Sony shows power outlets that can control electricity by user, device, or source

The tech company hopes to employ its widely used Felica touch-card technology in electrical power sockets and plugs

Sony is developing electric wall sockets and plugs that can control power consumption by appliance, user or original power source.

The company showed several demonstrations of its technology Tuesday in Tokyo, including "smart sockets" that only dish out electricity to approved users or devices, and a home power grid that constantly tracks electricity use by time and appliance. Sony has no firm date for when the technology will be released, but hopes to cooperate with appliance makers, power companies, and large infrastructure developers in rolling it out.

"These outlets will perform authentication whenever a device is plugged in," said Taro Tadano, a general manager in Sony's technology development division.

"Power outlets haven't changed in 50 years," he said, so creating power networks that are more intelligent than today's one-way grids is seen as a logical next step as communities worldwide adopt more renewable sources and try to cut down on waste. This is especially true in Japan, which suffered sporadic blackouts after a powerful earthquake and resulting tsunami caused meltdowns at a key nuclear power plant.

The country is hoping to rely more on alternative energy sources in the future.

Crucial to networks powered by such sources is the ability to track and route units of power across vast electricity grids, which will require that data flows alongside electricity. Sony's solution is aimed at the final destination of such grids, the outlets where consumers plug in their products.

Sony hopes to employ technology from its touch-card platform, Felica, which uses RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology and is widely used in Japanese trains, mobile phones and credit cards for electronic money. The new system puts the equivalent of Felica "readers" in outlets and equips plugs with the "card" technology, so that the equivalent of a "touch" occurs when a power cord is plugged in and the two sides meet.

While the firm says this solution uses proven security technology and existing hardware, it would involve adding adaptors to all outlets in a home to be effective. Sony is also developing a technology that uses a home's power lines to send and receive the authentication information, so that a single "reader" could serve an entire household.

The company said the concept could also be applied to public outlets, for instance those available at airports or for charging electric vehicles. Consumers could "log in" by tapping personal touch cards to the outlets, then be charged by the amount of electricity they use, similar to the way gas stations operate.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jay Alabaster

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Shining a light on creativity

MSI has long pushed the boundaries of invention with its ever-evolving range of laptops but it has now pulled off a world first with the new MSI Creative 17.

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?