Smart Outlets, Coming to a Home Near You

Our next selection in the “Just How Lazy Are You” contest is submitted to us from the Frauhofer Institute for Communication Systems, together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics, Kaiserslautern Germany. They have developed power outlets that support IPv6 internet protocol. They have, in essence, invented a wireless smart socket that can turn things on and off while you are on the internet or your smartphone. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, don’t get off your chair to turn out that pesky light; call it instead.

Gunter Hildebrandt, an ESK research engineer, explains that they can now wirelessly connect power outlets using IPv6 protocol. He goes on to say that any appliance plugged into a smart socket can be remotely turned on and off from an IPv6 compatible smartphone, PC or laptop, anytime, anywhere.

The devilish prankster in us all would love to turn lights on and off from their cars just to frighten people for no reason, but in reality, this is truly an engineering marvel.

The HexaBus home automation system is making the world of the future available in our own time. The wireless smart sockets are part of this system, all falling under the mySmartGrid project. The HexaBus system relies on USB sticks placed into routers; in turn, these USVB sticks wirelessly connect the smart plugs to the internet.

The idea behind smart outlets is not to prank your friends; they are designed to help with energy use and ultimately save money by allowing you to control that usage. If you ran out of the house and left the TV on, for instance, you could use your smartphone or other mobile device to switch it off, saving you a day’s worth of wasted energy.

Mathias Dalheimer of the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics explains that with the HexaBus components, we are one step closer to the reality of a smart home. He went on to explain how these components allow all household appliances to be intelligently controlled, reducing our energy use. All appliances from dishwashers to washing machines can be controlled when the homeowner is away from home to take advantage of off-peak electricity rates.

Even though the current IPv6 range is only about 100 feet, developers have plans on increasing this distance by allowing outlets to act as a pass-through: a train of signal of sorts. The closest router would pick up the signal and pass it to the next, and so on, until the target outlet is reached.

The biggest concern when connecting a home to the internet would be, of course, security from people who would turn your TV off during the big game.  Fraunhofer is currently taking major steps in security for your home by ensuring that all data received and sent with a smart socket is encrypted via AES-128 advanced encryption specifications. While no one is quite sure just how secure homes will be when equipped with smart outlets, Fraunhofer’s engineering team seems to be successfully addressing the issue.

HexaBus power outlets can already be used in commercial buildings, but it might be a little while before they come to a home near you.

Hard to believe that back in the old days a certain gizmo that turned lights on and off with the clap of a hand was a modern marvel. If the lady in the commercial for the gadget had a smartphone, she wouldn’t have even had to clap.