono has demonstrated, is rather unrealistic for these types of events. Berman expects the company will have to do it over a 24-month period, and even then, "I don't think they're ready," he said.

-- Mark Milian
twitter.com/markmilian

 
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