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183UKPD         © 2004-5 PatentlyProtected.com
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ABSTRACT
A power block or master plug able to receive electronic instructions from a computer via a data cable, and
to controllably transmit AC with a root mean squared voltage of at least 100 volts according to received
instructions and a method and computer program for the same. The control is provided by USB.

A USB controlled power block or masterplug


This invention relates to a Universal Standard Bus (USB) controlled power block or masterplug, and
computer software for a remote computer for the same. It is applicable to the fields of security, energy
saving and leisure.  

In the past various types domestic power blocks or masterplugs have been known, many of which
comprised on-off switches. They have the disadvantage that it is necessary to travel to the switch location
to turn each socket on or off, or that is it not possible to selectively turn each socket on or off.
Attempts have been made to solve this problem including recourse to providing wirelessly controlled
power blocks or masterplugs. Infra-red remote control being arguably the cheapest of the available
wireless technologies has been attempted as normal power blocks or masterplugs are relatively
inexpensive and a large price increase would be a deterrent to most consumers. This technology also has
the disadvantage of requiring a user to be roughly within line of sight or at least in the same room as the
receiving Infra-red device. And so it is difficult to enable a user to control all the lights in a building.
The data transfer protocol X10 has been used to substantial effect to control household and office devices.
This involves sending data along the power cables already wired into the building so that a computer can
control devices such as X10 enabled power blocks or masterplugs. Although this might have been an
ideal solution, users typically do not install X10 unless they plan to invest in and connect a variety of X10
devices within their home. As a result, uptake of the technology has been relatively slow and the
associated costs do not appear to reduce greatly in the coming years.
Other wireless technologies are still prohibitively expensive and so the vast majority of users (I.e. the
majority of the world’s population) still have to get up and walk across the room every time that a peripheral
device needs to be turned on or off, or in many cases peripheral devices are unnecessarily left on to save
effort, whilst wasting energy.
It would therefore be desirable to provide a means whereby users need not install specialist data transfer
equipment but can control affordable power blocks or masterplugs from anywhere in a building.

It is an object of the present invention to provide a means by which a user may control a power block or
masterplug remotely.
It is a further object of the present invention to provide an affordable means by which a user may control a
power block or masterplug remotely.

According to a first aspect of the present invention there is provided a power block or masterplug
comprising a USB or firewire connector, at least two power pins extending therefrom and at least one
power socket thereon, the power block or masterplug adapted to at least receive electronic instructions via
the USB or firewire connector, to receive at least alternating electric current with a root mean squared
voltage of at least 100 volts, and to controllably transmit electrical power therefrom via any of the at least
one power socket on the basis of received instructions.
According to a second aspect of the present invention there is provided a computer program adapted to
control a computer to recognise any USB or firewire connected power blocks or masterplugs, to display a
user interface displaying a representation of any such connected power blocks or masterplugs, to accept
user instructions at least for controlling any such connected power blocks or masterplugs, and to transmit
data instructions electronically via USB or firewire to any such connected power blocks or masterplugs
adapted to controllably transmit electrical power according to the user instructions.

For a better understanding of the invention and to show how the same may be carried into effect, reference
will now be made, by way of example, to the accompanying drawings, in which:
Figure 1 is an illustration of a known power block;
Figure 2 is a diagram of a power block or masterplug according to one embodiment of the invention;
Figure 3 is a diagram of a power block or masterplug according to another embodiment of the invention;
and
Figure 4 is a diagram of a power block or masterplug according to a further embodiment of the invention.

According to a general embodiment of the first aspect there is provided a power block or masterplug
comprising a data cable connector and adapted to at least receive electronic instructions via the data cable
connector, to receive at least alternating electric current with a root mean squared voltage of at least 100
volts, and to controllably transmit electrical power therefrom on the basis of received instructions.
According to one embodiment the data cable connector may be a USB data cable connector.
According to another embodiment the data cable connector may be a firewire (TM) data cable connector.
According to another embodiment the data cable connector may be a serial data cable connector.
According to any of the embodiments the power block or masterplug may comprise at least one single
throw switch and be adapted to receive electronic instructions representing at least an ‘on’ command and
an ‘off’ command.
According to any of the embodiments the power block or masterplug may be adapted to transmit
information representing at least a power level or a power status.
According to any of the embodiments the power block or masterplug may comprise a light measuring
means and be adapted to transmit information representing a measured light level via a data cable
connector.
According to any of the embodiments the power block or masterplug may comprise a hub adapted to
receive digital information addressed to any of the power block or masterplug and any other connected
devices and to provide the digital information to the power block or masterplug if the digital information is
addressed to the lights with and to otherwise transmit the digital information to any connected device to
which the digital information is addressed.
According to any of the embodiments the power block or masterplug may have a space for a hub.
According to any of the embodiments the power block or masterplug may comprise a mechanical switch
adapted to mechanically open and close an electrical circuit and to controllably transmit alternating current
with a root mean squared voltage of at least 100 volts.
According to any of the embodiments the power block or masterplug may comprise at least one power
button adapted to electrically or electronically control a power switch adapted to controllably transmit
alternating current with a root mean squared voltage of at least 100 volts.

According to a general embodiment of the second aspect there is provided a computer program adapted
to control a computer to recognise any connected power block or masterplug or power blocks or
masterplugs, to display a user interface displaying a representation of any connected power block or
masterplug or power blocks or masterplugs, to accept user instructions at least for controlling any
connected power block or masterplug or power blocks or masterplugs, and to transmit data instructions
electronically via a data cable connector to a power block or masterplug adapted to controllably transmit
electrical power to control a transmitted electrical power according to the user instructions.
According to another embodiment of the fifth aspect there is provided a computer program adapted to
control a computer to recognise any connected power block or masterplug or power blocks or
masterplugs, to recognise any additional connected devices, to display a user interface displaying a
representation of any connected power block or masterplug or power blocks or masterplugs or any
additional recognised connected devices, to accept user instructions at least for controlling any connected
power block or masterplug or power blocks or masterplugs or any additional recognised connected
devices, and to transmit data instructions electronically via a data cable connector to a power block or
masterplug adapted to controllably transmit electrical power to control a transmitted electrical power
according to the user instructions.
According to any embodiment of the fifth aspect the user instructions at least for controlling any connected
power block or masterplug or power blocks or masterplugs may include user instructions specifying a rule
for controlling any recognised connected power blocks or masterplugs of additional recognised devices
according to user specified parameters and during user specified time periods.
According to any embodiment of the fifth aspect the accepting user instructions at least for controlling any
connected power block or masterplug or power blocks or masterplugs may include accepting voice
instructions at least for controlling any connected power block or masterplug or power blocks or
masterplugs via at least a microphone.
According to any embodiment of the fifth aspect accepting user instructions at least for controlling any
connected power block or masterplug or power blocks or masterplugs may include accepting voice
instructions at least for controlling any connected power block or masterplug or power blocks or
masterplugs via a remote connection to a remote device.
According to any embodiment of the fifth aspect accepting user instructions at least for controlling any
connected power block or masterplug or power blocks or masterplugs may include accepting voice
instructions at least for controlling any connected power block or masterplug or power blocks or
masterplugs via a wireless connection to a remote device.
According to any embodiment of the fifth aspect accepting user instructions at least for controlling any
connected power block or masterplug or power blocks or masterplugs may include accepting voice
instructions at least for controlling any connected power block or masterplug or power blocks or
masterplugs via a Bluetooth (TM) connection to a Bluetooth (TM) enabled portable device.
According to any embodiment of the fifth aspect accepting user instructions at least for controlling any
connected power block or masterplug or power blocks or masterplugs may include accepting digital
instructions via any of at least one infra-red receiving device from a remote control.
According to any embodiment of the fifth aspect accepting user instructions at least for controlling any
connected power block or masterplug or power blocks or masterplugs may include accepting remote
instructions via the internet.
According to any embodiment of the fifth aspect accepting user instructions at least for controlling any
connected power block or masterplug or power blocks or masterplugs may include accepting remote
instructions sent via a website.
According to any embodiment of the fifth aspect accepting user instructions at least for controlling any
connected power block or masterplug or power blocks or masterplugs may include accepting remote
instructions sent via a wireless keyboard.

A power block or masterplug controllable by a data bus or data cable is proposed which may receive
digital instructions from the data bus or data cable via a data cable connector. The power block or
masterplug will preferably be controllable both manually and electronically.
Such a controllable power block or masterplug may be constructed in a first fashion having a mechanical
switch but additionally have an actuator adapted to move the mechanical switch.
Such a controllable power block or masterplug as described may be constructed in a second fashion
having an electronic switch and at least one power button adapted to provide electronic control of the
electronic switch.
Such a controllable power block or masterplug as described may be constructed in a third fashion having
a mechanical switch and an electronic switch each being single pole double throw switches, the
mechanical switch being manually switchable and the electronic switch being electronically controllable,
the two switches connected together in a three-way switch configuration such that switching either switch
will change a power state between ‘on’ and ‘off’. Preferably there may additionally be provided means to
determine a power state and to communicate such a determination via the data cable connector to a
connected computer. Preferably the means to determine a power state comprises an electronic voltage
detector.
Yet further alternatively the means to determine a power state may comprise a contact detector for a
contact arranged to be variably contacted according to a position of the mechanical switch. Yet further
alternatively the means to determine a power state may be the mechanical switch being a double pole
switch, the second part or pole of which need not be double throw and need not be adapted to convey
alternating current with a root mean squared voltage of at least 100V.
A remotely controlled power block or masterplug is advantageous over a remotely controlled power
extension as a power extension is naturally prone to being moved around a room, whenever any
connected power lead is pulled and this has been found to frequently result in the unintended release of
the controlling USB or firewire cable. Any attempts to secure the controlling cable are useless as the cable
will simply release from the controlling device such as a computer at the other end of the cable. A power
block or masterplug may be positioned on a wall socket whereupon this effect ceases and there is also a
reduction in the number of unsightly cables in the room especially away from the walls where cables are
normally preferred. Power extensions are inexpensive and a user may wish to attach multiple extensions
to the power block.


Description of the Preferred Embodiments.
An embodiment of this invention will now be explained with reference to the drawings. This invention is for
use as an audio data receptacle. Figure 2 shows a power block or masterplug according to one
embodiment.
According to a preferred embodiment there is provided a power block or masterplug adapted to receive
and to variably transmit electrical power, being alternating current with a root mean squared voltage of at
least 100V. The power block or masterplug is able to be both manually switched and electronically
switched. Manual switching is performed by manually moving a power switch, and electronic switching is
performed by sending electronic instructions to the power block or masterplug via a USB data cable
connector. Both the manual switch and the electronic switch are double throw switches and are connected
together in a three way switch configuration. This ensures that even when no computer or hub is
connected to the switch via USB it will still be possible to control the power block or masterplug manually.
The electronic switch either has a default state when no power is available for electronic components or
will remain in either state when power is cut to any electronic components.
The manual switch is provided as a double pole double throw switch where only a first pole is connected
to the electronic switch. The second pole is connected to the electronic components such that an
electronic determination of the manual switch position may be made. One of the two throw connectors of
the second pole of the manual switch is either absent or may be disconnected such that the arrangement
may be equivalent to the second pole being a single throw switch.  
Accordingly the power block or masterplug may be controlled manually and may be controlled by a remote
computer, and in the case of not being connected to a USB cable the power block or masterplug will
operate as a manual power switch. The power block or masterplug will react to conflicting manual and
electronic control by accepting manual control where possible. The power block or masterplug is adapted
to transmit information regarding a power status via the USB connector to a connected computer.
Figure 3 shows a circuit diagram according to the above preferred embodiment.
The manual switch is provided as a double pole double throw switch where only a first pole is connected
to the electronic switch. The second pole is connected to the electronic components such that an
electronic determination of the manual switch position may be made. One of the two throw connectors of
the second pole of the manual switch is either absent or may be disconnected such that the arrangement
may be equivalent to the second pole being a single throw switch.
The electronic switch either has a default state when no power is available for electronic components or
will remain in either state when power is cut to any electronic components.
Accordingly the power block or masterplug may be controlled by a remote computer, and in the case of not
being connected to a USB cable the power block or masterplug will operate as a normal power block or
masterplug without any dimming function. The power block or masterplug is adapted to transmit
information regarding a power status and a power level via the USB connector to a connected computer.
Figure 4 shows a circuit diagram according to the above preferred embodiment.
The power block or masterplug may preferably have at least three independently controllable power
sockets, more preferably at least 4, and yet more preferably at least 5.

CLAIMS

1. A power block or masterplug comprising a body, a data cable connector, at least one power socket and
at least two power pins extending from the body, and adapted to at least receive electronic instructions via
the data cable connector, to receive at least alternating electric current with a root mean squared voltage of
at least 100 volts, and to controllably transmit electrical power therefrom on the basis of received
instructions.

2. A power block or masterplug of claim 1 comprising at least one mechanical switch.

3. A power block or masterplug of claim 1 or 2 comprising at least one electronic switch.

4. A power block or masterplug of claim 1, 2 or 3 comprising at least one mechanical at least double throw
switch and at least one electronic at least double throw switch.

5. A power block or masterplug of claim 1, 2, 3 or 4 wherein the data cable connector is a USB data cable
connector and said electronic instructions are received via USB.

6. A power block or masterplug of one of claims 1 to 5 adapted to transmit information via the data cable
connector indicating at least one of a power level and a power status.

7. A power block or masterplug of one of claims 1 to 6 comprising a wireless receiver and wherein the
power block or masterplug is at least adapted to transmit information received wirelessly via the data
cable connector.

8. A method of controlling a light having the steps of receiving alternating electric current with a root mean
squared voltage of at least 100 volts, transmitting electrical power, receiving electronic instructions via a
data cable connector and controlling the transmitted electrical power according to received electronic
instructions.

9. A computer system comprising a data cable connector, adapted to send electronic instructions to the
power block or masterplug of the first aspect via the data cable connector to control the controllably
transmitted electrical power.

10. A computer program adapted to control a computer to perform the method having the steps of:
recognising at least one connected power block;
displaying a user interface displaying a representation of the at least one connected power block;
accept user instructions at least for controlling the connected power block;
transmitting data instructions electronically via a data cable connector to a power block or masterplug
adapted to controllably transmit electrical power to control a transmitted electrical power according to the
user instructions.

11. A computer program adapted to control a computer to recognise any connected power block or
masterplug or power blocks or masterplugs of any of claims 1 to 4, to display a user interface displaying a
representation of any connected power block or masterplug or power blocks or masterplugs,        to accept
user instructions at least for controlling any connected power block or masterplug or power blocks or
masterplugs, and to transmit data instructions electronically via a data cable connector to a power block or
masterplug adapted to controllably transmit electrical power to control a transmitted electrical power
according to the user instructions.

12. A computer program of claim 11 wherein said user instructions include user defined rules relating to
later control of any connected power block or masterplug or switch.         
13. A computer program of claim 11 or 12 adapted to permit a user to set-up keyboard short-cut keys to
represent predetermined user instructions.

14. A computer program of claim 11, 12 or 13 wherein said user instructions include user instructions
received via any available internet connection or network connection.

15. A computer program of claim 11, 12, 13 or 14 wherein said user instructions include voice instructions.

16. A computer program of claim 11, 12, 13, 14 or 15 wherein said user instructions include an instruction
to control any connected power block or masterplug or power blocks or masterplugs according to detected
features of a music audio data signal.

17. A computer program of any one of claims 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 or 17 wherein said user instructions
include instructions received via a wireless connection.

18. A power block adapted to be remotely controllable as hereinbefore described with reference to figures
2 to 4.

19. A method for controlling a power block as hereinbefore described with reference to figures 2 to 4.

20. A computer program for controlling a computer to control and power blocks or masterplugs connected
thereto as hereinbefore described with reference to figures 2 to 4.
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