The new year may be less than a week old, but that hasn’t stopped technophiles from around the globe gather in Las Vegas to view futuristic trends that are unlikely to be commercialised for the next few years, if at all.

But CES has an annual ability to capture the interests and imaginations of forward-thinking companies and individuals eager to peek through the looking glass, giving them a glimpse of a world where speakers levitate, hairbrushes are digital and Blackberry phones are still a thing.

CES 2017 is many parts wacky – a roaming and friendly robot that follows you around like a modern life Star Wars droid was a star of the show – and some parts revolutionary. If you’re willing to look past “innovative breast pumps”, you’ll see an event dedicated to showcasing the possibilities of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), wearable tech and autonomous driving.

Many of these concepts have already seeped into the sphere of sustainability. Google has been using AI as a means to slash energy use at its data centres by 40%, while Virgin Media has taken baby steps to introduce VR and Augmented Reality (AR) into its sustainability reporting.

Autonomous driving has evolved from a niche concept to something that every major carmaker is now seeking to embed; trials are even commencing in London this year. Much like CES 2016, car manufacturers have dominated this week’s event. But while 2016 was a battle of the longer-range electric vehicles, CES 2017 sees EVs as a routine aspect to the autonomous innovations, suggesting that EVs are finding their place in the global market.

While cars hogged the spotlight again this year, somewhat aided by the lack of advancement in VR and AR technology, CES 2017 also highlighted the potential that smart devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) can play in the streamlining the future.

But here at edie, we’re all about sustainability and, with this in mind, we’ve pulled together some of the most innovative concepts that can combat rising air pollution, increased levels of food waste and spiralling emissions as part of the low-carbon revolution.

Smug and snug without the smog

It took London just five days to breach annual air pollution limits in 2017. This is despite the UK Government being dragged into a legal battle with environmental lawyers ClientEarth over “woeful” air quality levels – a battle it is losing.

For those living in London and areas of high pollution, CES 2017 introduced an innovative new method to avoid smog and dangerous air particles without looking like a SARs disease sufferer or a doctor.

French start-up Clausette has introduced the world to Wair, a scarf which doubles as a device to filter out harmful air pollutants. A small filter is hidden inside the scarf and can continuously monitor outside pollution in real-time to send air quality updates to users. Priced between $56-90, the scarf can also suggest new travel routes with improved air quality through an app called Supairman.

A Fridge too far?

As mentioned, IoT will play a central role in how we interact with everyday appliances. Yet a lesser explored aspect of IoT is how these appliances will interact with products and other appliances around them.

Business leaders are recognising the opportunities that smart technology can bring in regards to energy efficiency, but IoT is yet to bear fruit in regards to helping consumers be more sustainable. That looks set to change after CES 2017.

LG has developed an IoT system for fridges which activates a sterilisation process when it senses temperature and/or humidity issues in order to extend food’s shelf life. UK start-up Smarter Applications, meanwhile, has developed Fridgecam – a device which keeps track of what its owners have in stock and when it expires, sending alerts to buy new items when necessary.

From your bin to your shopping basket

While the LG fridge could help households reduce the amount of food waste produced, another innovation at CES looks set to help families streamline their recycling attempts. In December last year, recycling rates in England fell for the first time ever and more is needed to educate consumers of their recycling capabilities and habits.

Fortunately an innovation could be just around the corner – although in this case it is halfway across the globe in Las Vegas. Eugene from Uzer has been designed as a smart rubbish bin aimed at rewarding those who interact with it at home.

Eugene looks to create convenience and fun by scanning packaging barcodes to improve recycling. Once scanned, Eugene will analyse consumption in terms of ingredients and quantities and reward you with smart-made shopping lists that can be sent to online retailers.

When is a bike no longer a bike?

The electrification of cars has been covered – and will be covered in the next heading – substantially over the last few years. Acting as the stars of this year’s and last year’s CES, the evolution of the automobile has been extended to its slimmer compatriot, the bike.

CES offered a glimpse of the Schaeffler Bio-Hybrid bike that consists of electric-assisted pedalling on a four-wheeled vehicle. The concept has been packaged as a bike with some of the comforts of a car, and can reach up to 15.5mph though its portable electric battery system. Charges can account for 31 to 62 miles, while smart braking systems help the ‘bike’ regenerate energy during the ride.

It is believed the electric bikes and hubs will encourage more people to cycle instead of drive, and one innovation on display at CES could tempt the switch further. Geo Orbital has introduced a detachable solar wheel for e-bikes which uses photovoltaic cells to charge the wheel as you pedal. Available in June 2017, the wheel can be controlled via mobile apps to dictate charging levels.

Robot wars on the road

While Tesla has been busy starting mass production of its new batteries, the mice have come out to play at CES. Toyota, BMW and Nissan led the charge in Las Vegas, and if one trend is clear, its that AI will be the captains of these autonomous vehicles.

But before we get to winking and talking cars, we should touch on Faraday Future. Californian company has been working in the shadows for the past few years and even with the backing from Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting, has run into some money issues. But the company has finally unveiled a self-driving EV that it claims can go from zero to 60mph in 2.39 seconds – faster than the Tesla Model S.

Elsewhere, BMW highlighted its gesture-controlled touchless interface, designed to integrate seamlessly into future EVs and autonomous vehicles. In a further attempt to remove itself from diesel production, VW will unveil an electric van and golf hatchback. A Fiat Chrysler vehicle was also showcased that integrates ride-sharing and delivery service applications into its EV model. The model is equipped with Level 3 autonomous driving and a 100kwh lithium-ion battery pack to create a drive range of 250 miles. While Nissan and Ford also outlined their visions for the future of mobility, one interesting announcement was that Microsoft was showcasing scenarios where AI could improve driver safety and traffic situations.

While most of the cars showcased at CES are likely to arrive at the higher end of the price range, Hyundai debuted a self-driving car similar to the Ioniq and suggests that autonomous features – which include optical cameras on the windshield and long-range radars – will be available at an affordable price. The vehicle will be available with three different EV drivetrains and can be controlled by Amazon Alexa and Google Home.

edie’s innovation month

The month of January sees edie shift the editorial spotlight to green innovation, with a series of exclusive interviews, features and podcasts running throughout the month to celebrate the very best of emerging clean technologies and low-carbon systems.

Change will not happen without genuine innovation and so this month will explore the bleeding edge where change is really happening. From emerging tech to new business models; breakthrough approaches and creative leaders, we’ll shine the spotlight on the real game-changers and sort the facts from the fads.

Read all of edie’s innovation content here.

Matt Mace

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