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February 19, 2016updated 31 Aug 2016 5:10pm

Could blockchain slash energy bills? Accenture smart plug could save millions in energy costs

News: Prototype allows energy supplier to be changed minute-by-minute.

By Charlotte Henry

Accenture has unveiled a proof of concept for a smart plug that can adjust power consumption minute-by-minute. The firm said that it could help reduce the cost of energy bills.

The device, which uses a modified version of blockchain technology, could be of significant financial benefit to those on low incomes who pay for power directly, according to the systems integration giant.

Accenture has altered the blockchain, the technology that powers the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, to make it more active. The updated version in the smart plug negotiates deals on behalf of the owner instead of simply resolving and confirming transactions.

The prototype of the device works with other household gadgets that are monitoring power use, and the blockchain switches suppliers if it finds a cheaper energy source, when demand is high or low.

The research concluded that moving suppliers in this way could save a massive £660m per year for those on low incomes paying for power directly.

A system like this could become useful in the increasingly connected IoT world, Accenture believes.

Martin Garner, a mobile services expert at analyst CCS Insight, told the BBC that such systems "avoid dependence on any one supplier or ecosystem – some users have concerns about the potential dominance of key internet players creating, for example, the Google-of-Things or the Amazon-of-Things."

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He also said that they could be used "as a way of enabling autonomous trading between things, such as the appliances in your house being set up to re-order supplies from a pre-approved list of suppliers."

As well as powering Bitcoin, blockchain technology has potential uses in a range of industries, according to a report from big four auditor Deloitte. Examples the firm use in the report include insurance, banking, music and the public sector.

Accenture is one of the companies, alongside other major technology firms such as Fujitsu, Cisco, Red Hat, IBM and Hitachi, who are contributing to a Hyperledger open source project.

IBM is also opening IBM Garages in major cities worldwide to allow customers to build blockchain based products, and will also launch services aiming to help software developers create blockchain services that use RFID tags on its mainframe computers.

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