For those of us who don't yet have smart meters, smart electrical sockets might be the next best thing. Sure, power-monitoring plugs are nothing new, and devices like the Ted 5000 and AlertMe already let customers attach hardware to traditional power meters to monitor energy and control appliances. But Zerofootprint's TalkingPlug, set to begin trials next week, combines the monitoring capabilities of other smart plug devices like the Kill-a-Watt with the control capabilities of power meter-rigged devices.
The device, which fits on top of existing electrical sockets, come with an RFID chip, a microprocessor, and wireless networking capabilities. Like traditional smart plugs, the TalkingPlug offers up detailed information on how much energy an electrical socket is using. But the device goes one step further by allowing users to program plugged-in appliances to turn on and off at certain times. A laptop, for example, could be set to turn on at 7 p.m. and shut off at midnight every day.
The TalkingPlug also adds a social component to energy use. Each set of plugs creates a mesh network that sends energy information to Zerofootprint, where it is analyzed and relayed back to the user for comparison against other TalkingPlug users.
When compared to hardware-based solutions like the Ted 5000 (a $200 device), the TalkingPlug isn't exactly economical—at an estimated $50 a pop, it could get expensive trying to outfit an entire home with smart plugs. But If the plug is ever mass-produced, Zerofootprint claims the price could drop. By that time, however, we might all be using smart grid-aware appliances.