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Humble USB Cables Poised to Become Powerful

October 24, 2013 By Linda Hardesty

Energy Manage USBIt has become a common practice to charge cell phones and other small devices by plugging them into a computer with a Universal Serial Bus (USB) cable. But in 2014, the USB cable will be able to provide power to bigger electronic devices, according to The Economist.

USB cables only supply up to 10 watts of direct current (DC) per the existing standard, but next year, a new USB Power Delivery (PD) standard will permit up to 100 watts.

According to USB.org, the USB PD standard includes:

  • Increased power levels from existing USB standards up to 100 W.
  • Power direction is no longer fixed. This enables the product with the power (Host or Peripheral) to provide the power.
  • Optimize power management across multiple peripherals by allowing each device to take only the power it requires, and to get more power when required for a given application.
  • Intelligent and flexible system level management of power via optional hub communication with the PC.
  • Allows low power cases such as headsets to negotiate for only the power they require.

The boost to USBs could make DC the preferred way to power low-voltage devices, says The Economist, explaining that it takes an extra step to turn alternating current (AC) into the direct current required to power transistors in electronic equipment. This is usually accomplished through an adaptor. But these are relatively inefficient, turning power into heat; and they’re always on.

Not only can more powerful USBs charge devices with a DC current, but USBs can also carry data, which opens the possibilities for “smart” connections between devices.

The first USB PD devices will come to market in 2014, but Brad Saunders of Intel told The Economist to expect a “big roll-out” in 2015.

Photo: USB cable via Shutterstock


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