Panasonic's vision for energy-efficient towns
By Rick Martin
December 21, 2010
Our readers see more than a few eco-products featured here on a regular basis. Very seldom, however, do we have an opportunity to see a "big picture" vision for how an eco-friendly lifestyle can be achieved on a larger scale. Panasonic attempted to give us such a glimpse at the Eco Products 2010 exhibition in Tokyo, devoting an entire booth to demonstrating the company's "comprehensive energy solutions for entire towns." Panasonic's model was divided into a number of zones representing different aspects of modern life: home, office, factories, stores, and public spaces. Each zone contained a number of environmentally-friendly solutions and devices that create, store, and manage energy in a smarter way.
In the home zone, Panasonic had brightness and people sensors that make for a smarter use of energy. The company's range of Eco-Navi products includes refrigerators, water heaters, dish washers/dryers, light fixtures, and even a smart toilet seat.
Many of them often use infrared sensors to detect when people (or dirt, in the case of the washing machine) are present and some adjust operations based on the time of day and past usage patterns.
Many of these were not new, but seeing them all laid out in a model home does give an interesting glimpse of what a more energy-friendly household might look like. For now, it looks awfully expensive, but hopefully that won't always be the case!
The office building zone emphasized the use of video conferencing, obviously to cut down on unnecessary commuting by using virtual meetings instead. Panasonic also featured more energy-efficient LED lighting as well as air conditioning management for office spaces.
As for more public spaces, the company employed similar energy-saving technologies in a model convenience store, including a demo walk-in refrigerator. Near the store lay the real centerpiece of the model town, which was the enormous Solalib solar charging station (made by Sharp) where a town's electric vehicles could swing by to juice up.
Of course, implementing all these technologies and having them working together would currently be an expensive and complicated undertaking, but it was pretty illuminating to see them all arranged in one place – just to provide an idea of what a futuristic, energy-conscious town might look like.