Apple Getting Into Home Energy Management Business?

So here’s a little interesting news items for all you Apple fan boys: the computer manufacturer might be getting into home energy management systems. It was discovered earlier this week by Patently Apple, and mentioned in Environmental Leader, that Apple has filed two patents related to a “smart energy management dashboard system.”

These patents, said to be filed in the second quarter of last year, are focused on “intelligent power monitoring” and an “intelligent power-enabled communications port.” Patently Apple, as it normally does, reviewed the patents to see what secrets they might hold to future Apple moves and strategies. As they put it rather bluntly “then the system comes into view: We’re looking at an all new Smart Home Energy Management System from Apple.”

image via Patently Apple

image via Patently Apple

The abstracts of the two patents are summarized as such:

  • Intelligent Power Monitoring – An electronic device operative to monitor and control processes and operations based on the power cost of those processes and operations are provided. The electronic device can identify processes or networked devices requiring power, determine the expected amount of power required for the process or networked device, and calculate the cost of the power requirement. For example, the electronic device can receive data or algorithms defining the manner in which a power supplier computes the cost of consumed power, and predict the expected cost of the particular power requirement. Based on the importance of the process or device, and the expected power cost, the electronic device can perform a process or provide power to a networked device, or alternatively delay or cancel a process to ensure that the power cost of the device remains within preset boundaries (e.g., the power cost of the device or of a home network of devices does not exceed a maximum cap).
  • Intelligent Power-Enabled Communications Port -A port that supplies power in accordance with a standard is equipped with a variable power supply and a power line communications module. Power line signals on the power conductors are used to allow a port controller to negotiate power requirements with peripheral devices and the power supply is adjusted accordingly. If the peripheral device does not support such negotiation, power is delivered in accordance with the standard. The port may be a data communications port that supplies power and data in accordance with a standard.

These patents, if they do indeed mean a move by Apple into the developing home energy management market, could mean serious new business for the maker of iPods and Macs. The system, in summary, uses powerline networking technology to turn every enabled plug in your home into a two-way communications port. Through this, one could, among a variety of functions, receive power usage information in a centralized control “dashboard” and use this dashboard to manage power efficiently.

I am the editor-in-chief and founder for EarthTechling. This site is my desire to bring the world of green technology to consumers in a timely and informative matter. Prior to this my previous ventures have included a strong freelance writing career and time spent at Silicon Valley start ups.

    • dniswlson

      With the Smart Grid predicted to become a $200 billion industry over the next five years, it’s not surprising that many IT companies — Google, Microsoft, Intel and others — have reached for their own piece of the pie. But all of them are going to have to make room for a new giant: Apple. The iconic maker of the iPod, iPhone and now iSlate has just patented its own home power management panel.

    • dniswlson

      It also got raves because Apple used Firewire to load it, which was much faster at the time than USB. You could load your MP3 player more quickly.

      As for Apple’s “technical originality”; it’s usually more in the software than the hardware. Quicktime; the Graphical User Interface; Filemaker Pro; Hypercard; NeXTSTEP; and Rendevous were all very innovative software opuses.

    • johnet

      This is some very cool news, if not a little bit surprising.