Fraunhofer Institute develops smart wireless power outlets

August 03, 2012 // By Paul Buckley
A new Internet-enabled power outlet was developed by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Communication Systems ESK in Munich will allow users to control household appliances via their smartphone, and reduce their energy costs into the bargain. 

The smart socket was developed in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM in Kaiserslautern and the industrial partner embedded brains GmbH.

The solution means that soon there will be no need for special timers to switch lighting on and off or operate household appliances when the homeowner is absent. In future, all this can be done by means of a smartphone or PC, thanks to Internet-enabled wireless power outlets that support the new IPv6 Internet protocol.

“We have been able to connect the power outlets wirelessly using the IPv6 protocol,” said ESK research engineer Günter Hildebrandt. “All household appliances plugged in one of the sockets can be switched on and off remotely using an IPv6-compatible device such as a smartphone or laptop PC – from anywhere.”

The wireless power outlets are a component of the HexaBus home automation system that was developed by the ITWM as part of the mySmartGrid project ( www.mysmartgrid.de).

“The HexaBus components make the smart home of the future a reality. They enable household appliances to be controlled intelligently, thus optimizing or reducing electricity consumption. For example, the householder can start the washing machine during cheap-rate off-peak hours, or run the dishwasher when the photovoltaic panels on the roof are generating sufficient power,” said industrial engineer Mathias Dalheimer of the ITWM, who leads the SmartGrid project and is its chief programmer.

In addition to the wireless power outlets, the HexaBus system employs a specially designed USB stick that plugs into any compatible, off-the-shelf router. The user enters the command to switch on an appliance via a standard web browser or an Android-compatible smartphone app. The router and stick then forward the data to the power outlet. The two-way communication function also allows the wireless power outlet to send data to the smartphone, informing the user how much power various appliances are consuming at any given time. Thus, the user can optimize their