Home Opinion Switchsocket innovations sparking change in 2024 | MK Electric

Switchsocket innovations sparking change in 2024 | MK Electric

In the fast-changing wiring accessories sector, new features and technologies are always just around the corner. Amy Burley, Global Offering Manager at MK Electric, examines the switchsocket innovations sparking change in 2024.

The humble switchsocket is an essential part of modern life; one that is continually evolving with developments in technology and advancements in mechanical design.

Although the UK had sockets as early as 1885, it wasn’t until April 1919 that a reliable, effective two-pin socket was developed: MK Electric co-founder Charles Arnold patented the Multy Kontact socket and the British Engineering Standards Association soon declared it the new standard. This remained until 1947, when BS1363 was published, and the age of the 13A, three-pin socket began.

Today, access to power is in high demand, whether for plugging in laptops and monitors in commercial offices or charging mobile devices during the morning commute. Time is of the essence for consumers and contractors alike: consumers want convenient access to power, quickly, and contractors want to be able to fulfil the customer needs as efficiently as possible.

This is balanced by a heightened awareness on the need for sustainability. With rising costs and tightening regulatory requirements, businesses are continuously refining their energy management strategies and introducing new technologies, from IoT to metering, to better control energy consumption.

These two driving forces in the electrical market are fostering innovation within socket technology.

Every bar counts

In the past decade we have seen a meteoric rise of switchsockets with integrated USB outlets for convenient charging of portable electronics. From mobile phones and tablets to smart watches and wireless headphones, we all have an ever-growing arsenal of electronics that need charging – and quickly . USB outlets have become very popular in commercial properties such as hotels, cafes and airports as a way of conveniently enhancing consumer experience.

Until recently, USB-A ports were the norm. However, this is now giving way to the improved efficiency of USB-C, which can provide a much higher output.

As of 2023, the European Union has thrown its support behind USB-C as the universal standard for charging portable electronics with the introduction of its common charging legislation. Manufacturers have until the end of 2024 to adapt accordingly, but many have already began adjusting their designs. The most notable example is Apple, who made the shift from its lightning connector to USB-C in its iPhone 15, marking the most substantial change in Apple’s charging technology in a decade.

Switchsockets are likewise adapting, with USB-C sockets becoming more popular. For example, MK Electric has added USB-A and USB-C ports to its most popular wiring device ranges of switchsockets. The range uses power delivery (PD) protocol to rapidly charge devices, and is able to charge iPhones to 50 percent in 30 minutes. Unlike other mainstream wiring device brands, the 30W ‘fast-charge’ version also offers double-pole switching for enhanced user safety.

With this extension to MK’s popular ranges of wiring devices, electrical contractors can fulfil the booming demand for USB-C with a high-quality product that ensures future-proofed safe and rapid charging.

Connecting power

On the commercial front, the trend towards connectivity and IoT has gained pace in recent years. In many cases, this shift has been driven by a need for operational cost control and greater sustainability, with connected device-to-device communication being better to manage equipment remotely, automate processes, and reduce power consumption.

For businesses, managing IoT devices and connected systems usually involves the use of a building management system (BMS) or building energy management system (BEMS).

However, electrical sockets have not historically been integrated into a BEMS. When you consider that the modern commercial property will have hundreds of plug-in devices, it’s no surprise that small power can account for a quarter of a building’s entire energy usage.

2023 saw a dramatic change in the market with the launch of MK Electric’s multi-award-winning Connected Power solution. Developed to meet the evolving needs of commercial installs and designed for improved energy management, Connected Power is the UK’s first BMS-integrated controllable socket.

Comprising smart plug sockets and connectivity hubs, the Connected Power solution allows businesses to gain visibility into their buildings’ energy usage, remotely power down unused sockets and automate functions such as scheduling, grouping and alarms. Data is available down to an outlet level, providing more robust information and control of energy use.

Connected Power sockets have a 25mm backbox like standard BS1363 standard plug sockets, allowing for easy retrofits. Installers can interlink up to 50 sockets, and as many as 50 hubs can connect to a single supervisor or BMS.

In 2024, technology that gives commercial businesses complete control over plug-in energy consumption will no doubt become even more prevalent, and advance further to incorporate cloud control.

Time is money

It’s not just the functionality of switchsocket technology that has been developing recently; the installation process has evolved to become faster, easier, and safer.

Behind the socket, screw termination can be time-consuming, especially when installing multiple. Each needs to be mindfully installed to prevent over- or under-tightening, which could lead to wasted time on call backs and fault-finding.

Inspired by alternatives used in the lighting industry, MK Electric developed Rapid Fix technology, which uses spring-loaded cable clamp terminations that meet the requirements of BS1363 for a safe, secure, and reliable connection that doesn’t degrade over time.

MK Electric has led the way on ease of install with its products for years, from its groundbreaking use of backed out and captive screws and inline terminals to its latest innovation: Rapid Fix technology. Rapid Fix is a further evolution of that, making the install of Logic Plus sockets more efficient. Recently, this innovation was incorporated into MK Electric’s Masterseal Plus range of weather-resistant enclosures, forming an award-winning solution that brings faster install speeds to more projects than ever before.

With a wealth of new technologies abound, 2024 looks set to be an electrifying year for switchsockets. By being aware of and offering these flourishing innovations, wholesalers can play a key role in helping contractors and specifiers meet the changing needs of buildings and customers.

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