Have you heard about Sony’s pay-as-you-go smart power vision, enabling you to swipe a card in front of a power outlet to pay for electricity and choose your power source? Sony’s vision for 2030, shown in a video, seems pretty cool, but one has to wonder how realistic it is.
I can see such applications for charging an electric vehicle in a public space, for example. Sony says it wants to enable us to control the flow of electricity, and use it in a device only when we need it. That’s admirable and likely to be more energy efficient, but do you want to have to make decisions to watch the TV in your house and whether it should be powered via solar, wind or another source, as shown in the video?
I think not. Most of us don’t like a one-second delay when we turn something on or change a channel—let alone have to make another decision.
Sony talks about smart outlets with authentication, using FeliCa contactless IC (integrated circuit) card technology that works in the same way as Near Field Communications (NFC) devices becoming available like Google Wallet, allowing you to pay for products with a scan of your smartphone.
Authenticating smart energy outlets using RFID has a lot of potential. They can identify who’s in a room and communicate that person’s preset preferences to other home systems for climate control, lighting, music and TV.
And as for options of what power sources to use—that should be a function of a home energy management system that knows what power is available, when to use it, and does so on a set-it-and-forget-it basis.
Your home energy management/control system network will know whether to use solar, wind or whatever other power to charge up your smartphone (if we still have those) and your electric vehicle. Or whether to use the EV’s battery to power your home. I suppose that level of “intelligence” could be decentralized into the electrical outlets in your home—and maybe that’s where Sony will go with this.
Sony says its vision for this smart energy future is at least 10 years out—and a LOT will change in ten years, especially in home energy management. I’d expect to see more advanced smart outlets that can monitor our energy use and shut devices off automatically right there—as we’re seeing today. These smart outlets could even function as nodes on powerline data networks that link all our electrical devices to far more vast Internet of Things.
But if we don’t have true set-it-and-forget it energy management in our homes in 10 years, then we are in a slew of trouble, folks. (And not just environmentally, but also from our billions of gadgets that will demand power.) That kind of automation is already being incorporated today into smart thermostats, control systems, and other devices around your home—so it is more than possible.
Just don’t expect the world to look like Sony’s vision. With RFID, NFC and FeliCa, authenticating power outlets may be inevitable—or completely unnecessary. We’ll see more and more wireless induction charging, more instant networks via nodes like outlets. But there will be many more twists and turns en route 2030, or even 10 years from now. Don’t you wish you could just peek in on it?
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Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates