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Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011

Energy management systems steal the show at CEATEC fair


Staff writer

While electronics makers were already taking the environment and energy conservation into account in their products, this year's offerings at the CEATEC technology fair show that the energy shortfalls triggered by the March disasters have significantly spurred their efforts.

News photo
At your fingertips: A TV screen at Toshiba Corp.'s booth at CEATAC on Friday shows how its home energy management system displays power consumption data during a demonstration at the Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba Prefecture. KAZUAKI NAGATA PHOTO

The Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies, the nation's biggest consumer electronics show, highlighted the trend with an abundance of new energy management systems for both homes and communities before winding down Saturday at the Makuhari Messe convention hall in Chiba Prefecture.

Manufacturers have high hopes of turning this rapidly growing sector into a new source of revenue as they struggle to best fellow Asian rivals in the TV and computer markets.

"When thinking about our daily lives and industrial growth from now on, we have to keep in mind that the power supply is not unlimited. If our industry can provide solutions (to the energy shortages), we can share them and contribute to the world," said NEC Corp. Chairman Kaoru Yano, who also chairs the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association, when CEATEC kicked off Tuesday.

Panasonic Corp. showed off solar panels, fuel cells and home appliances equipped with wireless adapters that can send data on power consumption to smartphones and other devices.

The products can be used at home and would be monitored by a Smart Energy Gateway that automatically controls electricity consumption.

During peak demand hours, for instance, the SEG box can show wasteful consumption at home and optimize usage by switching from utility-supplied power to energy from solar panels or rechargeable batteries.

The firm is also promoting the idea of managing and optimizing electricity use for entire communities. This "smart city" concept is based on information technology-driven "smart" power grids, renewable energy sources and low-emission products such as electric vehicles.

Panasonic is planning to establish such a community in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture, where it hopes to cut carbon-dioxide emissions by 70 percent compared with the town's 1990 level, it said.

Toshiba Corp. has also embraced the smart community concept and hopes to incorporate it in reconstruction work in the disaster-hit Tohoku region.

"We have been exchanging ideas with local communities in Tohoku and proceeding to reconstruct towns. In the process, we hope to introduce the new values of the smart community," said Hideoki Fujita, chief specialist in the company's smart community division.

Fujitsu Ltd., meanwhile, unveiled systems that can help utilities manage energy networks more efficiently.

Fujitsu's display at CEATEC included an automated wireless power-metering network. The system can transmit metering data to a utility once every half hour, which will virtually eliminate the need to send workers to check meters, Fujitsu said.

The campaign for energy management products was so prevalent that it crowded out conventional products such as TVs and computers at some booths.

Consultancy firm Fuji Keizai Co. estimates that the domestic "smart" meter market for electricity and gas will reach ¥267.5 billion in 2020 compared with ¥14.2 billion in 2010, and that the market for large lithium-ion batteries will expand to ¥945.4 billion from ¥13.6 billion in the same period.

"In the past, Japanese makers were doing well by manufacturing quality products and affordable products," but other Asian rivals have become more competitive in recent years, said a Fujitsu employee.

"We have to change the way we think," he said.



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