Stanford's just demonstrated a stylish way of managing the various wall chargers dotted around your home—and simultaneously created a convenient way to both kill the vampire power they draw from your electrical supply and remote-control some of your appliances.
There are already plenty of ways to alert yourself to the environmental (and electrical bill) damage caused by vampire power, and a bunch of ways to remote-control your gear—but I've never seen as neat a combination of both as Stanford's Visible Energy UFO device. It was demonstrated at Stanford's Cool Products Expo, and consists of three main pieces of tech.
First, there's the core unit: a circular stand with four power sockets distributed around the center, which leaves plenty of space for chunky wall-wart boxes. It's also got a rubbery flip-over lid that neatly conceals everything when closed. Second, there's a visual alert light at the top of the unit that changes color depending on the current the whole system is drawing—it's basically intended to prompt you to think of the consequences of having a bunch of devices turned on, and whether you need to leave them on or throw the off switch.
And finally the device makes that switch-throwing particularly easy, because it comes with a dedicated iPhone app that lets you control an individual unit's master power switch, or each mains socket by itself—you can even schedule the power on/offs. The app also lets you remotely monitor how much power each unit is drawing.
Visible Energy UFO combines the ultimate remote control for basic home automation with an eco-friendly "guilting" reminder about power consumption. The device is due for sale in the summer, for somewhere under $200 per unit.