Brain-to-vehicle technology and solar Wi-Fi: the best green innovations at CES 2018

Around 185,000 people descended into Las Vegas last week to check out the latest gadgets and tech innovations on show at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). edie has selected some of the best displays that could have the biggest sustainability impacts.

For four days each January, the US city of sin becomes that global city of sim, as nearly 200,000 delegates flock to CES. This year was no different, with some of the biggest businesses in the technology sphere showcasing new Virtual Reality headsets, widescreen televisions, and robots that can play table tennis.

If the latest gadgets appear a bit material regarding the purpose that they deliver, some on display genuinely have the ability to deliver huge environmental and societal benefits.

While edie’s regular innovation round-up usually takes place on a Friday, the team is acknowledging the role that CES 2018 has played in placing sustainability – provided you know where to look for it – in front of a massive consumer audience. With that in mind, edie brings you a special, CES edition of the green innovations of the week. Enjoy.

Rise of the autonomous automotive

In recent years, CES has unofficially evolved into a glorified car show. This year was no different, with the likes of Nissan, Hyundai, Volkswagen and Toyota all debuting new concept vehicles at the show. A common theme across all the demonstrations was the ongoing electrification and use of self-driving features.

Both Hyundai and Volkswagen are partnering with start-up Aurora – founded by former Google, Tesla and Uber engineers – to put self-driving cars onto markets by 2021. In fact, Hyundai demonstrated self-driving technology on a new fuel cell vehicle. The Nexo vehicle is fitted with voice command, autonomous features and has a driving range of up to 375 miles.

Speaking of driving miles, Danish car manufacturer Fisker debuted a vehicle offering more than 300 miles of driving range from a 140-kilowatt-hour battery pack. But self-driving remained the prominent theme. Ride-sharing service Lyft wheeled attendees around the show in self-driving cars, while Toyota unveiled a self-driving electric vehicle “e-palette”. The e-palette will be produced in collaboration with Pizza Hut and could provide autonomous pizza deliveries in the future.

Nissan wants brains

If self-driving pizza vans aren’t futuristic enough for you, then take a look at Nissan’s Black Mirror-esque approach to the future of mobility. At CES, Nissan unveiled its new “brain-to-vehicle” (B2V) technology, that syncs autonomous vehicles with the mind and thoughts of the driver.

The system, which involves a hat made of wires called an electroencephalography (EEG) headset, is meant to help the car respond to dangerous on-road situations more quickly than a human could. Once a driver detects danger, Nissan hopes the B2V technology will respond to the situation by as much as 0.5 seconds faster.

Not only could the innovation stop car crashes, but it could also save lives. Nissan also claims that technology could be fitted with augmented reality “to adjust what the driver sees and create a more relaxing environment”. For the environmentally-conscious, this could include real-time date on car emissions and battery charge, although this is speculation at this point.

Filtra filters

If brainwave technology is a bit too futuristic, how about a washing machine that reduces water usage by up to 50% while tackling the impacts of microplastics found in synthetic clothing. Xeros Technologies has debuted just that at CES, through new polymer technology fitted into water-intensive consumer and industrial processes.

Xerox showcased the  XOrb, XDrum, and XFiltra internal products for washing machines that, when combined, can substantially cut water usage while saving consumers money. The system works by adding a small amount of water to a wash. The tech then “gently massages” the garments, loosening dirt and stains while reducing the tendency for the garments to crease.

The new products also offer an additional benefit. The XFiltra reduces the amount of microfibers that go down the drain and seep out into waterways. Microplastics are a huge part of the ocean plastics problem, and can also be digested by fish, which humans then consume.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

Heading back to the autonomous future of transport, and it’s not just cars that are getting a self-driving makeover. Volocopter’s 2X is a giant transportation drone with seats. The company is the first in the world to be approved to let people be transported by what is essentially an autonomous vehicle that flies.

The 2X can be summoned by an app to arrive at the nearest location where it is physically able to land. It acts similar to Uber’s self-driving flying taxi concept, a four-passenger UberAir vehicle capable of reaching 200mph. Uber revealed that the vehicles would be fully-electric.

Volocopter’s concept, much like Uber’s, would help ease congestion in busy urban areas by reducing the number of cars on the road. Not only would the journeys be quicker, according to the developers at least, but it would also reduce the amount of emissions from the transport sector – one the largest emitters by sector.

Solar signals

Also showcased at CES 2018 was the Augmented-Reality Optical Narrowcasting, otherwise known as ARON. Developed by equipment firm SureFire, ARON is a new infrared communications channel, which the developers claim in 300 times more energy efficient than Wi-Fi.

ARON can operate using solar power, and SureFire believes the communications channel could therefore be used during power outages during natural disasters. It offers an alternative to radio frequency waves used by smartphones and is capable of delivering high-definition videos.

According to Engadget, users can send information from as far as 400 metres away in the daytime, or 1,200 metres at night. SureFire demonstrated how the application would use augmented reality on a variety of surfaces including smartphone screens, glasses and windshields.

Dell delves into e-waste

The final innovation showcased at CES 2018 that makes it into this round-up is less of a product, and more of a system. At the event, technology firm Dell announced an industry pilot aimed at using recycled gold from discarded electronics in new computer motherboards.

Dell will place recycled gold from used electronics into computer motherboards, specifically the Latitude 5285 2-in-1s. The pilot will commence in the Spring and the reclaimed gold process, delivered by Dell’s environmental partner Wistron GreenTech, is said to have a 99% lower environmental impact the traditionally mined gold.

Currently, a little more than 12% of global e-waste is recycled into other products and just 20% of e-waste is documented as being collected and recycled. There’s a huge economic potential attached to the waste, with Americans discarding around $60m in gold silver annually through unwanted phones. 

Matt Mace

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