Engineers have developed a solid-state digital power management and control system for commonplace electrical appliances that could enable every household to be interconnected and communicating in real-time.
By eliminating the need for transformers, magnets and relays found inside every day items like wall sockets and replacing them with a smaller, more reliable solid-state circuit boards that are a quarter of the size, those same plug points or light switches could also incorporate motion sensors, voice control, smoke detection, Wi-Fi signal boosters, energy metering and a host of other useful applications.
San Francisco-based Amber Solutions says it envisions a home where every electrical end-point becomes part of a modern, hyper-intelligent architecture; enabling a sensor and feature-rich ecosystem for energy awareness and automation directly within the energy grid of the whole building.
While the concept of a digital home is nothing new, what is new about this system is that it can installed within an existing structure with minimal effort and doesn’t require that it be incorporated at the design or construction phase. This applies equally to homes and businesses.
“Solid-state control of electricity changes the rules of the game for everything – security and control systems, circuit breakers, lighting fixtures, appliances, dimmer switches – the list goes on forever,” Amber CEO Thar Casey told Forbes.
“Through commercial implementations of our technologies within the existing electrical infrastructure of any building, any home or business can add IoT [Internet of Things] functionality overnight by replacing existing outlets and switches with Amber-enabled products. Manufacturers can now engineer and market powered products with far greater capabilities right out of the box,” Casey said.
The prototype seen in the video above was displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas in January. The outlet is wirelessly controllable (Zigbee, Wi-Fi, BTle) with motion detection, gas detection, temperature and humidity detection, power metering for both sockets independently, native over-current (that acts like a circuit breaker) and surge protection in a standard 18 cubic inch capacity, gang box form factor.
The Amber display light switch includes the features of the outlet, plus capacitive touch display screen, visual notification of temperature, humidity, energy usage, and acts as a display panel to control other smart devices – all inside the same space used to currently house a plug point or light switch.
According to Casey, the company has received five patents to date and has more than 31 patents pending, plus they have signed agreements with five top industry manufacturers ($50billion+) to develop the product.
“Imagine 20 years ago if someone told you all of the things that a smartphone would eventually do. It would be incomprehensible. This is the same precipice we stand on when evaluating the future of in-home electricity. The light switch or electrical outlet, the latter of which hasn’t been changed for decades, has been limited in its potential – until now,” Casey said.
One of the biggest and most important benefits will be a greater control – and consequently saving – of electricity used in the home and on an even bigger scale, in an office building as well. In addition to the new digital power control system being able to help raise awareness at home to how much electricity is actually being used, Casey says that the technology will have the ability to reduce and save money and prevent the phantom power that is wasted currently.
“We can put these outlets into a sleep mode where it doesn’t continue charging money. There are motion sensor gadgets that you can buy to plug into your outlet that turn off if no motion is detected, but they expensive. These devices can incorporate the same technology, or better, inside every outlet.”
Casey says there is still a lot more that this new technology is capable of, but he can’t talk about it yet, at this early stage of development. We are intrigued.