EVOLUTION OF POWERED OUTLETS

EVOLUTION OF POWERED OUTLETS

THE STORY

HOW IT BEGAN

Bill, an avid tech enthusiast, took on a Home Automation project.

He started off with upgrading a traditional ‘On/Off’ wall switch with a ‘smart’ UPB dimmable switch.

The latest model came with pigtails, all ready to be wired, once the old switch was removed.

Of course, this required powering off the circuit and removing the decorative faceplate and yanking the switch out of the electrical box…

Wondering what it is that is lurking from inside the wall?

Behind The Wall

The faceplate removed and the light switch pulled out, the switch box was uncovered.

What was looking from inside the wall was a rat’s nest of cables, splices, pigtails and wire nuts – all jammed together.

Not an inspiring sight, is it?

There did not seem to be much space left to accommodate the bigger size new dimmer switch.

It took some major pushing and shoving of the stiff pesky wires into the back corners of the outlet to make space for the new gadget piece.

As it turned out, the home and office outlet boxes were not very sturdy, nor designed to make things easy – quite the opposite.

As Bill worked the new dimmer switch into its place, the outlet box started shifting and challenged him to learn an artful skill of ‘precision fitting’ on the fly.

Fast forward half an hour – skill acquired, the switch finally wired up, shoved and forced into the position flush with the wall surface.

Half an hour work. Sounds reasonable. Right?

Well, there were yet another 35 outlets to go… and it only got worse with adding multi-gang outlets into the mix.

Bill spent a couple more days meticulously rewiring and refitting switches, receptacles, and light fixtures, while thinking the thoughts:

“There must be a better way!”

and

“Why is this happening???”,

A curious thought indeed.

So, let us take a closer look at the roots of this “Why”?

CONSUMER TECH EVOLUTION

Let There Be A Light Bulb!

Electricity became a common utility over a century ago.

Since then, technologies, serving consumer segment, have advanced tremendously —

— and so have the ways we interact with electrically powered appliances and devices.

Evolution of Things

As the word ‘evolution’ hints, we have consistently got better at selecting things – deciding on which ones to keep to ourselves and which – to gift away.

The consumer technology products (‘the things’) have improved in terms of:

  • material characteristics and quality
  • standards of engineering design and manufacturing
  • variety of product types and their functional versatility
Engineering of Things

Scientific discoveries – both accidental and those claimed as intentional, lead us to generational break-throughs in creating consumer-oriented technologies and their application use-cases that just did not exist before.

We may attribute integration of:

  • Electronics, and
  • Network Connectivity

into consumer tech products, as the biggest impacts on their evolution.

We Started with a Light Bulb

And Switched a 'Flip' to an 'App'

Is Future Still Bright (Like A Light Bulb)?

Why of course!

There is an ongoing progress in the development of consumer technology products, which require use of electricity, ranging from:

  • portable gadgets and household appliances to
  • computerized home automation systems, and to
  • electrified motorized scooters and vehicles
Good, you say?
Well, not so fast.

THE PROBLEM

'FITTINGLY' OUTGROWN

Remember "Behind The Wall"?

In the same period it took to develop technology for controlling a ‘light bulb’ with a smartphone app, there has been little progress in ways of delivering electrical power to its utilization points, aka ‘electrical outlets‘, or ‘power outlets‘.

Electrical outlet is an interface point for the two counterpart layers, which we may refer to as:

  • Host Layer, and
  • Client Layer

In this sense, the consumer end-use products would belong to the Client Layer and the power distribution systems, which energize the client devices would belong to the Host Layer.

Eh… So what is with this ‘there has been little progress’ claim now?

Let us address ‘the elephant in the room’, or more fittingly (get it?), ‘the monster in the wall’.

Back In The Days:
'Frankenstein' Style

Today:
Monster Is Still In The Wall!

So, Are We Still Wiring Then?

Evolution vs Innovation

We surely have progressed in the ways of bringing electrical power to end-use devices, haven’t we? Just take the ‘smart’ outlets and switches as an example!

A familiar thought and yet – here is what a typical installation of the latest and greatest ‘smart’ device still looks like.

Yep.

We Are Still Wiring. Manually.

There is an obvious disparity between the ongoing evolution in the ‘Client Layer’ and what seems to be a covered up mess of outdated techniques that involve a lot of manual labor and unfriendly entanglement of stiff wires, or what we call, the ‘Host Layer’.

The Host Layer equipment is usually hidden on the other side of:

  • a wall – if it’s a wall outlet or a switch
  • a ceiling – if it’s a chandelier, or any other lighting or a fan fixture
  • a floor – if it’s an outlet you like to step on occasionally
  • any other interior surface really, be it a cooking top, an office desk, and so on

Thus, the status-quo has been to not worry about the Host Layer – for as long as the wiring is not visible and is on the ‘other side’

Outa Sight, Outa Mind, Say You?
Well, "this claim is disputed".

TECHNOLOGICAL GAP

"This" Side Ain't Any Prettier

Earlier, we looked at an illustration of how Consumer Technology Products have evolved for the ‘better’ over time – we went from a simple light bulb knob switch to a “smart” one.

We had a pretty simple use-case going for quite a while and then evolition happened:

How It Started

How It's Going

Client Layer - Closer Look

This instance of a “Client Layer” seems to illustrate a competition of sorts – among mutually incompatible, proprietary client devices with mismatching voltages and interfaces, all trying to access the “Host Layer” infrastructure and its relic design.

That is the point though – the status-quo for the Client Layer devices is to keep adapting and to contrive intermediary means to enable usability with power distribution systems, designed a century ago.

Houston, We've Got A Problem... Defined Below

We have reached a point of a technological gap between the ‘Client’ and ‘Host’ domains, rendering the legacy power infrastructures increasingly inadequate to serve the modern and forthcoming technological demands.

THE IMPACT

Why The Problem Exists

Limited Visibility

Products directly facing the Customer are most visible in the markets. These markets continually attract innovation, as evident from proliferation of applied technologies, brands, and use-cases of electrically powered devices in the Client Layer.

In contrast, the Host Layer is hidden “behind the wall”. It hardly reminds you of a bustling marketplace.

Terms like ‘power distribution equipment’, ‘wiring systems’, and ‘junction boxes’ have a high chance of making the Consumers wanna yawn and bring a blank “staring at a wall” look on their faces.

Somewhere, in the back of our minds we might have a vague idea of what function Host Layer serves – something to do with bringing electricity to the Client Layer utilization points.

Host Layer is a passive market segment. It is no wonder there is not much innovation happening on that front – or shall we say, “in the back”?

Limited visibility leads to limited innovation.

While R&D for end-use electrical devices is an ongoing norm, the platform that is supposed to power them up, is growing inadequate on all fronts of usability.

Here we are using a nanotechnology chip enabled gadget with the latest wireless charging pad from Apple, yet frantically looking for the right type of a dongle and a good ole’ outlet to plug the thing into.

Extrapolate this consumer technology development trend a bit into the future and you will see clearly how antique the Host Layer really is – limited visibility or not.

What We Are Addressing

Power Outlets

Infrastructure Equipment: physical architecture of wiring systems and a form factor of their hardware components have remained virtually unchanged:

  • we still awkwardly pull cables through junction boxes and jam them into an outlet box
  • we still happily shove the client devices into the ugly mess – not discriminating for whether it’s a conventional ‘dumb’ receptacle or the latest smart device ‘off the CES shelf’
A 'Rats Nest' of wire entanglements still prevails

Methodology: we continue to use century old methodology and tools to build and service electrical outlets:

  • the process is bound by inalterable nature of equipment
  • a trained skill is required to sort through an entanglement of stiff wires and to manually carry out a sequence of repetitious tasks, such as wire splicing and precision fitting
  • a skilled professional has to manage hazards of electrocution while performing simple tasks, due to exposed conductors and terminals
Legacy Standards

Regulations: wiring systems in our homes are governed by codes and standards, which were developed in the last century – for legacy power distribution systems, also designed in the last century.

In other words, we have regulations in place that restrict Consumers from directly interacting with electrical outlets ‘behind’ the faceplate and dictate how we to do things from a place of the past.

Besides, why would anyone want to mess with an outlet, unless necessary? And even then, we’d just need to call an electrician? Right?

A Filling Station Attendant was a thing - is Tesla Supercharger Attendant a thing?
Status-Quo

Regulations stipulate where you and your gadgets and appliances may interact with electricity around your house.

Sound a bit categorical?

They do though.

It is instilled in our minds that functional purposes of electrical outlets are preassigned at time of construction and they are permanently installed in predetermined spots around your home.

You, the Consumer, show up to an already established (and regulated by code) layout.

We stick to the notion of preassigned outlets within the interiors – often configured with little or no regard to the preference of an end user.

Do we even want to deal with configuring power outlets?

Spoiler alert: Yes.

In a sense, we already interact with and alter functionality of power outlets, which come in all sorts of forms, such as a receptacle, a light switch, a ceiling fan installation box, an in-built overhead lamp holder, an AC system thermostat connection box, and so on:

      • we augment a wall receptacle with a remotely controlled power strip
      • we upgrade a simple light switch with a ‘smart’ one
      • we decorate our rooms by replacing the boring lights with ‘smart’ bulbs, controlled by an mobile phone app
      • we do many more things with what the Client Layer tech has to offer

However, we always seem to be limited on what is possible in the Client Layer by the inflexibility of the Host Layer architecture.

We challenge this status-quo.

Why We Need To Solve This

Pain Points

Unintended consequences of only focusing on Client Layer innovations are becoming increasingly apparent in our daily lives. Here are some examples of the resulting pain points.

Infrastructure Perspective:

  • straight-up waste of resources due to outdated physical architecture of power outlets that compel an electrician to tediously perform repetitious tasks by hand, per each electrical outlet installation – there is no alternative solution with an automated process
  • unjustifiably high cost of achieving operational reliability and safety of wiring systems:
      • compared to moderns standards elsewhere in construction process, the process of end-use outlet points wiring is of an antique one
      • despite being tightly regulated and requiring a certified professional with knowledge of applicable codes, the job is highly prone to human error, especially when interconnecting complex electrical circuits
      • such errors may quickly lead to disproportionally expensive corrective measures of an error than its cause, e.g. having to tearing down and replacing an entire drywall just to fix a small wiring mistake

Consumer Tech Perspective:

  • proliferation of intermediary solutions to bridge the novel end-use devices with legacy platforms that are supposed to host them, yet require continual adapting and endless customizations, e.g.:
      • the latest and greatest model of your MacBook Pro or an iPhone inevitably ends with some kind of a converter, an adapter, a dongle – all ending with a plug in a wall; now, expand that image in your mind with all other cables and contraptions polluting your interior aesthetics and which you wished were ‘hidden behind that wall’
      • integration of home automation electronics or software enabled appliances with your conventional home wiring system that requires jumping through many hoops and spending a lot of money with no guarantee that you will like the end result – surely many may come up with a ‘story’ similar to Bill’s home improvement project
  • incompatibility of proprietary protocols:
      • you may ‘pledge allegiance’ to a particular IoT brand and commit to their proprietary hardware and operating system – only to find out in a few months that half of your family prefers something else, most likely non-compatible
      • or worse, your preferred vendor of choice decides to ‘pivot’ from their original technology development course or shut down their business altogether and you are stuck with an obsolete and non-functional system
  • skepticism of early adopters:
      • parade of brand allegiances and risks of rapid obsolescence of the new technology makes Consumers resist its adoption

Put simply, we observe the Problem brewing in both counter-part domains:

  • veiled symptoms of the infrastructure pain points in the Host Layer
  • mayhem of asynchronous attempts to deploy novel Client Layer tech onto a relic platform
Give Way to Innovation

There is a need for modernizing physical architecture of power distribution infrastructures, improving safety practices, and setting new standards of interconnecting wiring system components, allowing to speed up adoption of new and upcoming technology solutions at consumer level.

Despite the impressive amount of R&D conducted to develop future-oriented host layer infrastructures over the last decades, none of the relevant inventions have been adopted by the industry – there is evidence that inventors consistently failed to commercialize their intellectual property.

Our hypothesis is that scaling of prior art solutions had failed due to isolated and non-convergent efforts.

We see a path forward, where the Host Layer innovations will achieve market success through a standardized modular interface solution that would allow Client Layer devices to seamlessly integrate with and have uniform access to the underlying wiring systems, irrespective of proprietary origin.

Still onboard with us?
Let's Go!

PTX SOLUTION

THIS IS THE WAY

Plugs.

Plays.

Superior Technique

Pain Points Resolved

We resolved the issue of manual wiring nonsense and precision fitting for the outlets.

Portal Tex has developed a novel apparatus that delegates the otherwise manual tasks of splicing and interconnecting individual conductors of an outlet’s electrical circuit to a prebuilt bus set, which is compartmentalized inside an outlet assembly.

Our solution replaces outdated methodologies and allows to convert elements of traditional electrical wiring systems into independently configurable, mutually compatible and ready-to-go segmented units.

We designed auxiliary fixtures and tools to facilitate installing, servicing, replacing, and upgrading the electrical outlets and peripherals in a fast and reliable way.

Modernized Host Platform

Launchpad for Innovations

We are developing a new platform for both Host and Client devices to allow fast and seamless deployment of the latest consumer oriented technologies.

This means you will have a complete control over the what your futuristic home looks like inside and out – in terms its relationships with electrically powered technologies that is.

Our innovation, based on a plug-and-play modularization approach, redefines outdated concepts of interior wiring and power outlet interconnections within residential and commercial structures.

We focus on modernizing physical architecture of traditional infrastructures by encapsulating key functionalities of the host and client segments of the envisioned platform into independently configurable units, allowing to deploy, upgrade and substitute client side devices without having to alter the underlying host components or the other way around.

We work on disrupting the status-quo of traditional systems and offer a lower cost, more robust and time-efficient alternative, enabling rapid engineering, construction, and commissioning of household and public infrastructure projects.

Our ultimate goal is to help industries adapt a new standard of foundational infrastructures – one that encourages a symbiosis between key players of intersecting industries: manufacturers of electrical hardware, construction builders, utility suppliers, and digital technology companies.

'No Jargon' Clause

We realize that presenting novel concepts is done best by showing than wording – especially, when we use ‘made-up’ words!

Please proceed to the ‘Portals’ page, filled with illustrative description of the Host and Client assembly concepts.

Want to learn more about the Hosts and Clients?
Please visit the 'PORTALS' page:

Or, jump straight to the ‘Showcase’ page, where you will see these concepts working in various interior and exterior settings.

Want to 'take a peek at the future'?

Check out our 'The Future Is Bright' Vision: