From portable solar panels to smart thermostats and ‘intelligent’ radiators, exhibitors at the IFA tech show in Berlin are touting smart solutions for an energy-scarce world.
But clever gadgets sometimes betray their hefty carbon footprint.
For the first time since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the motto of the 2022 edition of the German cutting-edge technology fair is ‘energy efficiency’, a timely mandate with soaring electricity prices.
One such exhibitor who believes they have the answer is Busch-Jaeger, whose stand is covered with switches and a small blank screen.
The German company owned by the Swiss group ABB has become an expert in ‘smart home’ technology.
Their idea is to adjust energy consumption in your home based on a set of data such as current ambient temperature, room brightness and air quality.
Ulf Ehling, who is tasked with presenting the company’s technology at the IFA, said such devices are “increasingly in demand” as the cost of energy soars in Europe.
– ‘crazy’ –
A few hundred meters away, the Norwegian company Mill offers black and white ‘intelligent’ radiators.
Thanks to smartphone apps, users can control the temperature of their homes throughout the day.
According to Bashir Naimy, Mill’s technical director, the device helps save “37% of household energy.”
The IFA also regularly showcases quirky gadgets such as a refrigerator that cools drinks in “two minutes” and a scent generator for buying perfume online.
French company Y-Brush touted at IFA a denture-like “sonic” toothbrush that “can brush all your teeth at once in 5, 10 or 15 seconds.”
But visitors to the trade fair, which closes on Tuesday, are grappling with the issue of energy use.
“It’s unbelievable when you see how much all these devices consume,” says Justin, a 23-year-old tech enthusiast who came to Berlin specifically for the show.
“We think about it all the time,” says 39-year-old Christoph Boettger, who came with his partner.
European energy prices have skyrocketed in recent months following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent curbing of gas supplies from Moscow to Germany.
The German government has launched an energy-saving campaign to try to set an example by reducing temperatures in public buildings, among other moves.
The energy conundrum worsened last week when Russian energy giant Gazprom said it would not resume gas delivery via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline after a planned three-day maintenance, blaming Western sanctions. was done.
– ‘Internet of Things’ –
“Smart home technology can help save energy,” said IFA organizer director Sara Warneke on Friday.
But what is the real harm of these new energy technologies?
According to a 2020 report from the French Senate, digital technologies will “increase greenhouse gas emissions” driven by the “Internet of Things” (web-connected consumer electronics) and “data storage.” I’m here.
Together, the two could lead to a “60% increase in the carbon footprint of digital technology by 2040.”
Despite their individual energy-saving potential, the overall impact of these technologies is likely to be greater than it first appears.
Ecoflow, a Chinese company with offices across Europe, wants to solve this paradox with mini solar panels.
A long, thin, foldable rectangle that can be carried in a special case and can be used to charge the lithium battery.
Their portability means users “do not need admin permissions to install them,” says Ecoflow spokesman Franko Fischer.
The panel can produce 2,700 Wh, enough to charge a computer, mobile phone or hairdryer.
“European consumers want to be self-sufficient, especially in times of crisis, so we expect a high demand for solutions like ours,” says Fischer.
According to price comparison site Check24, electricity prices in Germany increased by an average of 31% in the year to August.