March 4, 2009

Green Innovations, eHealth Highlighted At CeBIT

"Green" USB sticks comprised of corn, smart champagne bottles and a gentle alarm clock were among the more interesting gadgets featured at this year's CeBIT event, the largest high-tech show in the world for inventors.

As the tech sector struggles under a global economic slowdown, inventors from the United States, Asia and Europe displayed their wares in attempts to capture attendees' imaginations with ideas that could ignite the market in the years ahead.

Researchers at the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence unveiled a range of common devices the company has since made "smart." Its champagne bottles sound a bell when the champagne has hit the ideal temperature.  The company's intelligent medicine cabinet lets users know when they last took their medication and when it's time to refill a prescription.

The event had a sizeable "green" theme, with California-based ITP showing off its USB sticks and photo cards consisting of biodegradable plastics made of corn. Some of their proceeds will go to tree-planting projects.

Swiss firm digitalStrom.org has developed a chip that can be installed in ordinary light switches so devices are never unintentionally left on. An "everything off" button switches all devices on the system to "standby", reducing energy bills and avoiding fires.

Also highlighted at the show were a variety of thinner, more efficient and less costly netbooks, including the first "zero-watt" laptop from Fujitsu-Siemens, which when idle uses no electricity. 

For its part, Toshiba displayed televisions that use just half the power of normal sets.

A new navigator developed by Germany-based Garmin can determine not only the most direct route or the one with the least amount of traffic, but also the one that requires the least amount of fuel.  The device will even keep track of the amount of money saved on the trip.

"If he feels in the mood, the driver can activate the EcoChallenge feature," Garmin said.

"Based on an analysis of the driver's heavy or light-food pedal technique and braking as well as the car speed, the display shows how well the driver is doing in the fuel-saving stakes."

Germany's Simple Feature displayed its new gentle alarm clock, which monitors sleep rhythms via a soft wristband fitted with sensors.

The system selects a shallow sleep phase within half an hour of the desired wake-up time, and goes off with a variety of alarm tones.  The device encourages what Simple Feature calls "a smoother start to a more productive day."

CeBIT, which runs through Sunday, is also highlighting eHealth at this year's show, featuring products that utilize the Internet to allow patients to receive better care from home.

Germany's Bodytel has developed a blood sugar monitor for diabetics, which allows test results to be sent directly from the patient's mobile phone to their doctor's office. Similar devices monitor blood pressure and heart rates.

Innovations in entertainment also captured the interest of attendees.

Taiwan-based Aiptek Pocketcinema beamer offers "movies-to-go" to with two gigabytes of memory to store films.  And Dutch firm Adapt Mobile has a pocket projector that allows users to display life-size photos with friends.

Germany's Asus unveiled its Eee, a home phone that allows low-cost international video calls with higher quality than that provided by a traditional PC.  The device is being hailed as the first Skype video telephone. 

Blaupunktm displayed prototypes of what they called the world's first Internet car radio, which will ultimately access "tens of thousands of stations" via cellular phone networks.


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