January 7, 2010

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Las Vegas shows the way
Manch Vegas looks on from afar
By John “jaQ” Andrews  jandrews@hippopress.com

January brings two traditions: predictions for the year ahead and the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Also working out with rapidly decreasing frequency, an uptick in traffic to Internet dating sites and 20 percent more ink usage from scribbling out the wrong year on checks and letters, but we’ll focus on predictions and CES.

Running Jan. 7 to Jan. 10, CES promises to be the “world’s largest environmentally-friendly tradeshow.” Although the friendliness comes more in the form of carbon offset credits than massive solar panels and vegetable gardens in the grass islands in the parking lot, there are promises of recycled promo materials and biodegradable utensils and the like. More significantly for us, there are a number of green-themed exhibitors and products.

Take the Sanyo eneloop Bike. The eneloop brand of rechargeable batteries has been around for a couple years now, so it makes sense that an electric bicycle from Sanyo would use the name. At $2,500, it’s not cheap, but it does feature regenerative braking, like most automotive hybrids but few electric bikes. The design earned Sanyo a CES Best of Innovations award.

Another award winner is the i.Tech SolarVoice 908. It’s not the first solar-powered Bluetooth headset for your phone, but it does claim to be the first with noise reduction, support for connecting to two phones at once and “infinite standby time while in optimum sunlight.” Good luck finding somewhere on earth that enjoys an infinite period of sunlight, but if you do, you can be smug both for your environmental conscience and the fact that you’re important enough to require constant connection to not one but two phones at all times. Congrats.

It’s not all about being green. In fact, six of the 20 Best of Innovations awards are for in-vehicle products, allowing you to consume even more electricity while emitting carbon dioxide. The $500 IntelliRoute TND 500 won’t be much use to you unless you’re a truck driver, since its special features include customized routes based on your truck’s size, weight and hazmat information. The XM SkyDock turns your iPhone or iPod Touch into a satellite radio receiver, and FLO TV is a wireless TV service that the manufacturer, Audiovox, is careful to caution you not to use while you’re actually driving.

Hoping to break out of vaporland this year is USB 3.0, the latest iteration of the plug-and-play peripheral connection. Also known as SuperSpeed USB, it follows Hi-Speed (USB 2.0) and Full Speed (USB 1.1) in subjectively, yet vaguely, describing its capabilities. It promises lower power consumption and speeds up to 5Gbps, more than 10 times the 480Mbps speed of USB 2.0, the current standard.

A company called Symwave is very excited that it’s releasing the world’s first USB 3.0 RAID controller — that’s one that can combine two or more storage devices to look like a single device, increasing the apparent capacity or performance. That’s probably not something you’ll buy yourself, but it will be integrated into external hard drive arrays and high-capacity flash drives. Meanwhile, NEC is showing off its own world’s first, a USB 3.0 host controller — that’s the thing built into your computer where you plug all your USB devices.

Will we see any USB 3.0 devices this coming year? Probably, now that you can actually plug them in somewhere. Since it’s backward compatible, all your current USB doodads will still work just fine, so expect to see the ports on laptops and desktops any day now, with devices soon following.