Apple has filed patents for a device that could be used for energy management.
The patents, first reported by Patently Apple, is essentially a device that links outlets into homes via power line networking. With this, every outlet in your home turns into an Internet port. Power line networking, of course, can then be used to control power to devices. Errant lamps can be turned off. If you forget to turn down the thermostat, you can do it remotely.
Patently Apple has diagrams from the patent applications too, which were filed in the second quarter. Check it out.
Is this original? Not really. Home plug is somewhat popular in Europe and some smart grid vendors tell me that it will become a popular protocol for smart grid there because a lot of houses are made of cement. ZigBee doesn't do so well with cement. Don't take my word for it--that's what Freescale says, and they make both ZigBee and power line equipment. The biggest smart grid deployment in the world--the 30 million meter deployment by Enel in Italy-runs on power line. Echelon, which specialzes in power line, will be pleased.
Technical originality, though, isn't Apple's strong suit. The company, instead, excels at harvesting components from third party providers and exploiting its crack design team into creating something new. The first iPod? It got raves because it held more songs than other MP3 players. The secret ingredient was a 1.8-inch hard drive from Toshiba. Other vendors passed on it. Instead, they stuck with flash, which at the time wasn't dense enough to hold many songs. Apple took Toshiba up on the offer and the rest is history. The flat panel iMac? LCD monitors had grown in triple digits for three years in a row before that computer came out, but Apple brought publicity to it and all of the sudden people gushed, right on cue. It's a important skill.
Several companies are already moving into home automation--Google, Microsoft, Intel, Cisco and a host of start-ups. But Apple can bring a bit of star power to it. So get ready for the obsequieous enthusiasm!