Friday, August 22, 2008

Wireless Power

I just read this article about Intel's new R&D toy that transmits power wirelessly and safely.

Pretty cool stuff, but before it comes to market, they'll have some challenges to overcome: how do you protect your power from being stolen? I'm assuming in this future utopian society that we'll still have to pay for the power we consume, so how do I keep my neighbor from just turning off his power and living off my wireless feed? Will every lamp, phone, computer, appliance, and ceiling fan require some sort of communications security package?

With my wireless network, only recognized MAC addresses are even allowed to connect. So buying a new electric razor might some day involve taking it to a power console, copying a serial number or other unique identifier into the console, and then connecting it. Will consumers accept the inconvenience of security or the higher bills of stolen power? Or will all electric consumers have to get pushed to a flat fee? Government involvement? Power as tax?*

Don't get me wrong: I'm excited about never having to charge my cell phone again, but there will have to be some very carefully orchestrated infrastructure development and policy-planning before this takes off, or else we'll be constantly struggling to legislate after-the-fact.

*Please do not get excited about the prospect of guaranteeing citizens' rights to power through taxation or direct government involvement. Subsequent questions arise about what level of government provides the power: federal, state, or local. Each has its ramifications and implications:
  • Federally-guaranteed power would require similar levels of taxation from all Americans, which either puts undue strain on under-developed localized economies that might not need wireless power service, or puts undue strain on the wealthy to shore up the nation's infrastructure.
  • State-level subsidization might leave some states without any infrastructure, and complex power-sharing/purchasing schemes would again hurt local economies during periods of high consumption (see California's constant need to buy power from out-of-state, and New York's super-badass power outage from a few years ago).
  • Local wireless sets up stiff competition between adjacent municipalities and functionally encourages theft of power by those who live close enough to demesne borders.
But then, any subsidization comes at the additional cost of either significantly over-priced power being sold by corporations to the government, or significantly under-performing power being produced by inefficient government agencies. So yeah, free enterprise is the ticket here.

1 comment:

David Gerard said...

I'm sure it's completely safe and there's nothing to worry about!