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Green Plug: Standardise plugs to save the planet

Green Plug wants to standardise power chargers around the USB standard, in the process saving both your electricity bill and the world

Being the gadget freaks that we Cravers are, our suitcases for the journey to CES resembled an explosion in Dixons. What with MacBook, Olympus E-510 dSLR, back-up compact camera, mobile phone and camcorder, there's more chargers in one bag than there is clean underwear. If only someone would invent a standard charger for all sorts of electronic devices. Thankfully Green Plug has done just that, and in pretty smart style.

Green Plug devices are cleverly modified multi-port USB hubs in all sorts of shapes and sizes. You power all your devices via the ubiquitous USB connection, thus eliminating charger bricks and tangled power leads. As USB wasn't originally designed for power transfer, Green Plug has designed a more efficient connector in the USB form factor that can dose devices from digital cameras to drills with up to 24V of juice.

Presently you need a small adaptor for each of your devices, but the long-term goal is to see Green Plug firmware built in to devices. To this end, Green Plug is licensing the GreenTalk protocol to manufacturers for free. Yes, free. Pay attention, Sony.

The cost benefit of universal chargers is obvious as it means that manufacturers won't have to supply chargers, but contrary sods that most tech companies are, it could be a while before we see the end of proprietary connections. The mobile industry's recent decision to standardise chargers is an enormous step in the right direction and can't be praised highly enough. Promisingly, Green Plug head plugger Frank Paniagua Jr is meeting with T-Mobile here in the UK next month.

But the really, really clever bit is that GreenTalk talks both ways. This means that Green Plug hubs can tell you how efficiently a device is running, even displaying energy usage stats onscreen. When a device such as a phone is fully charged, the hub kills the power, thus eliminating wasted electricity. See where the green bit comes in? Our eco-minded hippy friends over at SmartPlanet would love this.

It's even clever enough to manage different power levels to different devices. You can plug in your laptop, phone and -- ahem -- novelty massager, and go to bed, unburdened with worries that they'll be gobbling power all night and thus caning both your 'leccy bill and the environment. You just can't buy that kind of peace of mind -- mainly because the Green Plug hasn't quite made it to Europe yet. When we know more, so will you. -Richard Trenholm