Walking around the CEA Line Show and the Pepcom media event that were held in New York on Wednesday, it became clear to me that several companies see a potential market in creating “smart power outlets.” These are not just your normal plug-it-in-and-forget it surge protectors, but actually allow you to monitor usage and even turn plugged in appliances and electronics on and off.
The device is a two outlet power strip that plays a dual role as a timer and power consumption meter. The device uses a form of wireless networking (802.15.4, or Zigbee) to connect to a USB dongle that is plugged into your computer, and will send information including power consumption and cost and timer information to and from the device.
ThinkEco claims that using the device can save you 10 to 20 percent on electric bills by monitoring power usage, and will even recommend when the device should be turned off to save electricity. The company pointed out to me that the biggest wastes of electricity are the ones we don’t know about–those involving products that are on standby but still drawing a good deal of power.
The true value of the device, however, is in the Web application that drives the Modlet. A real-time graph shows the power usage (broken down by individual power outlet) of all used Modlets and provides remote control of plugged-in appliances from any computer with a browser, and even shows the cost if you have provided cost per kilowatt hour information.
Modlet’s Web interface can also make suggestions on when to schedule the power to be cut to the device. All in all, it’s aimed at giving users more control over their power consumption before they find out about it on their next electric bill.
I was thoroughly impressed with the product, and its price–expected to be around $40 when it launches this fall–isnt prohibitive. ThinkEco also said that a traditional power strip model is planned. I’m definitely interested in that: I’d love to know how much my home office is really costing me in terms of electric consumption, and saving money is never a bad thing.