What Greener Gadgets of the Future Will Look Like

Slick, efficient and wireless — that’s the focus of an upcoming generation of greener gadget designs on display at this year’s CEATEC, the consumer electronics show in Japan. As Pedro Hernandez notes this morning over on GigaOM Pro (our subscription-only research service), exhibitors in the event’s Green IT Pavilion are showing off a range of prototypes for gadgets that do more with less electricity.

In an encouraging sign for the 22 percent of consumers who care enough about the environmental impact of their electronics purchases that they’re willing to pay a premium on greener gadgets, the Green IT section is three times larger at CEATEC than it was last year.

On the down side, environmentally preferable technology is still cordoned off as a separate category — presented as a bonus rather than a given. But designers are getting better at integrating greentech into products, such as with the colorful new cell phone chargers from TDK.

A few trends are at work here. Consumers increasingly expect more from “green” products than the sense that they’re doing right by the planet, and as the Consumer Electronics Association found in a poll earlier this year, they want specific evidence that green claims are valid. In addition, as features and functions that reduce energy, materials and toxic chemical use appear in more and more electronics, gadget makers have to go further to differentiate themselves. Faced with a utilitarian green gadget and a slick one with comparable environmental performance, consumers will have an obvious choice.

Beyond the Green IT Pavilion, Hernandez notes a trend on display at CEATEC that could have implications for clean technology over the long term: wireless charging, which some automakers see as the future of electric car-charging. The technology, which uses electromagnetic fields to charge devices without a plug, does not yet match the efficiency or cost of a standard plug and cord-charging interface. Citing buzz at CEATEC over┬áconcepts like Wild Charge‘s wireless charging pad, Hernandez notes that continued development of this technology for handheld electronics could help make it a reality for electric vehicles.