His solution, Safeplug, is a cheap data chip placed into the plugs of appliances that can be read by a cheap wireless receiver in the socket. The device and the outlet are now an intelligent network, trading information of the safe operating ranges of the device. This allows the wall socket to shut off power if too much energy is flowing.
Whenever there is nothing plugged in, the wall unit can just simply shut off. Considering the amount of sockets in the States alone, shutting them off when not in use can save an unbelievable amount of wasted energy. It could even prevent injuries caused by children playing with electrical sockets.
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I found this article at the TED site - ideas worth spreading