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No more free power in public places?

New technology enables the owners of electrical outlets to control who can power up for free and who must pay.

By Karen Datko Feb 14, 2012 10:08PM

Some extreme frugalists recommend that you save money by plugging in your personal rechargeable gadgets at work. (Not us; we think that's theft.)


But what if that power weren't free anymore?


It's a possibility. New technology designed by Sony will enable outlets embedded with an IC chip to identify who is plugging in and whether they must pay for the power -- a "charge for a charge," Engadget says


If the system identifies you or your device as an authorized user, the power is free. If not, you'll be denied access, or you may have to pay -- via swipe of a cellphone or card using existing technology. Post continues below.

The new technology likely won't become widely available for years, but will eventually have widespread applications, says the Verge. "Sony says it expects the technology to be employed in cafes, restaurants, airport waiting lounges and other public places."


This makes sense when you're talking about charging electric vehicles. But does it also mean that power we've routinely accessed for free will eventually come with a cost? That seems to be the case.


The system has potential benefits:

  • A charge for power may discourage those laptop users who've put down roots at Starbucks, hogging all the seats -- a habit that's prompted some Starbucks to block the electrical outlets, Reuters says.
  • You'll gain better control over power use at home, particularly if you have solar panels or other alternative energy. Wrote Christopher MacManus on CNET News:
The proposed power control center app (for tablet or smartphone) would enable consumers to observe how much power is available from various power sources in the home. With the app, one could check how much juice the electric car in the garage contains, enable or disable outlets in various areas of the house or remotely control devices connected to a power outlet.

So it's good news for homeowners who want to reduce their electric bill, but bad news for those used to charging their devices for free in a public or private space.


More on MSN Money:

Feb 15, 2012 5:12PM
The chip can also be embedded in a person's neck and automatically charge their credit card or deduct from their bank account for the water they drink or air they are breathing.   Corporations need to make more money off of these 'free-loaders"!
Feb 15, 2012 7:33PM
I am old enough to remember when air was free at gas stations.
Feb 15, 2012 7:32PM
Go to the hospital and see how much they do charge you to breath on 2 liter O2.
Feb 15, 2012 4:42PM
About time for this. We had a guy dead for six hours in China while using an internet cafe to play his on line games. I swear, some of those in the local coffee shop have cobwebs holding them up. Maybe they are dead, too.SmileSleepy
Feb 16, 2012 3:33PM
Just curious about how much an electric measuring device might cost and the cost to process the transaction to charge me for the $.08 of electricity to charge my cell phone at the airport?  I don't see it as being cost effective to nickle and dime people in most cases.
Feb 15, 2012 9:10PM

A chip embeded that could auto-deduct one's credit card....  Anyone remember when there was talk of embeded chips being used for survallence, and some commented "mark of the beast", etc?  That, would sound almost just like it; even with the "can't do buying or selling without it" :o


But yeah, some would charge for sun light if they could find a way to....  As a resident in Jersey, we already see something approaching that.  They don't just nickle and dime one here; they buck people....  Jersey has become rather ridiculous in such regard

Feb 16, 2012 2:04PM

To all you complainers

NOTHING is will either pay for it up front or it will be hidden in the cost of merchandise, service fees or taxes.

I am always for people who use a goods or service paying for that use directly.  Hiding the cost takes away my choice as to whether i want to pay for it or not.  If i want something, i am more than happy to pay for it.

Sometimes business has to work it into the overall cost, i understand, but when ever possible i prefer a la carte so i can control my spending and not indirectly pay for someone elses needs.

Same thing for drinks or snacks on airplanes, air at gas stations, someone pumping my gas and so on and so on

Feb 16, 2012 11:05AM

Our daughter along with two friends recently stayed in the Inter Continental Hotel in NYC for several days. I believe their room rate was in excess of $350.00 per night. They were amazed that free Wi-Fi was not available in their room. If they wanted Wi-Fi in their room there was a $ 12.00 plus tax additional per night charge.

Later in the week she booked a room in Los Angeles for an over night stay at a well known family rate chain, less than $100.00 per night. The chain offered a free hot breakfast and free Wi-Fi  in every room ?????

Feb 15, 2012 9:51PM

Sounds ridiculous on the surface.  Paying to charge my Ipod or lap top, coffee pot?  That really should be a fringe benefit seeing as pensions and health care benefits are going the way of the dinosaurs.


Its not like I'm charging an electric car...Do we really need a devie for the sockets?  If a company is that gung ho about this, why not make a company policy prohibiting it and warn then terminate those who consistently violate it? 

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