CalPlug Hosts High-Wattage Visitors

By Anna Lynn Spitzer

Irvine, Ca, April 8th, 2013 -- U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez tried her hand last week at the Kilowatt Hour Challenge. So did Phillip Ramos, founder and CEO of Philatron Wire and Cable, the largest wire and cable manufacturer in Southern California.

Both were treated to a tutorial on plug load energy efficiency as they toured the California Plug Load Research Center (CalPlug) at UC Irvine’s Calit2 with institute Director G.P. Li and CalPlug Technology Manager Arthur Zhang.

Student research teams demonstrated several CalPlug projects, including “the Wall of Power,” where consumers can control energy usage of a host of home appliances while seeing their real-time energy consumption; the Kilowatt Hour Challenge, which tests awareness of electronic devices’ energy usage and savings potential; and the set-top box display, where prototypes of next-generation energy-efficient set-top boxes are in development. 

Calit2 Irvine director G.P. Li (right) welcomes Ramos (left) and Sanchez to the California Plug Load Research Center

Sanchez and Ramos also met DigiPal, a robot conceived and designed at CalPlug to serve as a patient liaison in a project that seeks to help connect ill children, confined to hospitals or homes, with their classrooms. The effort is a partnership among CalPlug, Children’s Hospital of Orange County, Cox Communications and the Orange County Board of Education.

CalPlug, established to improve energy efficiency in the use and design of appliances and consumer electronic devices, seeks to create technology that is user-friendly. “Technology can be very helpful but if it’s too complicated or difficult, people won’t use it,” Zhang said. “Our design approach is to make technology that is ready for consumers to adopt.”

Sanchez, who serves California’s 46th congressional district, is interested in energy efficiency not just for her constituents but in her own home as well. She said she does not own a set-top box or even a television. “The best way to save energy is not to use it. I have no time to watch TV,” she commented. In addition, she unplugs all appliances when they’re not in use. “I told her she must be the best citizen in all of Orange County,” Zhang joked.

Li, who showed Sanchez through the Calit2 eHealth Collaboratory last year on her first visit to the institute, said her most recent visit was a motivating factor for CalPlug’s student research team. “The interactions she had with them, and her comments and suggestions inspire them to design solutions that can benefit the public good.”