In an age of wireless tools and constantly evolving technology, have you ever looked at an outlet or light switch on the wall and wondered why it hasn’t ever changed much, or noticed that it’s about the size of a smartphone? N2 Global Solutions, a New York-based startup, says that was the inspiration that led to the creation of its SuperSocket. Now, the company hopes its device will replace the ubiquitous traditional sockets and create greater energy efficiency and safety in buildings everywhere.
Two of the company’s leaders were watching a documentary on Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla when they started talking about the common light switch, wondering if smartphone technology had ever been used in electrical infrastructure. “We just went plum nuts when we realized there was no such thing in the marketplace,” Paul Amelio, N2’s chairman and CEO, said when he and COO David Katz went on Enterprise Radio to discuss the SuperSocket and its technology.
The SuperSocket was designed to allow different brands of technology to communicate with one another, which N2 hopes will hasten the development of the Internet of Things (IoT), or smart cooperation among various devices. The SuperSocket has microprocessors and sensors on both sides of the wall to detect changes in energy use and the presence of dangerous gases, moisture and smoke, among other important environmental information. On the outward-facing side, the SuperSocket has a variety of snap-on covers that can allow for a greater range of uses, including international adaptability.
The SuperSocket is part of N2’s Internal SuperGrid of wireless tools, an electrical, wireless, vendor-agnostic sensor network that facilitates local and remote communication in buildings. The SuperGrid also includes the SuperSwitch (for lighting and thermostat control) and SuperFixture (for overhead lighting), which are connected through the company’s proprietary software. N2 says the devices can be used in existing buildings and retrofitted into electrical junction boxes. Their communication abilities will help new construction projects with Net Zero and other sustainability initiatives.
N2 allows the local and remote management of electrical power, security, temperature, communications and media. The SuperSocket features universal AC power sockets and USB 3.0 power ports for data transmission. Improving communities, construction, sustainability, safety and jobs are all goals of N2 and its “super” innovations.
“We’re hoping to make a difference,” Amelio said.
Smart energy in residential and commercial buildings continues to gain traction. These homes have been called the foundation of cleaner communities and would be powered by solar panel systems that know when to charge a battery or send extra power to neighbors. “They’ll be complemented by other smart energy buildings, such as offices and schools, and will operate alongside grid-scale renewables and battery storage,” said Will Van Eaton, a member of the Grid Engineering Solutions team at SolarCity.
Many people are still unsure of what the IoT is, of course, or why some devices aren’t considered smart, or how those different devices could possibly share information and process it into something useful. This Old House offers a handy translation guide for “smart-home geek speak.” It defines the IoT as “an evolved state of the internet in which machines transfer data over a network without requiring human interaction.”
N2’s Katz cleverly says we are just in the “Interim of Things” now. The biggest challenge keeping machines from effectively communicating with one another is the differing protocols among devices. For the IoT to really exist, there needs to be a common platform to integrate all programming languages, he told Energy Manager Today. The trade publication hails N2 for showing “an example of the challenges — and benefits — of working through the tall weeds of the IoT.”
It’s easy to see how N2 believes it’s onto something that could take the lead in developing the IoT — and that’s based around something as commonplace as the everyday electrical outlet.
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