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CES: ThinkEco smart plug lays waste to wasted power

The smart plug sports a wireless radio that can send power consumption data to a Web app and let people turn off devices to reduce wasted energy and stand-by power.

LAS VEGAS--Gear for smart, connected homes may give you consumers fine-grained control over home energy, but ThinkEco has got a light-weight approach to saving electricity.

At the Consumer Electronics Shows here, ThinkEco said that a consumer version of its connected plug and software will be available this spring for $50. Additional plugs cost $44.95.

The company's modlet--short for modern outlet--is a two-outlet plug that fits over ordinary plugs and is equipped with a Zigbee radio. Using a USB stick in a PC, the owner can then see the energy usage and control whatever's plugged into the modlet.

From the software application, people can schedule an entertainment center, for example, to cut all stand-by power at a certain time. The application can also make recommendations on how to schedule turning things off based on usage.

ThinkEco says customers see a six- to nine-month payback from the system by turning off plugged-in appliances that are on more often than they need to be, or that draw a constant trickle of stand-by or "vampire" power. Corporate customers have also found that just installing the modlets often leads to an inventory of their office equipment and to finding ways to improve efficiency, said Mei Shibata, the chief business officer at the New York City-based company.

The company is working on a power strip, which it expects to be available this summer. This spring, ThinkEco also plans to release an iPhone application for viewing energy usage data and scheduling the plugs.

The company announced yesterday that New York utility Con Edison will use the modlets for remotely controlling window air conditioning units as part of peak-time energy-saving programs.