For technology and electronics geeks, CES in Las Vegas this week is better than heaven. Over 3100 exhibitors pitch new products and software in an event that crams the Las Vegas Convention Center, the nearby Hilton and hotels on the strip. For large companies like Microsoft, Intel, Samsung and Panasonic, rather than booths they have palaces. Huge kitchen displays, rows of new computers and cell phones, theaters and amphitheaters make the nicest Apple Store (whose parent company does not attend) look like a thrift shop. This week 140,000 people flock to Las Vegas and contribute US$150 million into the local economy. Some say CES may go the way of COMDEX (a longtime consumer electronics store that ceased in 2003), but even after Microsoft rocked the electronics world by announcing they would skip CES 2013, that open space was snapped up in 45 minutes.
Among those cavernous halls were plenty of energy efficient, “green” and eco-friendly products.
Korean giants like LG and Samsung touted their smart grid technologies. LG’s Smart Thinq technology shined with new refrigerators and washing machines that users can manage from a smart TV. Samsung’s enormous booth was full of high tech goodies, including appliances like a front loading washing machine that can be linked to smart grid networks. Smart TV systems, energy storage systems and a home EV charging station also attracted plenty of buzz.
Panasonic’s gigantic booth was also full of goodies. When visitors could peel themselves away from an amphitheater that showcased actor and environmental activist Ed Begley Jr., touted its new MySpace TV partnership and had James Bond directors (and a couple Bond girls) in celebration of the franchise’s 50th anniversary, Panasonic more than held its own this week.
It has been a rough year for Panasonic, which lost over US$5 billion last year and parted with several thousand employees and ceased production of some its product lines. Last year’s earthquake and tsunami also rattled the nearly 100 year old company, but its recovery is on the way.
And that recovery lies in its sustainability agenda called “eco ideas.” A large corner of Panasonic’s both featured electric vehicle battery technologies, fuel cells, HIT solar panels that were part of the company’s Sanyo acquisition and the solar powered car that won last year’s World Solar Challenge.
This shift should only be the start for Panasonic. In a roundtable on Tuesday afternoon, Global Chairman Fumio Ohtsubo said that energy efficiency and clean energy technologies were part and parcel of the company’s goals to boost productivity and decrease fuel consumption. Watch for companies like Panasonic to do what they can to not only create more eco-friendly and efficient products, but strive even more to reduce waste throughout their operations and supply chains. A commitment to sustainability was hardly the dominant theme of CES 2012, but with more electric cars, smart grid products and alternative energy technologies finding themselves on the trade show floor, look for a very different CES in years to come.
Photo courtesy Leon Kaye.