CES 2012: OLED TVs, Transparent TVs and Home Energy Management from Samsung
Samsung has a range of interesting products out this year, not the least interesting of which is their 55" OLED television. We'll start off with that, and move into the more sustainable items.
55" OLED TV from Samsung
OLED televisions were all the talk a couple years ago, but nothing has really come out. In fact, Sony gave up altogether on making OLED TVs earlier this year. But Samsung still sees potential (and LG for that matter, which also launched a 55" 3D OLED TV).
I asked Samsung's EVP of Corporate Strategy David Steel, "Why OLED?" I was curious because it is incredibly expensive, and while it can be energy efficient, it is not necessarily more energy efficient than LED-backlit LCD televisions.
He told me that they're pursuing OLED TVs because there are physical benefits -- the thing is ridiculously thin, and it can provide a broader range of colors. Also, the response time of the pixels is better so you can see faster-moving scenes with more fluidity and motion effects in 3D are better. He also noted that while we had the technology for OLED TVs 4-5 years ago, the manufacturing capabilities weren't there. But now, the company has the capabilities and they're ready to start producing them.
There are practically no useful spec released yet, and they won't be released until the second half of this year (same goes with the LG OLED TV). We don't know how much energy it requires, we don't know about recycling issues, we don't know even how much it will cost, though I am assured it is a "premium item." Considering a tiny 11" OLED TV from Sony was priced out at $2,200, you can guess this TV is going to be only for the super rich.
Is it green? Well, while OLED has been touted as a more energy efficient solution for some devices, we have yet to see how this TV will hold up. We're guessing, not well.
Transparent "Window" TV from Samsung
Moving on to something a bit more green, we come to a crazy-cool product of the future -- a transparent TV.
Televisions need a light shining from behind the image so that you can see the image on the screen. That's why, for example, we have LED-backlit LCD screens -- the LED lights are more energy efficient and the bright light helps with image quality. But the more light, the more energy (usually, anyway, but not necessarily). So a solution Samsung is working on is a transparent television that doubles as a window.
Again, we don't have specifics right now such as energy use, but we can say that these televisions are more energy efficient than typical TVs because they eliminate the backlight altogether, using sunlight instead. At night, the display is powered by internal lights. The window can also be used as blinds -- you can bring up the blinds, then close or open the shades to whatever degree with the touch screen:
The TV can be used for viewing shows and such, but is can also be used like a computer, as it can hook up to the internet and thus your social media accounts, maybe a recipe book or two if this is in your kitchen, and so on. Think of it more like a computer monitor than a TV set (though those are practically interchangeable these days). Samsung is still looking into how this can be useful, and it is not necessarily looking to bring this into homes any time soon but rather is thinking along the lines of grocery stores using them in refrigerator and freezer sections for customers to use, or perhaps in windows of stores for advertising or information. Currently, the company is mostly waiting for people to find a use for a product like this -- but you can pretty much guarantee it will arrive one day.
Whole Home Energy Management System
The greenest thing we saw from Samsung this year is HEMS, or the Home Energy Management System.
Here's a super basic run down: Samsung's solar panels on your roof send energy to a large Samsung battery:
That battery talks to the gateway, and the gateway in turn talks to the Samsung washing machine or the Samsung refrigerator:
You sit at the helm, deciding, for instance, if you want to spend the money to wash a load of laundry at peak hours or if you want to wait until the price drops.
Or maybe you want to use battery power gathered from your solar panel instead of grid power or vice versa. If you want to run the load, well you can go ahead and do that from afar, even selecting which cycles to use and monitoring how much time is left on the load. It's all there at your fingertips, even if you're nowhere near your home.
When I spoke with Samsung's EVP of Corporate Strategy, David Steel, I mentioned that even though companies like Microsoft and Google have dropped out of the home energy management dashboard game, that it feels like it's just a matter of time until a connected home is a reality and people are measuring, monitoring, and managing their home's energy use on customized terms. He smiled, and nodded. When I pressed for a time frame, he says that it could be just two to three years before we see everyone starting to get hooked up. There are essentially two steps to the process.
First, individual devices need to be able to connect to a network within a home or smart grid. Five years ago, it was virtually unheard of to have a personal wifi network in every home or apartment, yet now it's commonplace. That is an important component to the success of these connected devices, as is making them plug-n-play without extra parts needed. Now, the ability to connect without extra components is a reality as companies manufacture electronics and appliances with this connective capability embedded. Hooking up your television to the internet to watch movies on Netflix is practically second nature. The same goes for larger items like refrigerators, washers and dryers, dishwashers, and so on -- or at least it will in the very near future. Everything is starting to be made with a home network in mind.
Step two, which is just a few years down the road, is creating the whole home solution. And we mean whole home. As each device can be connected, soon we will have everything hooked up to a home connected to the network, from lights to window shades, from water heaters to security cameras, from thermostats to dishwashers. And yes, even electric vehicle chargers:
What is currently a significant investment in time and in extra gadgets will become cheaper and easier to create, and HEMS hopes to be a leading solution for people looking for people seeking whole home energy management.