A Brief History of Advanced PowerStrips

A brief history of Advanced PowerStrip

A Brief History of Advanced Powerstrips

INTRODUCTION

Standby power started appearing on the radar of utilities, energy efficiency organizations, regulators and customers and customers in the late 1990's. Around this time, there was a growing recognition that standby power (also known variously as phantom load or vampire power) was becoming a significant part of the utility load as the number of consumer electronics devices and appliances became more and more pervasive in homes and commercial spaces. In North America a number of key papers and voices began to emerge and express concern about the growing issue of standby power. In 1997 Alan Meier from Lawrence Berkeley published a paper title titled "Results From The Investigations On Leaking Electricity In The USA". Lawrence Berkeley Labs has a very informative website which outlines much of this history and is a good source for information.

In 1999, The International Energy Agency (IEA) became active and started to promote the One Watt Initiative. Shortly after the IEA published "Things That Go Blip in the Night: Standby Power and How to Reduce It". In 2001 President George W Bush signed Executive Order 13221 which mandated that:

  • "Federal departments when "purchasing commercially available, off-the-shelf products that use external standby power devices, or that contain an internal standby power function, shall purchase products that use no more than one watt in their standby power consuming mode."

After executive order 13221 was issued, standby power began to receive more attention and regulators and companies started to look at the issue seriously.

STANDBY POWER SAVING PRODUCT EVOLUTION


Germany

Standby power saver products first started to appear in Germany around 2001/02 (Google search "standby killer and master slave stekdosse"). These products were first typically standalone plug-in modules with an InfraRed (IR) receiver for TV applications, but later powerstrip versions were also released.

For the plug-in modules two variants were used:
  • IR-sensing units that learned the TV power command and switched power to the TV when it detected an IR remote control button press. When the TV was switched off, the unit would detect a drop in power and then switch off power to the TV - cutting all standby power losses.
  • The same as above, but with a countdown timer so if no IR signal was received for more than 1 hour, then power to the TV was automatically switched off.

Germany Power Saver Products

Numerous similar products in German Schuko, French Schuko, Europlug plug formats were developed and deployed around this time (Google search "master slave steckdose tv" and see Ecoman for more information).

Major innovations:

  • Implementing a master- slave approach to switch peripherals in conjunction with a TV or PC
  • Implementing IR sensing products that shut down power to a TV based on either the TV being turned off or an absence of IR remote control commands in a defined period
  • Implementing a potentiometer to adjust switching thresholds - Ecoman

Denmark

Denmark was the first country to implement a national Advanced PowerStrip program, installing over 1 million units for TV's and PC's in a 2½ year period (Google search "elspareskinne"). The primary supplier for the Danish Energy Saving Trust program was a Danish company called SavePower® and they offered 2 products:
  • TV - a current-sensing master / slave device with one always on outlet, one master outlet and 3 or 4 switched outlets
  • PC - a USB port sensing master / slave device with one always on outlet, one master outlet and 3 or 4 switched outlets
The TV product was the most accepted product, but there were reports of compatibility problems with the PC product due to use of a fixed switching threshold with computers.

Major innovations:
  • Implementing a low-cost USB port sensing IT product - SavePower®
  • First deployment at scale in an energy efficiency program - SavePower® and The Danish Energy Saving Trust

Denmark Save Power

United Kingdom

The next major rollout of standby power devices was in the UK around 2006 by a company called OneClick®. The products were all British Standard plug format. OneClick® is the original inventor of auto-threshold detection - which was first incorporated into a plug-in module (intelliplug) and a powerstrip (intellipanel), which was made available in PC and TV (also called AV) versions to UK utilities and retailers. OneClick filed patents for this invention in 2001, see here.

The TV products used a sophisticated power measurement microprocessor and TV remote control signal detection.

Approximately 2 million units were deployed over a 3-year period into the UK market, primarily through utilities such as eOn® and British Gas®. The program was generally very successful and was only stopped due to a change in the regulatory framework.

United Kingdom Standby device

OneClick® was awarded the Queens Award for Innovation in 2007 and licensed its intellectual property to Belkin® for use in the Belkin® Conserve® range of products. In 2015 TrickleStar® acquired the OneClick® intellectual property and patents and incorporated it into its products. Major innovations:

  • Implementing auto-threshold sensing to automatically determine the state of a master device - OneClick® Technologies
  • Implementing a multi-outlet plug-in module - OneClick® Technologies

Australia

The largest rollout of Advanced PowerStrips, called Standby Power Controllers (SPC) in Australia, took place in Victoria under a scheme called the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target® (VEET). The main vendors in this program were Embertec®, Emerald Planet® and Energy Efficiency Technologies. Two types of products were installed;
  • TV - IR sensing, power sensing master / slave and master-less sensing powerstrip
  • IT - power sensing master - slave powerstrip

Approximately 2.5 million SPC's were installed in the program. The program faced harsh criticism with many customers complaining about their TV shutting down mid-viewing experience, questionable door-to-door marketing practices and overly optimistic energy savings claims -see 'The Great Energy Turn Off".

Reports of product de-installation of the IR sensing APS for TV applications vary from 31% to a staggering 75% over a 2-3 year period. The SPC program in Victoria has been largely phased out amid concerns about persistence.

Australia Standby device

United States

US energy efficiency programs started to deploy current sensing, Tier 1 Advanced PowerStrips in volume in 2012. Bits Limited® initially gained national attention for the SmartStrip™ when featured on Oprah, and the trademark 'SmartStrip' was incorrectly used for some time to describe the whole category.

TrickleStar has been the dominant supplier of Tier 1 APS' in the US market for 4 years with over 2 million units installed to date. Major innovations:
  • Implementing fireproof ceramic encased surge protection - TrickleStar®
  • Adjustable threshold switch adjustments - TrickleStar® and Bits Ltd®
  • Auto-threshold adjustment - Belkin® (using OneClick® patents)
United States Advanced PowerStrip

Around 2014 there was a concerted push by a vendor to move the market from Tier 1 APS to what is now known as Tier 2 APS. This was based upon higher claimed energy savings for Tier 2 APS'. There are currently only two vendors in the US actively offering Tier 2 APS solutions: TrickleStar® and Embertec®. No other vendors have entered the segment yet, possibly due to the more sophisticated electronics, field trial requirements and existing patents.

The Tier 2 APS product produced by Embertec® for the US uses the same approach as the product deployed into the Australian VEET program and relies upon detection of IR remote control signals only.

The move to Tier 2 APS has been slow as Tier 2 APS' are approximately 3x the cost of a Tier 1 APS, more complex to install and there are concerns by utilities about the intrusiveness of the IR-only sensing auto-shutdown features and the effect on persistence of installation.

United States Advanced PowerStrip

Major innovations:

  • Implementing multi-sensing approach using IR remote control detection and passive infrared motion sensing - TrickleStar®
  • Implementing multi-sensing approach including ZigBee® RF4CE® command detection for cable TV applications - TrickleStar®
  • Implementing CEC control via HDMI® for soft switching control- TrickleStar®

STANDBY POWER SAVING PRODUCT EVOLUTION

Advanced PowerStrip product features have evolved over the past 15 years while most of the core control principles have remained largely the same. No one manufacturer should claim to have invented Advanced PowerStrips, but different manufacturers have packaged features in slightly different ways to differentiate their offer, solve specific problems and to suit their customer base.

Ongoing innovation is expected to improve management of electronics which don't use IR remote controls, allow for devices to be intelligently switched, integrate with connected home platforms to form part of larger energy management ecosystems.


 

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