Imagine having just one power supply for all your portable gadgets

Imagine having just one power supply for all your portable gadgets

Summary: Last week, during an interview for this blog, I kicked the spaghetti ball of cords under my desk and accidentally switched off my telephone mid-response. Oops.

TOPICS: Hardware

Last week, during an interview for this blog, I kicked the spaghetti ball of cords under my desk and accidentally switched off my telephone mid-response. Oops. Redfaced, I climbed underneath to plug everything back in and smacked my head in the process. Nothing new, really, for clutzy old me.

There are some who suggest that I should be climbing under that desk every evening to shut down every piece of tech, yes every one, that I rely on every day here in my office. Sorry folks, I know that this would aid the green cause but quite frankly, while I'm still limber enough to crawl around on the floor, I'd forget to do this. And as I mentioned before, it isn't all the great for my head. Imagine my extreme delight to catch up late last week with Frank Paniagua, founder and CEO of a compelling new company called Green Plug that is working on technology that could be the center of a new generation of power supplies that would help do this for me.

Green Plug is one of the start-ups being feted at the Demo conference this week (mecca of cool new technology), and it also snagged an investment this week from Peninsula Equity Partners for an undisclosed amount of money. Its core piece of intellectual property is called Greentalk, a Universal Power Protocol chip that could be used at the heart of adapters and power hubs.

According to Paniagua, there are three big reasons why power supplies that use Green Plug's technology will be greener than what's out there: 1. One power supply can juice up multiple devices. You can have your briefcase back for things like reading materials and important files instead of cords! 2. The technology will help control energy efficiency, by metering electricity use in a more controllable fashion. 3. They'll be made out of materials that are easier than current power supplies to recycle. Plus they're easier to dis-assemble (the solders are water-soluble, as just one example).

Green Plug is encouraging OEMs to adopt the technology, which means they would have to make fewer different types of adapters. Firmware will also be required on the client side. Paniagua suggests deals are in the offing that will help his company's ideas reach market by the holiday season later this year. (Yes, folks, Christmas of 2008.) But he isn't saying who's interested. Here are one or two examples of what these things may look like. I've pulled these concept drawings from Green Plug's pitch for Demo this week.

This is the "Shell" concept design, which helps keep cords tucked away and untangled. slide7.jpg

This one is of a hub that provides some indicators for monitoring power status and such. slide9.jpg

Actually, I'm going to let the CTO of Green Plug close out this post by providing some more details via this video of a presentation he made at a gathering of the Alliance for Universal Power Supplies last fall.

Topic: Hardware

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  • Way overdue

    We in the rock and roll touring biz have something like this already. It a Boss PSA 9v standard jack that manufacturers of effects pedals either adopt or die. Products that don't have this jack almost always include an adapter with their product.

    We use power supplies like this one:

    that let us hook up everything really clean and tidy, no matter who the manufacturer or type of device. The laptop/cellphone/iPod world is way behind on this.
  • Other version

    I am surprised the other version of this idea has not yet surfaced, where an induction pad would charge anything laying on top of it without a cable connected at all, much like electric toothbrush rechargers work now. This was bantered about a few years ago as a solution for coffeehouse plugs being filled up while customers recharged their phones as they sipped espresso over lunch.

    The technology already exists, and is an infinitely more elegant solution than spaghetti tangles under the desk. For larger items, such as laptops that could not be placed on the pad, an inductor box with a cable to the laptop would work fine.

    Just thinking out loud...
  • USB

    I believe in China it is a requirement that all phones charge via a USB interface.

    I'm no where near China, but already have several devices that charge this way too, and didn't ship with an adaptor either. You can buy very cheap and very small chargers for these devices. I bought one for (literally) a penny on Amazon.

    The USB specification has some power management features built in already - A device should not draw more than 100mA initially, and may request additional amounts, up to 500mA, I beleive. I think the purpose of this feature is to stop the host PSU sagging under a huge load, rather than any green credential, but I would not be at all surprised if USB does not become the defacto recharging standard.
    • USB not so universal for charging

      I know that not all USB charged devices will work in all usb outlets... specifically power outlests (home or auto) with usb plugs. My Creative Mp3 player (Zen V Plus) will only charge with the included USB cable if its plugged into a computer. Subsequent googling lead me to a site where a guy made his own adapter to make it work with all USB power outlets. Apparently Creative made it sense when it's connected to a usb port on a computer and if it doesn't sense that, it doesn't transfer power. Of course you can buy their USB power adapter for $30 to get around that... thankfully there are generics out now.
  • RE: Imagine having just one power supply for all your portable gadgets

    We definitely need something, nay ANYTHING, that standardizes the plugs. I have a lot of devices in my home and therefor have a slew of different chargers.

    I love it when I find something that charges via USB and I loath it when I run across yet another AC adapter or charging cradle to keep track of.

    I've heard of the concept where you charge something by proximity... I'll take anything as long as it can be made standard across the board. It needs to be adopted by all electronics manufacturers.
  • Wow! Water soluble solder! (nt)

    What the ...!
  • RE: Imagine having ....

    I agree, that rats maze of wall warts and power adaptors is just crazy.

    Right now, I am looking at 6 different wall warts: one is 9V DC positive sleeve, another is 12V AC, a third is 6V DC negative sleeve, another 9V DC positive sleeve at 2.5 amps, etc; get the picture?

    Now, if we can get the companies to standardize on [b]Voltage, AC or DC, type and size of the power plug, and plug polarity[/b] our lives would be simpler.
  • Yeh Right.....

    Gee, how would HP be able to charge you 34.95 for an $8.00 wallwart?????
    • This says it ALL!

      This is as wish full as having a "universal" ink cartridge for all
      the different printers around. Someone would "lose" money cause
      they can't gouge you for their "special super dooper" one!
  • This will never happen because of capitalism.

    Unless the world is run by a huge communist government that mandates universal power supplies, this is never going to fly.

    How many people would like universal power supplies, universal memory card formats, universal camera lens mounts, universal printer cartridges, universal phone adapters, etc? How about [b]all of us?[/b] And how many companies want to give this to us? How about [b]none[/b]?

    As someone else said, how can HP charge $70 for an ink cart when someone else would sell you the same for $20?
    • Any government can mandate

      Look at the "digital switch-over" with broadcast TV - a huge replacement of
      equipment on both the consumer and corporate sides that has been mandated with a
      harsh deadline.

      Something like this could certainly happen here.
  • If there could be made an ISO-standard to follow.

    No. Not forced on companies, but as a selling point. " This device has ISO power supply."
    It MIGHT have a chance.
  • sweet.. I've wanted this for a while

    Mini-usb sounds okay for tiny devices.. but I always thought XLR style connectors
    would be great for just about every other large device connection. Although, I think
    it'd be best to have 5 wires/pins. 2 for power, 2 for comm, and 1 for ground.