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Electrical plugThere has been a lot of discussion here in the blog and in Net Attitude about "Power to the People". The "power" discussed had to do with empowerment made possible by the Internet. To get connected to the Internet requires another kind of power — electricity. Although some improvements have been made there are still hotel’s that provide only one outlet on the desk and must not realize that travelers need to charge up both their laptop and their mobile phone — and maybe an iPod and a few other things.
The USB ports on all laptops do conveniently provide five volts of power but at a fairly low current and hence a longer charging time than with the 120/240 volt charger. Airports have an even bigger problem. Many of them were constructed before people had laptops and it would have been unimaginable for architects to include outlets around the wall of an airline gate or even in the clubs and lounges. I have gotten strange looks as I walked around a gate or lounge staring at the floor looking for an outlet. Airport managers are no doubt planning for new outlets but the cost to retrofit them is very high and it is going to take a long time before we have enough to satisfy the demand.
How about wireless electricity? I have often heard people joke about wireless electricity. It is not as far fetched as it may seem. In fact, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) say it is possible. They have developed a system, which in theory can power gadgets in the same manner as wireless broadband signals are received. The MIT system is very early in the development stage but uses an electromagnetic field to transfer energy from a source of power to a device ten feet away. At some point there may be electric rooms where anything you have with you — laptops, cameras, mobile phones — will receive a fresh charge while you are there.
There is also great progress being made in the efficiency of the electrical use. For example, IBM has been working on an Adaptive Battery Life Extender to reduce the hard drive power consumption based on what the user is doing. For example, if you are working on a word processing document, most of the time you are typing and editing or maybe thinking. During that time, the hard drive senses what your level of activity and turns off the hard drive until you actually need it to save your document.