MIT Engineers Build Smart Power Outlet for Homes

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MIT engineers have come up with the smart power outlet, which can distinguish between benign arcs and dangerous arcs of current that occur in household wiring.

Researchers have come up with a system can easily differentiate between harmless electrical spikes such as those caused by common household appliances and dangerous arcs, such as sparking that results from faulty wiring and could lead to a fire.

Smart power outlet for smarter home

The machine learning algorithm of the smart power outlet is programmed to determine whether a signal is harmful or not by comparing a captured signal to others that the researchers previously used to train the system.

The more data the network is exposed to, the more accurately it can learn characteristic electrical fingerprints that are used to differentiate good from bad, or even to distinguish one appliance from another.

The design comprises custom hardware that processes electrical current data in real-time, and software that analyzes the data via a neural network.

Training the system

After training the network, researchers ran the whole setup-hardware and software, on four devices and found that it was able to discern between the four types of devices. For example, it can differentiate between a fan and a computer with an accuracy of 95.61 per cent.

In identifying good from bad signals, the system achieved 99.95 per cent accuracy. It was also able to react quickly and trip a circuit in under 250 milliseconds, which matches the performance of certified arc detectors.

“This is all shifting intelligence to the edge, as opposed to on a server or a data centre or a desktop computer,” said one of the researchers. “I think the larger goal is to have everything connected, all of the time, for a smarter, more interconnected world. That’s the vision I want to see,” he added.