Japan's CEATEC conference offered a glimpse of some next-generation technology, but the focus of most companies was largely on ways to save power.
TOKYO-The earthquake that struck on
March 11 devastated huge swaths of the eastern Japanese coastline. It knocked
the Fukushima nuclear power plant offline, and left millions of households
without electricity or water.
Months later, energy
conservation is foremost in mind for many Japanese. Large numbers of
businessmen have given up wearing ties-a small nod to some office building
managers' decision to forgo rigorous climate control. The Japanese tech
industry, meanwhile, seems to have locked its focus on ways to compensate for
this altered paradigm.
At Japan's CEATEC (Combined
Exhibition of Advanced Technologies)conference, that focus included electric cars that
can power a house, waterproof tablets, and solar panels for powering
electronics and vehicles. Panasonic, for example, offered large lithium-ion battery modules designed to provide
power to homes and offices in the
event of a blackout.
Electric cars were pushed
hard by Mitsubishi, Nissan and a variety of components manufacturers. Even the
televisions on display featured new, intensive energy-saving modes, including
the ability to use only a small portion of a screen to watch a show.
CEATEC's concentration on using technology to monitor and
regulate power use, including electric vehicles and smart homes, seems
particularly auspicious given recent pullbacks in the United States. In June,
Microsoft said it would discontinue its Hohm energy-monitoring service in May
2012. Google has also made the decision to close Google PowerMeter, a
Google.org project designed to help consumers track their daily home energy
usage in real time from an iGoogle gadget.
Although Japanese technology
has a long tradition of eventually finding its way onto the U.S. scene, it's
unclear when-or whether-the Japanese focus on saving power will take hold here.
Though in many ways CEATEC
is the Japanese equivalent of the Consumer Electronics Show or CTIA (a wireless
show), it also featured a combination of large companies (think Intel and
Toshiba) and smaller startups. In addition to the power-saving devices on
display, Japanese executives spent their
keynotes advocating an increased focus
on software and services.
"We need to positively incorporate international standards,"
Kaz Yoshida, president of Intel Japan, said through a translator during an Oct.
4 keynote speech. "We have hardware, but what we are thinking about is the
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.