Engineering Innovations Highlight Climate Change Mitigation at CES 2023
Each year, tens of thousands of visitors arrive in Las Vegas, NV, USA to see the latest in consumer technology. Engineering innovation is always a highlight. But this year, that ingenuity was used to address climate change.
2023 IEEE President and CEO Saifur Rahman and IEEE Executive Director and COO Sophie Muirhead visited CES 2023 and observed engineering ingenuity firsthand.
Each year, more than 100,000 visitors arrive in Las Vegas, NV, USA to attend the Consumer Electronics Show1(CES). CES is billed as the world’s most influential tech event. It attracts thousands of companies from the biggest brands around the world. CES also attracts lesser-known companies with cutting-edge and innovative technologies. These companies are there to showcase the latest technologies that either entertain us or help solve consumer problems (even those not yet anticipated).
According to industry reports from CES 2023, the biggest buzzword at this year’s show was “sustainability.2” In the early years, consumer electronics was focused on computing devices, television displays, and home appliances. As the internet became ubiquitous, people began seeing technology around the hyper-connectedness of devices, “the Internet of Things,” or IoT. More recent CES exhibitions have highlighted the interconnectedness of all things electric, including cars, bikes, and even farm equipment. From healthcare, computing, displays, and cameras to home appliances and vehicles, the variety of innovations showcased at CES run the gamut of applications.
2023 IEEE President and CEO Saifur Rahman and IEEE Executive Director and COO Sophie Muirhead visited CES 2023. While walking the exhibition floor, they discovered and interacted with a wide array of technologies. Across a spectrum of products, many companies framed their demonstrations through the lens of climate change and sustainability. Samsung and Patagonia announced a partnership to reduce microplastics in the water supply with a new washing machine3. The big farm machinery company John Deere presented its See & Spray technology that uses cameras and image recognition to better differentiate a crop from a weed, thereby only spraying the weed with herbicide, resulting in a reduction of overall herbicide used4. And there were plenty of electric vehicles on display, including innovations in bicycles as well as the four-wheel kind.5
The extensive electrification of consumer products (here, meaning the energy transition from fossil fuel–powered to renewable-powered) reflects how these companies are addressing climate change. Dr. Rahman noted that “as an engineer, I can understand and appreciate the many challenges that must be overcome to arrive at these impressive engineering achievements; what is possible is not always easy to achieve. What stands out from these innovations is their multidisciplinary engineering approach, and the key role of electrical engineering in their development and use. None of these innovations would be possible without engineers researching and experimenting.”
Muirhead commented, “Indeed, the takeaways from CES are aligned with IEEE’s mission of ‘Enabling Technology for Humanity.’ Engineering is a fundamental discipline that enables society to function. Among IEEE’s technical Societies and Communities, many members are actively engaged in researching solutions that will drive consumer products for years to come and that enable society and people to live better lives in more sustainable ways.”
In particular, an innovation is in development that will help users measure their own carbon emissions. A group of IEEE members are currently testing a prototype web-based app called Carbon Footprint Calculator that calculates the personal carbon footprint of individuals. The idea of the app is for the user to enter basic information regarding clothing used, food consumption, utilities, transportation, lifestyle, appliances owned, and various other consumables. Each type of input has its own emission factor in kilograms of CO2e per unit, which is then used to calculate the total “carbon bill” of the individual.
Dr. Rahman was inspired by his visit to CES not only because he experienced many innovations firsthand but because he met many talented individuals who represent those innovative products, which are examples of solid engineering. Equally significant, many of the innovations being deployed help address climate change and sustainability concerns. He observed that “electrical engineering is shaping the world to make life not only better, [but] also more climate-conscious so that we don’t create more pressure on the environment.”