RightPlug technology is a standardized way to embed information about a particular appliance into its own plug. This information can be read by a handheld device or an intelligent receptacle outlet. This allows manufacturers, warehouses, shipping companies, customs agents, etc. to identify the product and handle it more efficiently. It also allows the electrical system to read what to expect from the appliance under normal conditions (current, power usage) and alert the system if the actual values are out of the normal range.
RightPlug is a standard created by the RightPlug Alliance (a non-profit corporation in Illinois). The members of this organization hope to create a universally accepted way of coding the necessary information into inexpensive microchips based on an open standard. RightPlug digital encoding uses the IEC/ISO 14443 Standard for Proximity Identification Cards. The primary application of this standard is RFID technology widely used in identification and tracking of freight, digital payment cards and electronic ticketing. ISO14443 is a short range passive technology designed to work in the 0 to 10cm range.
A RightPlug encoding tag consists of a passive transponder chip based on the ISO14443B standard and a patch antenna assembled in a form factor that fits into electrical cord plugs. It does not require any power source. The antenna receives the signal that is basically a request to provide the information. The chip turns some of this energy into electricity powering the circuit and transmits the encoded information back using the antenna.
The information in these tags contains the code for the manufacturer, model number, and some other identifiers. This makes it possible to track and direct the appliances. It also enables the system to filter out counterfeit items that are potentially not manufactured to the required electrical safety standards and as such possibly dangerous.
The information in the tag can also contain data related to the maximum ratings of the expected electrical values. If an appliance would consume 2 Amps under normal conditions and all of a sudden it is pulling 5 Amps, it would be a clear indication that the device is faulty. When the appliance is plugged into an intelligent outlet the receptacle can measure the current. If the plug can also tell the outlet what is out of the ordinary, the outlet can make a decision that the appliance is faulty and disconnect the specific receptacle thus potentially avoiding any accidents (a person getting electrical shock, or starting a fire).
If these intelligent outlets are connected in a network, the system can alert a maintenance technician right away about a potential issue at a certain location. A decision making algorithm can even offer a diagnosis and possible solutions based on the measured values by the receptacle.
All these may sound futuristic and expensive. The RightPlug technology may not even be the winning standard at the end. The RFID tags are widely used already in other competing formats. However, safety certainly seems to increasingly overwrite concerns about cost. The decreased maintenance cost might even balance some of that out.
More about the RightPlug Alliance at http://www.rightplug.org/