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 global perspective."