smart strip

Smart power strips for simple home automation

A Texas company has invented a family of intelligent USB-connected and PC-programmable power strips.

Called PwrUSB, the smart power strips resemble unusually fat four-way mains extension cables, but at heart are general purpose versions of industrial controllers.

The simplest strip features relays on every socket, giving each its own default power state. Used with software on the host, the $70 device can intelligently switch devices on or off, both for power saving and as part of a home automation project.

For instance, it can be configured to switch on the printer automatically when an application needs to use it, thus reducing 'vampire power', or to turn off the monitor and speakers when the computer is powered down.

Other versions add more features. One is programmable for on/off times, for instance, while another reports power consumption and a third watches for a "heartbeat" from an attached computer, router, etc. If none is seen, it assumes the device has died or locked up and automatically hard-reboots it.

PowerUSB, the eponymous company behind PwrUSB, offers its control software in Linux, Mac  and Windows. The main drawback is that, for the moment at least, PwrUSB is only available with US sockets. They are specified for 100-250v though, and PowerUSB said they will work elsewhere, given a supply of plug adapters.

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