Smart plug tracks and helps cut electricity usage

The smart plug allows users to monitor a device's electricity consumption via a mobile app, and even switch the device off remotely.
The smart plug allows users to monitor a device's electricity consumption via a mobile app, and even switch the device off remotely. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

You may be out but a smart plug on a wall socket at home will keep you updated on the amount of energy consumed by the air-conditioner you left on via a mobile app.

Developed by local SME Intraix and the Institute for Infocomm Research at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star), the smart plug, to be commercialised by the end of this year, could help users save electricity.

The three-pin gadget acts as a "middleman" between the wall socket and the appliance, said Dr Henry Wong, head of the Smart Energy and Environment Department at the institute.

Users insert the smart plug into the wall socket before connecting an electrical device to it. The plug then allows users to monitor the device's electricity consumption via a mobile app, and even switch the device off remotely.

It took six months to develop and is now being fine-tuned. Intraix co- founder Darrell Zhang said the smart plug is about 20 to 30 per cent cheaper than similar devices costing about $50 to $80. He said: "Other smart plugs are very expensive. That's why we thought, why not work with the Institute for Infocomm Research to come up with a cost-effective product of high quality?"

In the partnership, Dr Wong and the team provided expertise in areas such as the selection of electronic parts for the plug, and gave advice on product development.

CHANGING THE WAY BUSINESSES OPERATE

The global IoT (Internet of Things) sphere is growing at a breathtaking pace, from 6.8 billion objects in 2016 to a projected 20.8 billion by 2020.

We believe that the industrial Internet of Things will significantly change the way businesses operate, particularly in the future of manufacturing. A*Star is developing capabilities in smart sensors, data analytics and cyber security to enable factories of the future to operate more seamlessly.

PROFESSOR TAN SZE WEE, executive director, Science and Engineering Research Council, A*Star.

He said: "Many SMEs are looking for ways in which they can differentiate their services and products from competitors' but, more often than not, they lack the research and development capabilities to do so."

Apart from being cost-effective, the smart plug can be customised to work with different wireless communication networks.

Professor Tan Sze Wee, executive director of the Science and Engineering Research Council at A*Star, said the possibilities are immense in the Internet of Things (IoT) - the network of devices which are linked to the Internet or to one another.

"IoT technologies allow us to make sense of the world around us digitally and in a non-intrusive manner as they tend to work silently in the background," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2016, with the headline 'Smart plug tracks and helps cut electricity usage'. Print Edition | Subscribe