Here's a smart way to reduce energy consumption: My Plug, created by French telecommunications company Orange. The concept is straightforward: It's a power strip turned on or off by text message. The My Plug has its own phone number, which you program into your phone. Text it commands like "on," "off," or "etat," to know whether it's active or not.
There's a lot I like about this device, which was released in June. It will let you turn on your heat while you're on the way home, or turn it off if you forgot to do so on the way out the door. It even alerts you if your power goes out. All good stuff.
There are significant downsides, however. There are only two plugs and one USB connection, why not a few more? More alarming is the cost: 79.99 €, around $100. That's a lot of money for a product I'm sure someone with some programming skills could make pretty cheaply. The first three years of service for the device are free; Orange doesn't note how much it will cost after that.
The fact that My Plus is coming from Orange, a major phone provider in France, shows that there's a mainstream demand for energy-saving devices, and that's good news. Hopefully that will drive down the price, and make the idea more practical.