CES 2024 major themes: sustainability and “right to repair” user devices

A big change for the just concluded CES 2024 was a focus on sustainability (as to what goes into smart devices) and the ability to repair user owned devices. The tech industry is now finally becoming more aware of the importance of sustainability — either because it’s recognizing that it needs to account for all the ways producing new technologies contributes to climate change, or because the growing public awareness of industrial impact on climate change means they can’t ignore their own contribution.

At the end of the show, Google announced its new policy supporting the Right to Repair movement and the user’s right to fix their own devices. This includes making tools, parts and repair manuals available to device owners — including Pixel phone owners. Combined with Google’s commitment to supply the latest Pixel 8 series with seven years of software updates, it seems like more device manufacturers are acknowledging consumer desire to keep their devices around for longer, which means fewer old devices thrown away into landfills and contributing to climate woes.

Over 70% of companies surveyed by IDC moved beyond the early stages of talking about sustainability and now need to make measurable progress on their set targets to please shareholders. Companies are reliably reporting their environmental impact data and using sustainability measures to find cost savings. Their next task is to stand out from the competition with their sustainability approaches. For IT professionals who can see the scaled impact of replacing products, using sustainable materials and recycling equipment is attractive. But consumers are still waking up to the impact of their frequent device upgrades.

“[Device] buyers are still asking about carbon emissions (upstream and downstream) but they also want to know about the materials that are being used, the recyclability of the product that they buy, etc.,” said Bjoern Stengel, Global Sustainability Research lead at the IDC. Getting the most use out of devices and reuse of their materials is becoming a major differentiator for those buying tech, especially in commercial uses like information technology.

More companies are pledging to use recycled materials in their products, which could help reduce emissions and waste by finding second lives for parts of old devices that would otherwise be headed for landfills, including metals and rare earth materials whose extraction and integration contribute to climate change.

Companies have been slowly shifting where they used recycled materials:

  • Samsung Electronics emphasized how sustainability is driving business activities at CES 2024.  The Sustainability Zone at Samsung’s booth ushered in visitors to discover how the company is promoting resource circularity and collaboration in addition to providing various accessibility services. Samsung had previously committed toward more recycled material in their product packaging by 2025, the company’s CES 2024 keynote reinforced its efforts to use recycled ocean plastic in phone and TV components. Samsung also pledged to reach net zero carbon emissions company-wide by 2050 with the device experience division using 100% renewable energy by 2027.
  • Panasonic pledged to reduce its use of resin plastic in its products and develop a system that blends recycled plastic with antioxidants and other materials in order to form new plastics ready to be included in products.

  • Dell has been using recycled materials since 2007 and recycled 2.5 billion pounds of materials since. The company is starting with plastics because, as Product Sustainability Lead Katie Green explained, those are the heaviest and highest-volume materials in the company’s products. The second heaviest and most prevalent material category — metals — became the next to be recycled into new products, including rare earth magnets and aluminum. Last year, the company began using 50% recycled copper in some of its charging cables that will soon expand to the XPS laptop line, and in 2024, will use recycled cobalt in laptop batteries and recycled steel in desktop displays.   “[We are] understanding if we’re prioritizing the right, sustainable materials and the right components, and doing it in a way that dematerializes as much as possible,” Green said.

Dell first introduced its Concept Luna laptop in December 2021 (and updated it a year later in 2022) as a testbed for sustainable design which has trickled into its main products, from trying out modular parts to reducing material waste. For instance, Dell first tried removing the plastic Dell logo on the laptop lid in Luna in favor of a stenciled logo straight on the aluminum chassis, then used that process in its Inspiron line of computers — a small change that’s multiplied by the scale of Dell product manufacturing.

However, there are limits to how much some recycled materials can be used in a product, Dell discovered. For instance, the company found a maximum of 35 to 40% post consumer recycled plastic in its current method, Green said. Like Panasonic, Dell developed a method to blend the old plastic with something new — in Dell’s case, a bio-based plastic that’s renewable. One composition could be 30% post-consumer plastic, 20% bio-based plastic and 20% recovered aerospace plastic, a blend that’s found in Dell’s Latitude 5000 and Precision 3000 series of laptops.  By 2030, Dell wants half of the materials it uses in products to be recycled or renewable.

Dell introduced its third year of ideas that it’s exploring with Concept Luna via a blog post in December. New this year is using predictive analytics, AI and machine learning to better anticipate component problems. Even without diagnostics, these could anticipate if your device’s hard drive may fail or battery capacity may be depleted.

Dell also expanded the number of products able to be represented by its augmented reality app, first introduced in June 2022, to help guide consumers in their own personal repairs in far more immersive ways than a simple device manual can do.

But for all these neat technological advances in diagnosing, harvesting and guiding repairs, Dell had a simpler longevity bottleneck it’s tried to fix: Making it easier for users to get spare parts. The other big pillar of sustainability is simply making sure devices last longer by ensuring the process is less painful for users.

Dell is in the process of adding QR codes on the back of its products, starting with this year’s XPS line, that users can quickly scan to get to a “personalized support experience,” as Green calls it. In short, it pre-enters your device info to Dell’s support network to provide users with access to repair manuals, spare parts and driver updates.

Admittedly, Green says Dell is implementing the QR codes in anticipation of the European Commission’s Digital Product Passport initiative, which requires more transparency in consumer tech products’ sustainability footprint. But it will still make it easier for laptop and PC owners to access the tech support they need to potentially keep devices running for longer and out of landfills when possible.





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NTT’s IoT Services for Sustainability supported by new LoRaWAN low power network

Japan’s NTT has launched IoT Services for Sustainability, a new stack of products designed to help businesses advance progress against global sustainability initiatives and make data-driven decisions to reduce their carbon footprint through the intelligent use of IoT connectivity. These products include OCR Meter Reading, Water Leak Management, Predictive Maintenance and Environmental Monitoring.

  • OCR Meter Reading is an on optical-based meter reader to provide near real-time data from any type of meter including water, electricity, and gas. The meter can also be used to read any type of gauge including pressure and temperature.
  • The Water Leak Management technology provides real-time, IoT-enabled protection against water damage for smart spaces projects.
  • The Predictive Maintenance platform collects data from sensors to create models that predict when events of interest might occur, including potential downtime, accidents or when something might need to be replaced.
  • The Environmental Monitoring technology uses sensors to identify the presence of pollutants in the air and water as well as tracking temperature and humidity.

NTT’s IoT Services for Sustainability stack incorporates an IT/OT integration and support. This helps organizations to quickly see the benefits of the technology across the entire business following deployment. Benefits include energy cost savings, faster reduction in emissions, advanced operational excellence, and better work enablement across the organization. The stack of products is also supported by NTT’s new LoRaWAN network, and its catalog of sensors to measure, monitor and collect data to drive sustainability objectives.

“IoT technologies are an essential tool in the global fight against climate change,” said Jeff Merritt, Head of Urban Transformation at the World Economic Forum. “We know what actions are needed to build a more sustainable future and have a robust suite of technologies available to help deliver this impact. As the world looks to accelerate the implementation of these solutions, organizations like NTT will have a critical role to play in helping companies and governments capitalize on this opportunity,” he added.

This announcement follows the appointment of two industry veterans to drive growth and momentum across NTT’s IoT and sustainability initiatives. Wireless industry leader Devin Yaung has been appointed as SVP of Group Enterprise IoT Products and Services, NTT, bringing over 25 years of technology experience focused on business transformation. Vicky Bullivant has also been appointed as SVP, Group Sustainability, NTT, Bullivant has 25 years of creating and delivering successful sustainability, social, climate and ESG strategies that underpin commercial objectives in fast-paced and evolving business environments.

Almost two-thirds (61.4%) of CEOs say they’re aligning business strategies to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Yet only 2 out of 5 businesses have the solutions needed to meet the organization’s immediate objectives,” said Devin Yaung, SVP of Group Enterprise IoT Products and Services.

“Therefore, it is more critical than ever to prioritize and deliver sustainability solutions for our enterprise customers. Our new stack of solutions will help organizations reach their sustainability goals and improve operations across their business, whether it is reducing waste from manufacturing defects or understanding the carbon footprint of their supply chain. The use of IoT will empower businesses to make decisions in real-time, streamlining processes and transforming the overall sustainability of their business. We’re proud to be announcing this offering at such a critical time, and we look forward to driving change alongside our clients to create a more sustainable future.”

About NTT Ltd.
NTT Ltd. is a leading, global technology services company. To help our clients achieve their digital transformation goals, we use our global capabilities, expertise, and full-stack technology services delivered through our integrated services platform. As their long-term strategic partner, we help them enhance customer and employee experience, transform their cloud strategy, modernize their networks and strengthen their cybersecurity. And across their transformation priorities, we automate their business processes and IT, drawing insights and analytics from their core business data. As a global ICT provider, we employ more than 50,000 people across 57 countries, trading in 73 countries and delivering services in over 200 countries and regions. Together we enable the connected future.

Visit us at services.global.ntt