Smart, Modular Power Bar Helps You Save Electricity

Every day, a huge amount of energy is wasted, consumed by devices that are in “sleep mode,” on “standby” or even turned off.

It’s estimated that somewhere between 16 and 23 per cent of all the electricity consumed in western countries is wasted this way. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

There are offices that leave the lights on all night, people who forget to turn off the TV when they go to another room and many of us know the feeling of wondering whether the stove is still on once we’ve left the house.

Shuze Zhao says he was concerned about all this waste, so he decided to do something about it.

He’s the co-founder of Knitt Labs, a Toronto-based startup that’s developed a smart modular power bar that it says will help people stop wasting electricity.

“We wanted to create a solution,” Zhao says.

At its core, the concept behind the KnittBar is pretty simple – it turns off the power to devices that are wasting electricity. But it’s just how it knows when to turn that power off that sets it apart.

The KnittBar, which uses WiFi, can be controlled remotely, through an app; or users can set “smart” rules to control the flow of electricity going to a specific device based on one of several factors.

For instance, power could be shut off to one of the modules after a specific amount of time. Or, if the KnittBar detects that the user’s phone has left the WiFi zone, it can send them a push notification, asking if they’d like to turn off a device or appliance that’s still on.

For some devices and appliances, like hair straighteners and ovens, there could be a fire prevention aspect as well as electricity savings, says Imran Rana, another of Knitt Lab’s co-founders.

There’s also a module with an environmental sensor that, when combined with some smart rules, can be used to control things like air conditioners.

While there’s a lot of flexibility and functionality, Rana says that a lot of thought went into making the controls “as natural as possible.”

“It’s built so that it’s completely seamless,” he says.

That’s just the beginning though, the team says that there’s also a machine learning aspect, which will allow the device to learn from how its use, and a social component, where users can share smart rules.

Eventually, the KittBar will be able to tell the difference between different appliances and devices based on how they draw electricity, says Sean Feng, Kitt Lab’s other co-founder. Once that’s in place, a user could plug a device into any module and the KnittBar would know exactly how to treat it.

However, that will take some time, due to the amount of data that will have to be gathered to make those distinctions. Right now, the team is raising money on Kickstarter to take the KnittBar from working prototype to consumer product.

Their goal is $100,000. With 11 days left, the campaign has raised well over half its goal.