Pay-Per-Use Electrical Outlets Closer To Becoming A Reality

Right now if someone wants to charge you to use their electrical outlet, they need to physically block your access — or keep the outlet turned off — until you fork over some cash. But that could all change in the not-so-distant future.

Sony is working on electric outlets that would include some sort of built-in authenticating technology. This opens up possibilities for several ways you could be charged to plug in and power up.

The main example that Sony highlights in the video below is for charging up electric vehicles. The company says that EVs of the future will use connect to these authenticating outlets so that you can pay for your electricity just by plugging your car in.

Authenticated outlets could also be placed in public settings like airports, train stations, malls, and cafeterias and set up so that only people who pay — or at least those who are authorized — have access to the juice flowing through the walls.

And imagine sitting down with your roommates to split up the electric bill and knowing exactly what part of that bill each person’s devices are responsible for.

By that same token, anyone looking to cut down on their electric bill would be able to see which items are costing them the most money each month.

This is all just in the development stages and would require not only the authenticating outlets but also something to authenticate on each plugged-in device — or at least some sort of authenticating card or similar portable item for the user to carry.

Sony developing authenticating power outlets: pay-to-charge on the way? [The Verge]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Cat says:

    No electric for the 99%.

    • MeowMaximus says:

      I think this a great idea for any room-mate situation, or small Business. BTW, what happened to the Otters?

      • Costner says:

        So who gets to pay for the fridge, the television, the oven, the dryer, the AC, the ceiling fan, the dining room light, the bathroom exhaust fan, the vacuum cleaner, the smoke detector, the blender, the microwave, the night light in the hallway, the table lamp, the dvd player, the water heater, the porch light, the garage door opener, or the dishwasher?

        This doesn’t seem feasible for roommate situations – it would be a much larger nightmare to track everyone’s usage of shared electrical devices as it would be to just split the bill down the middle.

    • Velifer says:

      Now I have to put batteries in everything so I can pay for my own electricity at home.

  2. NaOH says:

    I didn’t know that everything was white in the future.

  3. Phil Keeps It Real [Consumerist] says:

    ‚ô™ Oh, Oh, it’s magic ‚ô¨

    ‚ô™ Never believe it’s not so ‚ô´

  4. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I feel the good that could come from this is far outweighed by all the bad.

    • Kevin411 says:

      And next we’ll be faced with grid-neutrality issues. The power company will start turning off devices that they feel use too much power. And if you are top 5% residential user, they will throttle your power down to only work certain times each day and block access to your air conditioner. No…nothing can go wrong here! :-)

  5. Gman says:

    or and what I clearly see as being the real world reality – local electric companies requiring a cable/satellite type usage fee for each socket in your house.

    I can easily see them saying “You get one socket per room free of charge. Beyond that it is a $5 monthly fee per socket.”

    • Jack T Ripper says:

      That’s why God invented power strips. You only need one outlet in your room typically. Especially if things are going to be using wireless energy.

    • Cosmo_Kramer says:

      you people post some amazingly stupid comments. If the power company wanted to charge you per outlet, they wouldn’t need any kind of technology to do it. Nevermind that this technology doesn’t do anything to enable that type of billing.

    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

      Except the electrical code requires us to put in a specific number of outlets per branch circuit. And the way that they’re typically installed would prevent them from putting in these authentication cut-offs without either a) some kind of internal shunt, or b) a fuck-ton of busy-work for electric company contractors.

  6. mantari says:

    Because consumers are tripping all over themselves to pay for their electricity a la-carte.

    • scoutermac says:

      And yet we cannot get a la-cart cable/satellite tv service.

    • Costner says:

      If EVs become common consumers will demand this. You can’t expect businesses and parking garages to install electrical outlets and then pay for the power, so in order to have charging stations at the mall or the shopping center or the grocery store or the hardware store or the doctors office or the college parking lot… they need a way to pay for that power and the infrastructure costs.

      The alternative is where no power source is available and we do without, but if you drove an EV and needed a charge you would gladly pay for the power.

    • Cosmo_Kramer says:

      You better believe I’d be willing to pay for access to electricity in public spaces.

  7. Jack T Ripper says:

    If you make electricity wireless then I WILL hijack it.

    All of this is great in theory, but it is still being dreamed about with 2012 technology in their minds. If it is relying on any sort of authentication, then it will be hacked. The future will be one where energy is free and nobody, not even SONY, will be able to capitalize on it.

  8. dolemite says:

    I’m working on a patent for a machine that measures how much air people are breathing. I’m pretty sure people around here are using more than their fair share, and need to pay up.

    • Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

      There was actually a senator or something in North Carolina who wanted to initiate an ‘air tax’ many years ago (not sure when it was). His idea was to calculate how much air each man, woman and child consumed and tax them on it.

      I’m not making this up.

      • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

        I say add a tax for people giving off hot air. Apply that to our government, and the national debt would be solved instantly.

    • duncanblackthorne says:

      You’re making a joke, but it’s not funny because there are more people (using the word loosely here) that would like to do precisely what you’re saying — and they’re NOT kidding.

  9. Cat says:

    I see a point in this for an electric sucking car. For my laptop at the airport?

    Fuck you, Sony, and the electric company you are planning to ride on.

    • Dallas_shopper says:

      + 1

    • Derigiberble says:

      No kidding, it just isn’t worth it for anything that isn’t a massive energy drain such as an EV doing a fast charge.

      70W laptop charging for an hour: $0.0049 worth of electricity.

      Nissan Leaf DC fast charge (60kW) for 30 minutes: $2.10 worth of electricity.

      • kcvaliant says:

        Yes. But this is a premptive information strike.

        As EVs become more prolific it enables companies to jack up the price. That 2 dollars of electricity will cost you 35dollars. I am sure there will be some gas to electric mpg conversion just to screw with people.

        Sony and other companies will add tech to all their devices that charge money if you use any outlet outside of your home. Then will get congress or some new wortless authority governing its use to make it illegal to disable the tech they installed.

      • kcvaliant says:

        Yes. But this is a premptive information strike.

        As EVs become more prolific it enables companies to jack up the price. That 2 dollars of electricity will cost you 35dollars. I am sure there will be some gas to electric mpg conversion just to screw with people.

        Sony and other companies will add tech to all their devices that charge money if you use any outlet outside of your home. Then will get congress or some new wortless authority governing its use to make it illegal to disable the tech they installed.

    • eturowski says:

      No kidding, especially when my flight is delayed for an unknown period of time, and I’m probably sipping a $4 bottle of water.

      • human_shield says:

        Better than a bottle of nitroglycerin you would have brought had the TSA not saved us at the check point.

    • Geekybiker says:

      OTOH maybe this would encourage them to put enough outlet around seating areas. There are never enough at the airports I go through.

      • dadelus says:

        This is why I’ve taken to bringing a powerstrip in my carry-on. Makes me the hero of the gate area and almost always ensures I can get access to an outlet.

        • orange20854 says:

          THAT is a great idea! I’m totally going to pack a power strip now, just to see how excited everyone gets that now EVERYONE can use the outlet!

          • dadelus says:

            This is my preference, packs better in my opinion.


            No, I don’t work for the company. :)

          • Jawaka says:

            What happens when 4 people are plugged into your strip and you need to leave. The remaining three will all look at you like you’re a dick.

            • j2.718ff says:

              Hey, they got more plugged-in time than they would have without your help. And perhaps you’ll inspire someone to buy their own power strip for next time.

            • scoosdad says:

              Bring along cheap outlet strips from the dollar store, and when you leave, just casually say, “keep it, when you’re through, pass it on to someone else, and have a nice day!”.

              Then you’re their hero for a buck or two. They won’t ever stop talking about you.

              At least in theory. The reality is that ten minutes after your flight takes off, the cheap dollar store strip causes a fire and burns down the terminal. The police will meet your arriving flight, looking for you.

              • loggg says:

                You’ll be branded a terrorist because you intentionally left something behind. You could have packed that power strip with explosives!

        • dadelus says:

          And if they start charging for outlets, it means you can share the cost among several travelers. :)

      • Jillia says:

        Electric bills: The cost of doing business.

  10. ianmac47 says:

    A similar system already exists in Europe, only instead of turning on and off an outlet, they charge you for locking up the device in a small locker while it charges. Maybe this isn’t a great system fro someone looking to juice a laptop, but for recharging cellular phones and other devices while the device owner is off having dinner or shopping, its far better than surreptitiously plugging into the nearest available outlet.

    • thomwithanh says:

      I’ve seen charging stations like this at airports. Plug your phone in, insert $2 for 30 minutes and it charges while you wait.

  11. lehrdude says:

    Time to start investing in more disposable batteries that destroy the environment in order to avoid the “electricity tax”…

    • Cosmo_Kramer says:

      An alkaline AA battery costs $.25 and provides about 2 watt-hours of electricity. 1 kilowatt-hour would require 500 batteries and cost $125.

      Your electric company probably charges $.15 or less per kilowatt-hour.

      I guess you didn’t think that through.

      • Not Given says:

        Try $25 per month to have the power available + 20¢ per kwh

      • lehrdude says:

        Actually, Do you think they are going to charge $0.25 to charge your cellphone at the airport???

        I don’t think so…!

        I can get a disposable Cell-Boost for about $0.50 which will fully charge my phone just the same, and I don’t even have to wait around for an outlet to open up.

        So, to answer your question, YES, I did think it through…but thanks for playing.

  12. Lyn Torden says:

    This is not a scheme to charge people for for electricity for their devices. Instead, it is a scheme to shakedown other device makers for royalties so they can make their devices pluggable into the system, and give Sony devices a discount on the power usage. The side effect is that it will discriminate against those who have devices without the built in Sony authorized authentication.

  13. rambo76098 says:

    Ooh, I’d like the bill splitting thing for roommates! Mine sucks down power like it’s going out of style.

  14. Jack T Ripper says:

    The more I think about it, the more I don’t believe this will happen in 2030. I think it will happen much much sooner than that. Read The Singularity Is Near, or look at the highlights on wikipedia. We will have gone far beyond this by 2030.

  15. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    This will become the new standard when electric cars become more common, solely for the purpose of road taxes. Funding roads virtually entirely with gasoline taxes wont make much sense in the future, when a large percentage of vehicles are electrically powered.

  16. yurei avalon says:

    Man we could have used one of these back when I worked in the gaming store. You would not believe the amount of people who would come in, sit down at a table and promptly help themselves to the nearest outlet to plug in their lap top or phone without asking if it was ok or buying anything the entire time they were there.

    I even had one customer with the audacity to try and unplug some of the shop’s plugged in stuff at an outlet because the others were temporarily blocked.

    And then you’d have the people whining because we kept our wireless secured who thought they had a right to get onto that. We’re not an internet cafe people, shoo.

    • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

      You should have changed the name of the WIFi network to match the name of the store next door. Then people would complain to them :)

  17. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

    So it could change next Sunday, AD?

  18. CubeRat says:

    I can see this technology being useful for plug in cars.

    For homes, the homeowner or complex owner would have to re-wire the buildings……I don’t see that happening unless there is a hugh savings to the owner. Apartment building owners usually have separate electric meters for every unit, so while the renter might like this (I doubt !), it doesn’t in any way profit the owner.

  19. denros says:

    I have one of these for backpacking, guess I’m going to just start carrying around with my everywhere?

    And when they put coin slots on water fountains, I’ll bring my microfilter. Suck it, profiteers.

  20. rpm773 says:

    Authenticated outlets could also be placed in public settings like airports, train stations, malls, and cafeterias

    This would be great for Hotels. And by “great”, I mean “great for gouging the customer because in the end it really doesn’t matter because everyone is traveling on a reimbursed expense account”.

  21. kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

    “And imagine sitting down with your roommates to split up the electric bill and knowing exactly what part of that bill each person’s devices are responsible for. “

    Is this a major problem for a lot of people? What are you people plugging in to the outlets?

    I’d imagine that shared devices (fridge, washer, dryer, etc) are using the majority of the electricity and that there wouldn’t be very much difference (a few dollar per month, maybe?) in the electrical usage between roommates.

    Unless you plug in an atom smasher or something.

  22. Cerne says:

    It’s an interesting idea, but I can’t see the expense of installing these to be worth it for most of the cases stated above. Charging a cell phone or a laptop is basically free. That being said if electric cars ever take off (and they won’t with today’s technology) this would be useful. Of course if your local government is anything like Ontario’s electricity will soon be hideously expensive.

    As a side note You can already monitor usage for individual devices if you want to see what your big drainers are.

  23. Pooterfish says:

    As a consumer, I think it’s a crappy idea, but I totally understand why those who pay the bills (airports, car recharging stations, etc.) and those who would control access to the pipeline (like Sony) would want this. It’s devilishly clever.

  24. Straspey says:

    Actually – the best part of this is it might reduce the number of people who sit in a coffee bar for hours on end with their laptop plugged into the outlet.

    It could work kind of like an internet cafe – where if you wanted to use the outlet you had to pre-pay for a block of time, after which the power would just shut off.

    And yes — if your roommate is on his console eighteen hours a day, while you’re at work and going to school – why should you be required to split the electric bill evenly ?

  25. Dryfus Ranon says:

    If electric vehicles are plugged in, shouldn’t they also be charged road use taxes as is incorporated in the price of gasoline.

  26. Cicadymn says:

    I think we need to blow up Sony now.

  27. daynight says:

    Charging up a car will take a lot of juice. That makes sense. What person would install a per-socket monitor in their own house? No one. It is stupid for any single-payer to use. In apartment buildings each apartment ALREADY pays individually. Only in public setting where the individual fees are worth it, like charging a car. Remember, hotels already have the technology to charge for electricity on a per room basis if only they had the interest. They don’t now, and I don’t expect them to suddenly start.

  28. AnnaBanana says:

    We’ve had these in the UK for years – pre-pay electric meters. They’re mostly in low-income housing. There used to be a money box beside your electric meter that you would put 50p pieces in. These now have small ‘keys’, which look like USB sticks. You put ¬£10 to ¬£20 at a time on the key at a shop or the post office, then plug it into your meter. Once they’re used up – no more electric for you and everything shuts off.
    It’s a good way to keep out of debt. However, the tariff is usually higher for the pre-pay meters.

  29. human_shield says:

    It’s not a bad idea, but you know the electricity will be marked up 10,000%.

  30. DerangedKitsune says:

    Interesting idea, but next to impossible to implement. Legacy devices are the primary point (basically any electical device that exists today), and legacy BUILDINGS are the other. I just had to have my house rewired. Unless they can make the system work over existing electical lines without anything more than a different outlet, then it’s just not practical to implement. That would involve rewiring the world.

    I can see its application for electric cars and truly large scale devices like that were new hardware WILL be required (ie, high voltage vehicle charging stations) and to an extent for places like coffee shops and resturants offering free WIFI (but this will require all notebook manufacturers to accept the new plug standard) but not beyond those kind of things.

  31. Ed says:

    I want this to fail just because I don’t like Sony.

  32. DrPizza says:

    “And imagine sitting down with your roommates to split up the electric bill and knowing exactly what part of that bill each person’s devices are responsible for. “

    Absolutely brilliant! Replace twenty 59-cent electrical outlets with twenty $100+ electrical outlets so that you can figure out that one roommate owed about $3 more than the other.

  33. AngryK9 says:

    Just like humans..always looking for ways to profit from everything. Can’t wait until we invent a “pay-per-breath” system…

  34. HogwartsProfessor says:

    No. No, no no no no. A horrible idea.

  35. oldtaku says:

    Leave it to Sony to decide the problem with mobile devices is that charging them isn’t DRMed yet.

  36. jp7570-1 says:

    Somehow, RyanAir will install these in their planes.

  37. Jojo Pumpkin says:

    In places of commerce and public use, I can see this moving forward. In my house, never unless I knew that the data being transmitted was on my closed network. A utility such as Electricity only needs to know how much power I’m using. Not for what devices I’m using it for.

    Isn’t this equivalent to spying? It sounds rather Orwellian to me.
    More ways to track EVERYTHING you’re doing. I would assume Congress is chomping at the bit to get this moving. They’ll give you a stunning tax break to put these things in your house. Hotels, rest stops, airports, bus/train stations, go for it. My house is off limits to Big Brother.

  38. ChrisFasciano says:

    This doesn’t exactly seem as though it would be great technology. It would have to be constantly connected to a network in order to be authenticated. There would always have to be a small consumption of electricity in order for that to be possible. They would require an entire household to be rewired with network cables, unless they are wireless, drawing even more electricity.

    That set aside, it seems like a great idea for recharging electric vehicles, or for use in public places such as internet cafes, airports and the like. Not an outrageously high amount, or even to make a profit, but simply to cover the cost of the electricity used. That would be it’s optimal use.