The Power Aware Cord is a magnificent project by Anton Gustafsson and Magnus Gyllenswärd, part of the Static! team from Sweden’s experimental Interactive Institute. The piece works in much the same way as any other power bar, but has the added (glorious) feature of “a dynamic visualization along the cord where the current use of electricity is represented through glowing pulses, flow, and intensity of light” (p. 1423). I know what you’re thinking right now: “where can I get one of these?” – when you find out, let me know.
Much like the “Show-me,” the Power Aware Cord is an ambient feedback tool. In the paper “The Power-aware cord: energy awareness through ambient information display,” the authors suggest that ambient display, in this case the use of light, is a more intuitive demarcation of energy use than are measures such as watts or kWh. The basic premise is that people might not need to know exactly how many watts are being pulled from the wall to think about unplugging things when they are not in use.
Some details on how the Cord is constructed are available in the paper by Gustafsson and Gyllenswärd, making it possible for those who have a little electroluminescent wire kicking around and an experimental streak to make one for yourself.
Most of those who were exposed to the piece recognized that the blue light signified energy use, however, there appeared to be some mixed reviews on the efficacy and desirability of the pulse, flow and intensity of the light. More research would be needed to test the ability of such a tool to raise awareness, and to further understand if it would lead to decreases in energy consumption as one might expect.
Source: Gustafsson, A., and M. Gyllenswärd. “The power-aware cord: Energy awareness through ambient information display.” In CHI’05 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 1423–1426, 2005. http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1056932.