The Internet of Energy: Smart Sockets

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We waste too much energy and this is a direct cause of global warming.  Imagine a fully integrated electrical system that is safer, cleaner and sustainable.  By utilising the Internet, Smart devices, sensors and switches technologists have designed systems that save energy in an intelligent fashion, saving the consumer money in the process.

The Internet of things

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best:  The Internet of Things uses the existing infrastructure of the Internet to allow devices to communicate and share data.  These devices include sensors, Smart devices, lights, motors and vehicles as well as any compatible electronics.  The advantages of such a system are increases in automation, accuracy, efficiency and experience quality; going beyond current “machine : machine” systems.  It is estimated that the IOT will contain over 50 billion objects by 2020.

The Internet of Energy

As a subset of the IOT, the Internet of Energy (IOE) encompasses all objects involved in provision and use of electricity from the power grid down to individual electronic devices.  The main objective of the  IOE is to develop hardware, software and middleware for seamless, secure connectivity and interoperability achieved by connecting the Internet with the energy grids.  The implementation of IoE services involves the use of multiple components, including embedded systems, power electronics or sensors; which are an essential part of the infrastructure dedicated to the generation and distribution energy.

The Smart Grid

Large territories have developed interconnected electrical supply systems that use the same voltages and currents; these are most evident in large countries/continents like USA, Brazil and the EU where the electrical grids are standardised.

The IOE makes use of millions of sensors across the grid (devices, sockets etc) and integrated computing systems, connected using existing Internet infrastructure, allowing the prediction of future energy requirements: The Smart Grid.  This affords huge savings in the amount of energy usage, in the form of fossil fuels and others.  Encouragingly there are currently over 500 Smart Grid projects throughout the EU.

Smart Energy Devices

Smart socket devices on the market offer basic functionality that trails behind what has been achieved in the lab; available devices can turn off appliances, run schedules and monitor consumption but they are not fully automated ie. they do not respond intelligently to real time changes.

The importance of Smart devices in the IOE cannot be underestimated and researchers at The University of Coruña have recently presented a system that monitors electrical usage in the home and optimises consumption according to user preferences and electricity prices.

Researchers have a produced an integrated system that uses live electricity prices, obtained from the Internet, in order to optimise usage for the user.  This system also self-organises, using the WiFi infrastructure so that it can collect data with minimal user intervention.  All of the software is open source, allowing its modification by future developers and uses.

The System

Sensor and actuation subsystem: This controls the sensors and actuators of the system; responsible for collecting current data and for activating the power outlet when it receives a request from the control subsystem.

Communications subsystem: This consists of wireless transceivers that join an auto-configurable star topology.

Management subsystem: This provides the user with the possibility of obtaining the current status of all modules, modifying their configuration and acting directly on them remotely through a web interface.

Control subsystem: This oversees controlling and managing the remaining subsystems,  processing the data through the appropriate algorithms and acts as the gateway of the network to connect to the Internet.

The Future of the IOE

It has been demonstrated that this system can be used to operate devices at optimum times, saving energy and money (up to 70€ / year /device) by using online energy prices.  It could also be optimised according to energy availability; for example, washing machines would be used at midday, when the electricity generated from solar panels is at a maximum.  Smart sockets, thermostats and motion detectors are well established technologies that are integrated into the IOE in Smart Houses; these monitor all energy used by the home and data can be analysed / modelled for specific streets or areas.

The Internet of Energy will ultimately provide a beautifully integrated system that monitors and predicts consumption patterns.  Eventually systems like the one presented here will exist in all homes and feedback data that optimises power generation.    This system will offer high levels of participation to the user; plug and play convenience for new devices; faster response to power outages and faults; and resilience to attack and natural disasters.  The IOE can operate on a small scale, saving the user money in the home; as well on the grid scale, allowing more efficient electricity generation and decreasing fossil fuel usage.


  1. Steinbach, E., Kranz, M., Maier, W., Schweiger, F. & Alt, N. Advances in media technology. Camera 5, 247–8 (2011).
  2. Blanco-Novoa, Ó., Fernández-Caramés, T., Fraga-Lamas, P. & Castedo, L. An Electricity Price-Aware Open-Source Smart Socket for the Internet of Energy. Sensors 17, 643 (2017)

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