The folk at Sandia Labs work on all sorts of interesting projects, and the latest thing to fan our utopian dreams is this experimental smart power outlet. Unlike most monitoring set-ups, it can measure and control electric load without being connected to a central management system. The outlet comprises four receptacles, each with voltage and current sensors and a small computer which shuttles data over an Ethernet bridge. This autonomous style of operation could lead to more intelligent power grids that self-monitor, adapt and integrate with other grids without complex infrastructure updates. Other benefits include removing large points of failure, desirable in any network, and simpler home power monitoring systems. Sandia Labs' prototype could also improve effectiveness of variable output energy sources such as wind and solar, thanks to its ability to compensate for flux in energy production -- which might come in handy.

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Sandia Labs develops self monitoring smart outlet, still needs you to plug it in