March 22, 2012 at 1:35 PM ET
The cost to power up and logon at your favorite coffee shop may soon be more than the price of a double-tall latte thanks to a new plug developed by Sony that can track your laptop's energy usage and bill you for it.
In addition to sucking more money from customers, the technology could be used to monitor individual devices and shutdown power to non-essential appliances during a power surge.
In this smart-grid scenario, your air conditioner and fridge might keep running during a heat wave, but the clothes dryer might get turned off since you could easily hang them up to dry.
The Authentication Outlets are another entry into the market that help consumers monitor their energy consumption and, perhaps, get in the habit of turning off gadgets and appliances when they are not in use.
It works using Sony's FeilCa technology, a sort of contactless smart card commonly used as a train fare card or electronic platform, not too different from loading up your Starbucks card.
When a device is plugged in, a chip built into the plug relays information to a reader/writer on the outlet side that matches it for authentication and monitoring of consumption, DigInfo explains.
The plug and reader/writer currently communicate wirelessly, but the company is working on the technology to do it through a power cable.
"The authenticated equipment can be managed via the cloud and its power supply can also be controlled," DigInfo notes.
Cloud management is particularly useful for the heat wave scenario, allowing the shutdown of non-essential appliances, but keeping, for example, life-support systems on.
"This system also can identify users and supply them with power for a specific amount of time. So in the future it could be used for power outlets in public places and billing for electric vehicle charging," note DigInfo.
John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. To learn more about him, check out his website and follow him on Twitter. For more of our Future of Technology series, watch the featured video below.