Intelligent plugs being developed to reduce electricity wastage

An intelligent 'Big Brother' plug is being developed to reduce domestic energy consumption, which is responsible for a third of all the electricity used in Britain. This could be fitted as standard to all domestic appliances within a few years. The plug is being developed with a £90,000 award from the Carbon Connections Development Fund, an initiative managed by the University of East Anglia and funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. (The Times, 2 January 2008)

A spokeswoman for the Energy Saving Trust said: '£1.8 billion of electricity is wasted by electronic equipment each year by households in the UK. The average household wastes £28 each year by leaving appliances on standby. Across the UK this is equivalent to the annual output of more than two 700MW power stations'. (The Times, 2 January 2008)

A transmitter in each plug will send signals to a central receiver, which will enable the householder to monitor use and wastage from each appliance. Householders will be able to see how much power every single device uses. The monitor will detect appliances left on unnecessarily and beam an instruction to switch them off, but householders will be able to override decisions by the monitor to switch off equipment. (The Times, 2 January 2008)

Research and development of new products is important for many businesses to maintain their place in the market. The Times 100 case study on Syngenta shows an example of how its research and development programme is essential for increasing agricultural productivity across the globe.

Also look at the Times 100 case study on Portakabin, a well-known brand and the UK market leader in modular buildings. This study shows how Portakabin uses its market research to inform its new products. New product development is an important part of its business to meet the changing needs of its customers.


The Times Online – Intelligent plugs will tackle the energy-guzzlers inside your home, 2 January 2008

Google – The Press Association – 'Big Brother' plug aids green homes, 2 January 2008

Carbon Connections website

The Times 100 Case Study – Syngenta, Using research development to improve agricultural productivity

The Times 100 Case Study – Portakabin, How market research helps Portakabin to remain at the cutting edge

Potential Questions:

  • What are the stages of new product development?
  • Although the intelligent plug is being developed for domestic use, discuss whether it could also aid businesses in reducing their costs and how.