It’s about time we get the adapter equivalent of the Universal Remote Control. Ever since engineer Doug Palmer lost his cell phone charger (a hardship that has practically become part of the shared human experience), he has sought to develop an adapter that supplies power to every last iPod, laptop and digital camera.
Now, such a device is in the works at California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology. There, Palmer is creating an adapter that can communicate with its wall socket. When an electronic is hooked up to his “smart” device, it will request the exact amount of voltage it needs–and no more. This is a substantial improvement to current adapters, which use 100 to 200 more volts than necessary. For a few more bucks, customers can also purchase a solar panel to power their adapter, thus bypassing the energy-sucking U.S. power grid altogether.