Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Gadget Geeks Go Green

There was enough new technology unveiled at the CES technology showcase in Las Vegas last week to make gadget geeks green with envy.

Funnily enough, the major selling point of some of the new gadgets is that they too are green.

For years, the makers of TVs, DVD players, projectors and home theatre systems have fallen over themselves to pack more features into their products, make them smaller, lighter, easier to use, more impressive to look at and listen to.

But - with the exception of mobile phones, music players and laptops, where battery life determines how long a gadget can be used when it is not plugged into the grid - power consumption has never been an issue worthy of much consideration.

How things change. The best new gadget at CES as voted by the major technology website CNet.com, was the new Eco TV from Dutch electronics maker Philips.

It's a flat-screen, 42-inch LCD display that's capable of high-definition images.

That puts it smack in the middle of the market. Philips' technology allows viewers to dim the LCD's backlight panel, saving power and, in many cases, enhancing the picture as contrast is improved.

The Eco TV also has a built-in sensor that measures the ambient lighting in your room and adjusts the backlight panel to give you the best picture.

If there's lots of glare on the screen during the day, it will crank up the power to give a brighter picture. With a reasonable US$1399 price tag, the extra features don't exactly command a premium, either.

As TV makers feel the pressure to come up with less power-sapping displays, the mobile phone industry is going one further. Hundreds of millions of phones are sold around the world each year and many will only have a two-year lifespan.

Most mobile operators run recycling programmes to collect old phones, which are often refurbished and shipped to developing countries. But millions still end up in landfills.

Nokia, the biggest mobile maker, knows the political heat this creates and responded at CES with a new version of an old classic - the 3110 Evolve. The new handset is made from 50 per cent renewable bio-materials.

The packaging uses 60 per cent recycled materials. Its phone charger uses 95 per cent less power than standard guidelines.

"Charge your battery with a clear conscience," Nokia promises. Then there's the Green Plug, an ingenious contraption that's sure to ride the green wave.

It's a USB hub that's capable of charging all your devices, eliminating the need to carry bulky power adapters and power cables. Each device needs an adaptor to plug into the powered USB slots.

The hub switches off when the device plugged in is fully powered.

Green Plug is licensing its technology with the hopes that electronics makers will adapt it into their hardware design.

I hope they're successful, as the Green Plug will save power, and make recharging your gadgets easier. That's the crux of it. Consumers will only buy into the green movement if green products cost less to run and are easier to use.

Most won't be guilt-tripped into switching their loyalties based on whether a gadget is made from recycled materials.

We like the fancy packaging, the slick finish and the weighty feel of top-notch materials in our hands. But give us something that will take a sliver off the power bill, and remove the growing clutter of incompatible wires and plugs and connectors, and we'll be putting our green hats on before you know it.

Source: www.nzherald.co.nz/section/story.cfm?c_id=5&objectid=10486552