The talk starts by looking at the humble smoke alarm as an example
of a simple technology which changed the world. They let you know of
a fire in progress, but what they cannot do is prevent fires. The talk
gives some statistics for how many die or are injured in the US, from
electrical fires each year. He argues how nice it would be if we could
prevent electrical fires before they happened.
To do this, electrical devices - all of them - must be able to communicate
directly with the power outlet they are plugged into, and the power
outlet must have a degree of intelligence. Never mind the main circuit
board, the outlets individually serve as fuse boxes for the appliances
plugged into them.
If the outlet finds too much power is being drawn to be safe, then
it regulates or disables the power flow. Regulates it down to safe limits,
or turns it off entirely. It has to be smart enough to know when to
To create the link, a wireless data tag transponder was placed in each
appliance plug, with specs for what the appliance should be drawing.
A data reader placed in the socket reads that tag, whilst the device
is plugged in, and knows how much power that unit expects to draw. If
an extention cord is plugged in, or a four-way, then that device has
its own reader, and data transponder. The reader takes the specs of
all connected devices, and if its safe to run all those devices, it
tells its own tag the combined power requirements, its tag then tells
As an added safety feature, and to prevent older devices orr children
from being plugged in, the power in one of these sockets would be always
off, until a transponder was plugged in.
This technology was termed the Electrical Fault Circuit Interrupter
As the final part of the system, all sockets are wired in, via the
electrical system itself, to a control system at a central location.
There power allowances for each socket can be set. Heavy loads such
as tumble dryers can be commanded to only receive power when it is cheapest
for example, or a hotel can block power entirely from unused rooms.
It is even possible this way, to stop specific tags working in a building.
For example, anything that resembles the tag for a music player, in
an office complex. Remember, no tag, no current.