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TalkingPlug Uses RFID-Enabled Power Outlets for Energy Management

The system, developed by a company named Zerofootprint, places passive high-frequency RFID tags into the electric plugs of appliances and other devices.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Nov 17, 2009Zerofootprint, a Toronto-based company whose initial product is a software-as-a-service-based enterprise carbon management solution for corporations, has developed an RFID-enabled system for monitoring and managing home electricity usage, called the TalkingPlug. This system is based on an RFID-enabled electrical outlet and plug system that can track energy usage at the device or appliance level.

Ron Dembo, Zerofootprint's CEO and founder, says his company will make the system available this coming spring.

A TalkingPlug outlet contains built-in RFID interrogators to identify the devices that plug into it.
Zerofootprint developed the TalkingPlug system through a joint venture with 2D2C, a manufacturer of electrical outlet systems designed to improve safety. The TalkingPlug outlet, which plugs into a wall power outlet, contains two ISO 14443-compliant 13.56 MHz RFID interrogators—one for each of its two plug receptacles. Users place a passive 13.56 MHz RFID tag onto the plug of each of their appliances or electronic devices. The tag slides over the plug's prongs, and is set in place with adhesive. To protect it from the physical force of a plug being inserted into an electrical socket, the tag is covered with an epoxy coating.

The tag, made available through an industry group known as the RightPlug Alliance, contains an RFID chip compliant with the ISO 14443 standard. Encoded to the tag's memory is a unique identification number. The outlets contain radios compliant the IEEE 802.15.4 mesh network communication system, and communicate with each other and to a central gateway. The gateway could take the form of a standalone 802.15.4-compliant device, such as a network router, a thumb-drive attached to a PC, or an IEEE 802.15.4-compliant thermostat or smart meter.

A consumer will be able to use TalkingPlug's Internet-based Velo software to access data the gateway collects from the outlets. Each time a new device or appliance is plugged into a TalkingPlug, the consumer will utilize the Velo software to enter the unique ID number encoded to the RFID tag attached to that device's plug. Thus, the tag ID is always associated with the device or appliance, even if it is later unplugged from one TalkingPlug power outlet and replugged into another, anywhere in the United States.

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