Crowd & Proud: Brio - Saving Lives via Smart Power Outlets

Re-engineered power outlets help keep your kids from being shocked by anything other than your choice in music.
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Re-engineered power outlets help keep your kids from being shocked by anything other than your choice in music.

Re-engineering home power outlets results in a new kind of safety net. Brio high tech power outlets help eliminate hazards, outlet fires and electrical shock –a common at-home injury for children under 10.

One of the most basic elements of any home is in many ways patently unsafe. If you’ve ever been shocked by a power outlet (or had the misfortune of experiencing a small child getting shocked accidently), then you’ll understand the concept of Brio, a new kind of power outlet designed to eliminate shock hazards.

It is the reinvention of 80-year old technology,” explains Jocelyn Painter, the spokesperson for the the San Diego-based developers of Brio. The impetus to create a shockproof outlet came from engineers asking and answering: “Why are we living this problem? And why don’t we fix it?"

The micro-electronic technology adds a “dormant” state to the standard 120-volt electrical outlet, so that it automatically supplies electricity only when it is needed, transforming a “dumb” always-on outlet into a smart enabled appliance. The new, patented technology can differentiate between a finger (or other object) and a plug connected to a light or an appliance that draws an electrical current.

In the United States there are 3.25 billion outlets in homes; and there are 15 million households with children under 6. The traditional way to childproof outlets is to insert easily removable plastic plugs or capped covers to the outlets. Although the outlets are covered, they are still “live.” Brio outlets don’t provide electricity (or draw electricity) until the appliance/light is actually turned on (possibly an energy saver too).

“It’s so surprising that no one has thought of this before,” says Painter of the device, which is easily installed and is made to fit into the same-sized box as a standard always-on outlet. While it fits into the same sized hole, the faceplate is circular rather than a rectangle and is nominally larger in size, explains Painter in order to differentiate the Brio. At rest, there are zero volts of electricity in the outlet. When an appropriate plug is inserted, then a microprocessor kicks in and once the device is turned on, Brio amps up the power.

The ongoing Kickstarter.com campaign (ends December 18, 2014) is intended to help launch the product, increase visibility and get the word out to consumers. (Early adopters can pledge $39 for an outlet; other pledge levels net Brio outlets as well as a promise to donate an outlet to a licensed daycare center.) “We are looking for some market validation, to get some commentary, and open the kimono so to speak as we have, been under wraps,” notes Pointer of the campaign.

Initial response from the technology world has been very positive. Brio will be showcased in January at CES, the massive Consumer Electronics Show where innovative products go to market. It has already earned three 2015 CES innovation awards in the Tech for a Better World, Home Appliances and Accessible Technologies categories.

In 2015, the wireless Brio Smart home safety system will also come to market. It’s designed to perform as an indoor safety mesh providing sensors that indicate unsafe levels of smoke, carbon monoxide and water. As with traditional detectors, there will be an audible alert. A mobile app will allow for off-site monitoring as well.

The commercial possibilities –and the ability to make buildings safer--are compelling from homes to offices, to daycare, schools and assisted living facilities, “the applications are worldwide in all kinds of environments,” adds Pointer of the next level, digital home technology.

http://www.briohouse.com/