Technology goes green at CES

The major electronics show in Las Vegas (CES) recognized green innovations from entrepreneurs increasingly inclined to put technology at the service of the environment. A promise that some observers still doubt.

At the major electronics trade show CES in Las Vegas, it’s rare to see an entrepreneur brandishing a plant to present it as the latest breakthrough in consumer technology.

However, this is how Patrick Torbey, one of the two founders of the start-up NeoPlants, greeted some of the tens of thousands of participants who came to this show, which takes place every year after the New Year.

Neoplants’ Lionel Mora displays a living example of Neo P1, a houseplant bioengineered by his company to purify the air, during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) January 6, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Robyn BECK / AFP)

“We’re here to bring home the following message at CES: It’s not just about machine technology and electronics. It’s also about natural technologies that we can exploit using engineering techniques,” Mr Torbey told AFP.

Paris-based NeoPlants unveiled its innovation: a biotech plant that can capture toxic pollutants from the indoor environment and, according to its website, “does the work of 30 ordinary houseplants.”

Technology that benefits the environment has steadily grown in importance at CES since the show’s inception fifty years ago.

Attendees walk through the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) on January 6, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Robyn BECK / AFP)
A marginalized trend?

However, some observers question the real commitment to environmental protection of the consumer technology industry, which is more interested in smart TVs and robots than in more complex and less profitable projects to save the planet.

A participant tries out OVR Technology’s ION 3, a wearable scent technology that delivers olfactory scents that correlate with what a user is interacting with in the VR and AR environment. CES, Las Vegas, Jan. 6, 2023. (Photo by Robyn BECK / AFP)

“Until it really matters to consumers, it’s just going to be kind of a side trend here,” said Ben Arnold, consumer electronics analyst at research firm NPD.

“As someone studying the market, I still don’t see where the green technology is making a difference in terms of units and dollars,” he added.

Ran Roth, director of technology company Sensibo, agrees that the most successful products are those that make financial sense.

He offers artificial intelligence-based products and sensors to better control air conditioning, a major concern in the often sweltering heat of Israel, where his company is based.

Sensibo’s sensors measure humidity and temperature and use software that analyzes each user’s habits, saving energy and money.

Maryana Romanyak from sustainable Ukrainian startup Rekava shows coffee cups made from recycled coffee grounds and a candle set made from natural materials during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

pressure on large companies

According to him, new technologies must be profitable if they want to be successful, in contrast to so-called “green” technologies, which very often fail to achieve this goal.

“The great thing about smart thermostats is that they are readily available and offer the best return on investment,” Roth said.

But as climate change worsens, industry watchers say big tech companies are under increasing pressure to meet sustainability goals.

“In the past year, we have seen public denunciation by organizations engaged in greenwashing,” notes Forrester Research’s Abhijit Sunil.

Releaf Paper co-founder Alexander Sobolenko shows a sustainable bag at CES. Releaf Paper uses dead leaves from city streets and parks to make sustainable paper without cutting down trees.

“So many organizations are careful about what they mention as their sustainability initiatives, and they’re now as transparent as possible,” he says.

Mr. Sunil believes that it is in the industrial sector that we are seeing the greatest advances in terms of the environment.

However, he acknowledges that the consumer goods sector may be lagging behind in its green transition.

Product design, manufacturing and packaging are the most obvious areas to explore in relation to environmental technologies.

One of the inventions honored at CES is a robot from French start-up ACWA Robotics that can detect and prevent water leaks in underground pipes.

In France, 20% of drinking water is wasted due to pipe leaks.

For ACWA engineer Elise Lengrand, fighting for the environment is “the challenge of the century”.

“I mean sure it’s really cool to do big TV and all that, but[the environment]is really what matters,” she added to AFP.

With AFP

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