By Andrew Nusca
Posting in Cities
A new "smart plug" will allow someone to monitor and control the energy use of their home's appliances.
With a new "smart plug," you'll soon be able to do so. The TalkingPlug, made by Toronto-based Zerofootprint, is a device that fits on top of existing electrical outlets to offer detailed information on electricity use by individual appliances.
The TalkingPlug is designed to be a controllable node on a network, thanks to an RFID chip, microprocessor and wireless networking inside. Since the plug is programmable, the appliances can be controlled -- so Because it's programmable, people can also control appliances -- allowing you to shut down your power strip full of vampiric AC adapters while you're at work.
With several plugs, you can create a network that can send information via a network router to Zerofootprint. Known for monitoring energy use by corporation, the company will analyze the data and show you how much power you're using compared to the Joneses.
If you've ever used personal finance service Mint, it's a bit like the "people in your city" spending comparison that website offers.
The plugs are estimated to cost $50 and are expected to launch this week. If proven popular, prices will likely drop. (For now, Zerofootprint is seeking companies to test the product out.)
Zerofootprint isn't the only company developing energy-management solutions to manage electricity use, but all of them face the same hurdle: getting a "smart" device to interpret information from a "dumb" appliance.
Many of the approaches are similar, using a home's network to collect and distribute data about what's inside. But the real battle for commercial success will be striking deals to integrate such monitoring technology into appliances at the assembly line.
Nov 9, 2009
(Dang. I see somehow the first part of this got posted by itself. I'll delete it if I can, but my apologies if I have failed by the time you read this.) Smart Plugs are said to let you "shut down your power strip full of vampiric AC adapters while you?re at work." That's fine, but -- Smart Plugs themselves require electricity in order to operate, and by their nature are themselves "plugged in all the time" -- so aren't THEY THEMSELVES vampiric also? Are we sure we are not actually ADDING vampires rather than REMOVING them, by putting Smart Plugs on all our outlets? Perhaps Smart Plugs are designed to use "very little" energy. How little IS "very little," then? EXACTLY HOW is this arranged, circuit-theory-wise? Is it sufficient simply for the Smart Plug to present a "really high" resistance/impedance to the flow of current? If Smart Plugs are inserted "on top of" existing outlets, how then can they "shut down your power strip" which, we presume, is plugged into the outlet that is "underneath" the Smart Plug? Seems to me the Smart Plug would have to be inserted "underneath" the existing outlet, not "on top of" it. Something's not right in the way this has been described here. Smart Plugs seem like a step -- well, HALF a step anyway -- in the right direction, but there are more variables that need to be taken into consideration. For example, suppose I want to put my home entertainment equipment on Smart Plugs and thwart vampirism while I'm at work. Well, I have a surround sound receiver, turntable, cassette tape deck, CD player, two DVD players, VCR, cable box, and -- oh yes! -- TV set, all plugged into a six-outlet splitter on ONE wall outlet. Now, I am perfectly content to have most of these "not draw power while I'm at work" -- but the cable box is a royal pain to wait to reprogram every time it truly "loses power" at the wall, so I DON'T want THAT ONE ITEM to be on Smart Plug. But, if I only have one wall outlet, how do I do it? We seem to IMMEDIATELY, RIGHT AWAY if Smart Plugs are to catch on, need a multi-outlet power strip with PROGRAMMABLE (intervene/don't intervene, at minimum)it Smart Plug capabilities on EACH INDIVIDUAL OUTLET on the strip! This same enhancement will be vital also in the (common, I'm sure) case of a bedroom outlet powering a cellphone charger (which can be cut off while I'm at work) and my alarm clock (which shouldn't be). So, if I were on the Smart Plug team, I'd be pushing hard for per-CONNECTED-DEVICE customization!
How does using SmartPlugs to "shut down your power strip full of vampiric AC adapters while you?re at work" help, if SmartPlugs themselves require electricity to operate, as they must? Surely by using SmartPlugs we're ADDING vampires, NOT REMOVING them...?
use the wall switch and reduce consumption. Improved cycling features of appliances that are required to be powered are a different matter than this. It's interesting to see the current industry hype in a movement to install networks, sensors, and timers that seemingly make machinery (even toasters) "smart" when the situation is essentially with people being able to extend their hands and manipulate the electrical switch. Anybody else realize that production and operation of additional gadgets requires energy, resources, and generates waste? We need to be careful not to go overboard with the matter because it could get absurd.
Devices that sit between appliances and the wall are a nice way to monitor Televisions, PCs and so on. However, the real power hogs such as central heating or hot water need to be monitored at the breaker box. Such monitoring is also the only way to monitor your entire house. On-line, live monitoring is definitely the key to cutting our power bills. Live monitoring means that you can experiment, and on-line means easy setup with powerful analysis features. Of course, I'd say that - We are developing an online whole house monitoring system called Gridspy. Check out our website at http://www.gridspy.co.nz/ Power monitoring is an exciting sector that is taking off right now. Expect to see more from companies like ours!
Seems very "proof of concept" -ish - or a stopgap to an all out Smart-grid implementation. Do you have to get one for each outlet you want to monitor - ouch - expensive and complex to set up the network? Or forgive the pun is it "plug n' play"? Wouldn't something that attaches to your main breaker box be better? But that wouldn't give you control to turn things off right? Seems like a better thing to do for economies of scale is get the bloated utility company to upgrade the grid...