I had a chance to attend the Greener Gadgets Conference in New York City today and though I was very impressed by the variety of speakers the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) had brought together for this annual event, the overall show was lacking.
The day started with an interesting speech from Yves Behar, famous for being the creator of the One Laptop Per Child program (and of course, the lap top itself), the electric Mission 1 motorbike and other eco-friendly inventions. Mr. Behar spoke of making green electronics appealing through aesthetic design, essentially making the product "sexier" and therefore more marketable. He also spoke about how it's not new products that are causing environmental issues, but the old products that we continue to use. He ended his speech challenging the designers in the room to go against the "status quo" and test the limits of design because the big guys aren't. He told the audience of how he challenges his designers to not build just a product, but a mission, a philosophy, and a brand.
|Robert Fabricant speaks on the importance of product engagement|
Following the keynote address, a panel featuring Home Automation Inc. CEO Jay McLellan discussed the importance of sustainability in design. The discussion featured the usual talking points of the importance on ease of use to market acceptance and how ROI is, and will always be, the key factor in an decision a company makes in adopting sustainability.
The highlight of the show was the final event, the Greener Gadgets competition. Yours truly was one of the initial judges selected to narrow down the over one thousand entries. I was a little disappointed however in the selection of the final three judges to determine the overall winner. Neither three had any design or engineering background and often made presumptuous comments on the viability of the more technical products and were quick to dismiss some very good entries with glib responses like: "this could be done with an iPhone app". In the future, I think it would be wise of the CEA to choose at least ONE panelist with an engineering or design background to comment on the feasibility and innovation of some of the products. I was especially annoyed at how quickly they dismissed the Orange Solar Tent by Kaleidoscope, a tent that can charge electronic devices and stays illuminated through energy harvesting as "too bright" and "looking too heavy". What kind of deep thought analysis is that?
|Panasonic's lonely booth|
Lastly, for a show called Greener Gadgets, there was a definite lack of actual 'greener gadgets'. Their exhibition hall featured only a dozen exhibitors, with Panasonic being the largest vendor showcasing OLED and power-saving televisions. Where were all the clean technology companies? I can only hope for next year, the CEA reaches out to the many companies developing energy-saving and innovative electronics.