Forget new TV tech, "sustainability" was the buzzword of IFA 2022 - MrLiambi's blog


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Monday, 5 September 2022

Forget new TV tech, "sustainability" was the buzzword of IFA 2022

Europe's largest consumer electronics trade show is almost over and we have returned to the office having seen several key new products and a few interesting tech concepts. However, IFA 2022 was quite unlike many of its predecessors - it didn't focus on a new TV technology, video standard, or even device trend. We were treated to a theme, as always, but one that was almost "anti-tech" this time around.

The biggest message we took from the show is that companies are continuing to do their very best to create new products, but with the planet's fragile future at the forefront of design decisions.

"Sustainability" wasn't just a buzzword, it was the heart of a swarm of announcements. Even when companies didn't have much new to unveil, they were happy to promote just how sustainable their existing line-ups were.

Energy waste

Take Samsung, for example, which spent the best part of its hour-long, unbroadcasted IFA press conference informing us about how its bespoke washing machines use AI to produce smaller bubbles to reduce the required temperature to get gravy stains out of a tea towel. Or, why making all of its devices smart and Wi-Fi connected by 2023 will conversely reduce power usage.

Cynicism aside, the company also highlighted a couple of things that the tech industry is doing that address the issue and truly warrant that "sustainability" sticker.

Take its SolarCell Remote, for example - it automatically tops-up power through minimal light and, remarkably, Wi-Fi radio signals, thus removing the need for replacement batteries. And, as Samsung is opening the licence to third-parties, other companies could follow suit with similarly eco-concious clickers.

By reducing this kind of waste with an everyday device that doesn't even need to be recharged through a conventional power source, Samsung and partners are solving two issues in one - we get something better for the environment, and more practical for the user. We won't have to search for a couple of AAAs just to turn over to Antiques Roadshow.

The company also used its keynote to commit to building longer-lasting appliances and products - something that peers also suggested.

That's perhaps the true meaning of sustainability in the tech world. We have spent a good couple of decades munching our way through disposable gadgetry, and while that has made certain firms wealthy (or even wealthier), it hasn't done much for landfill or the carbon emmissions bellowing from manufacturing plants.

So, Samsung and others seem to agree that, while they have benefitted greatly, maybe it's time to stop building AV gear that you need to replace every three or so years. Or phones. Or fridges.

Modular mission

To that end, we particularly liked the concept behind Bang & Olufsen's Beosound Theatre sound bar. Not only is it built to last for at least 10 years, it sports a modular design whereby different physical elements can be upgraded and swapped.

The processor is already over-spec'ed so that there is wriggle room for beefier software updates later in its lifespan, and certain units on the rear can be replaced. The source input panel is a prime example of this. It has eARC-enabled HDMI ports presently available, but should a new input be standardised before 2032, a new hardware module can just be slotted in.

Naturally, speakers are more naturally suited to longevity - in comparison with TVs, at least - but this extra attention to the digital side of the process allows us to be more mindful of the products we replace.

The LG MoodUp refrigerator was another product we saw that fitted into a similar pigeonhole. Yes, it has the latest low energy ratings and certificates, but it was the design that most said "sustainable" to us. The colour-changing LED panels on its doors make the fridge more adaptable to home improvement trends. So, should you want an all-new kitchen, you can alter the MoodUp's fascia to match rather than trade-up the entire appliance.

It might just mean you keep your next fridge longer.

There were plenty of other examples too, from many of the major tech manufacturers, and while it will inevitably lead to retail prices rising to cover the cost of fewer devices sold, we think that's part of sustainability we can all get behind.

It's just a shame that we all had to fly to Germany, tread massive, air conditioned halls, and view huge, powered displays for the penny to drop.

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