John La Grou's SafePlugs

By Brianne McCleary

John La Grou envisions a future where all electrical outlets are "smart" -- so they can prevent fires, save lives and help conserve energy. But he is not just sitting around 'envisioning', he has built a fully functioning version of this outlet and needs everyone to help spread the word.

La Grou is co-founder of Safeplug, a system of power outlets with microprocessors and plugs with memory chips that can be slid onto existing plugs to retrofit them. At a recent talk at the Palm Springs TED conference (Technology, Entertainment & Design), LaGrou pointed out that Thomas Edison invented the circuit beaker in 1879, and some 83 percent of home fires start below the circuit breaker safety limit. Safeplug addresses this by detecting overloads at the outlet level. The system also prevents shocks and saves "vampire" or "phantom" power by only providing power to used outlets.

The interview with John La Grou after TED can be read here.

A simple video explaining how the SafePlugs work can be found here, at and at

It took years for GFCI (ground fault interrupt) switches (the ones with Test and Reset buttons) to catch on but now they are common practice. You almost never see outlets in bathrooms or kitchens without them. The same is true for smoke alarms.

John La Grou hopes to save lives and energy. Let's help him spread the word so his SafePlugs catch on and become the new stanard quicker.