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Published on January 18th, 2010 | by Jerry James Stone


Apple's New Smart-Home Dashboard Saves Money, Energy

January 18th, 2010 by  

[social_buttons] Apple has filed for two patents using powerline networking and the HomePlug standard so that users can manage the energy consumption of their home electronics.

While other companies–Google and Microsoft–are focusing on a whole-home solution, Apple’s patent focuses on the consumption by gadgets and computers. The device would make every power outlet in your home a conduit for audio, video and data. Goodbye wifi dead-spots! Any device could have access to high speed internet.

A hardware device would control the amount of power used by the various electronics within a household. Using the HomePlug Powerline Alliance’s communications protocol, devices would share data over a building’s existing wiring. Outlets and junction boxes would also have power-enabled data ports.

The patents were filed in May of last year and just uncovered by Patently Apple on Thursday. The first patent called Intelligent Power Monitoring allows people to reduce energy use by giving them tools to better control how connected devices are powered.

Consumers would get recommendations on when to charge their gadgets to take full advantage of off-peak rates. The controller could also manage when electronics are put into a hibernate mode to curb consumption. An touchscreen LCD interface would be used for controlling the system; there would probably be an iPhone app too.

“Some personal computers sometimes are being left on simply to serve as power supplies for the charging of the aforementioned portable devices via connections, such as Universal Serial Bus (“USB”) connections, that provide power in addition to data (rather than charging those devices from the household electric service using their dedicated chargers), even though the power supply of a personal computer is much larger than is needed for such a function, and as such draws much more power than such a function would otherwise demand. As the price of electricity increases, such uses of power can cost users more,” argues Apple in the filed patent.


The second patent–titled an Intelligent Power-enabled Communications Port–is a system that would parse out the amount of power to different electronics in an efficient manner.

“Rather than continually upgrade standards such as the USB or FireWire standards, a variable power supply may be provided for the power conductor of a port.”

In comparison, Google.org’s PowerMeter is a web-based application for monitoring home energy use through utilities. The PowerMeter will eventually let consumers cut power use during peak times to get cheaper rates. Microsoft’s Hohm is also web=based. It provides recommendations on reducing energy use and also historical energy use data via utility partnerships.

Google’s PowerMeter has seen a lot of buzz but it falls short as many utilities haven’t signed up for the program. Also, some are developing their own systems. According to The Climate Group, information technology makes up 2-percent of the world’s total carbon emissions. Fifty-percent of that is from edge computing devices like PCs and peripherals.

If anything, Apple has the ability to disrupt markets in the most fascinating way. In 2001, MP3 players had already existed for sometime yet Apple easily dominated the market with their iPod. And whether you love or hate the iPhone, it revolutionized the smart phone industry (even if it was missing SMS upon its introduction). Googling ‘iPhone Killer’ is proof of that.

That said, there’s one thing we can very well count on…the ubiquitous “i” affix.

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Source: Patently Apple


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About the Author

is a web developer, part-time blogger, and a full-time environmentalist. His crusade for all things eco started twenty years ago when he ditched his meat-and-potatoes upbringing for something more vegetarian-shaped. His passions include cooking, green tech, eco politics, and smart green design. And while he doesn't own a car anymore, he loves to write about those too. Jerry studied at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA. During his time there he was a DJ at the campus station KCPR and he also wrote for the campus paper. Jerry currently resides in San Francisco, CA with his cat Lola. You can stalk him on Twitter @jerryjamesstone.

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