Green Plug has a vision: to reduce energy and material waste in electronics. How are they going to do it? By implementing an embeddable power supply technology in consumer electronics that would allow for multiple devices to communicate energy needs to a single, universal power adapter. The technology will help increase energy efficiency by eliminating phantom power, power that is wasted on charged or unused electronics that are plugged in. The technology also supports a universal connector for all devices, eliminating the need for multiple, incompatible cables. When adapters and cables will not have to be discarded when replacing old devices with new ones, the amount of e-waste will decrease.
This vision can’t be accomplished without the help of manufacturers. Westinghouse, maker of computer monitors, televisions, and digital picture frames, is the first among electronics manufacturers to adopt the Green Plug technology into their devices.
Besides reducing environmental impacts, manufacturers could eventually save money, as Westinghouse is hoping to do, by not shipping power adapters with products. The consumer will also save money in reduced energy costs. Another plus of a universal adapter is that somebody nearby will likely have a compatible adapter to share should yours be misplaced. Managing stock in stores would also be easier and less confusing; there might be five varieties instead of dozens of incompatible ones. Airports, coffee shops, hotels and other business could offer a free charge of your cell phone or laptop as an amenity, much like free WiFi access. A universal adapter would also be open to free market competition which could drive down costs.
So why isn’t every manufacturer jumping on board? Technological hurdles are likely not an obstacle as Green Plug provides complimentary technical support for all manufacturers. Part of the issue is gathering attention; much of the Green Plug press has come only within the past few months. Adopting the technology for all the products a company offers will take considerable time and coordination. CEO Frank Paniagua said it would cost manufacturers about $2 per device to implement the technology. This would not likely affect the price of a laptop or cell phone, but would require research and development.
A probably cause is that many manufacturers earn revenue from selling proprietary cables and adapters. In the PCWorld article, Code Cubitt of Motorola Ventures said companies are also concerned with a positive “out-of-the-box” experience. If a company ships a product without an adapter and the consumer doesn’t have a universal one, it creates a bad image. With universal adapters, the company also has less control over the user experience of the product. Apple’s MagSafe laptop adapters, for instance, are generally well-known and well-received, and Apple may not want to give them up to go universal.
Adopting Green Plug technology is a big opportunity for electronics manufacturers to display their concern for the environment. However, it remains to be seen whether giving up proprietary adapters and possibly affecting the “out-of-box” experience is financially viable and worth the positive environmental image and positive press.