Some green ideas are so simple, they’re almost no-brainers, but competition between manufacturers keeps them beyond reach – until some clever intermediary sees a solution, that is. This is what has happened with GreenPlug, a brilliant new technology announced at the Consumer Electronics Show, 2008, last week in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The concept is simple – although main power supply leads are standardised across all electrical devices (within country boundaries), there has not so far been any such standardisation of the connecting leads, transformers and chargers that we use for our direct current devices attached to them. Consequently, laptops, PDAs, mobile phones and anything other electronics we might plug in via a charger or transformer each have their own separate kit. Even though my home isn’t the most gadget-heavy in the world, I know the chaos that this causes. Old power supplies pile up in drawers, when their gadget friends have long since met their demise, rather like the keys we all accumulate for locks we no longer have access to.

GreenPlug is an intelligent, real-time protocol that enables all devices to connect in the same way, drawing on the existing universality of the USB connector. The GreenPlug chip is embedded in the laptop or mobile phone, for instance, and through the Universal Power Protocol (UPP) is able to communicate with the power supply so that exactly the right amount is delivered. More importantly, though, the UPP also allows the device to tell the power supply when it is fully charged or idle, eliminating the “phantom” power that is normally consumed in standby mode or when power no longer need to be drawn.


Since this all requires manufacturers to cooperate, the most impressive part of the story is how GreenPlug aims to achieve this. For a start, the technology and the protocol were developed in collaboration, but the GreenPlug chip and help in implementing the protocol will be provided free of charge to manufacturers, who win by not having to make or buy in expensive transformers for their products. GreenPlug win by selling their cables and hubs, whilst you and I win through convenience and in energy savings. Finally, the planet wins too, from the energy saved in the use of the devices, and unnecessary manufacture of non-standard connectors, and from the reduction in the number of chargers and adapters going to landfill each year.


It’s altogether very smart indeed, and the plugs and hubs are pretty good looking, too. My bet is that in a couple of years time these will be as ubiquitous as Scart leads, and just like those, we’ll wonder how we ever managed without them.




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