Intelligent Device Automates Energy Savings

ThinkEco’s plug-in modlet learns your usage patterns and offers scheduling recommendations.


Like many of us, Mei Shibata has a home entertainment system with a sizable TV, DVD player, Wii game console and a cable box. But unlike many of us, she’s saving energy and money with it.

While no one is at in her New York home during certain times of the day, power is cut to the entertainment system—including the “always-on” cable box. Then, before her child arrives home and watches TV, power is resumed to the system and the cable box has time to boot up and download the necessary programming information.

It’s all done with a product called the modlet, from ThinkEco. The modlet is a plug-in device with two outlets and wireless ZigBee connection to a computer for the software interface. The modlet can monitor the energy of an appliance of device plugged into it—and it can cut or resume power to that device automatically. Even better, this is based on your preferences and your usage patterns.

The modlet and its software learns how you use the things plugged into it, and recommends savings plans.

ThinkEco estimates that cutting power to a cable box alone for 12 hours a day results in annual savings of $17, and cutting power to it 18 hours a day can save $25, based on a rate of 15 cents per kilowatt hour. Offices can save even more. See here.

That may seem like small potatoes, but why waste that money if you don’t have to?

“It turns out that collection of [my home entertainment gear] never gets below 66 watts,” even with some of the components turned off, says Shibata, ThinkEco’s chief business officer. That’s why she’s powering down the entire system, including the cable box, when no one is home.

Shibata says entire surge suppression strips can be plugged into the modlet.

For now, the modlet is available in an enterprise edition for business, for $65, which includes a two-year license. The company is taking pre-orders for a consumer version, priced at $50.


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