AC Versus DC Power
In the late 1880s to 1890s there was a battle going on known as the “War of the Currents.” The fight was impassioned, as it would set the stage for the electrical grid in the U.S.
The debate was about whether the U.S. electrical grid should be Alternating Current (AC) or Direct Current (DC). Each had its benefits and shortcomings. AC alternates, or reverses, the current flow periodically as it is transported and can handle high voltages over long distances with low energy loss. DC provides constant voltage or current, but typically cannot be easily converted to high voltage. DC power is often provided by a battery or can be made by transforming/rectifying AC to DC.
The dispute pitted the well-known and successful businessman, Thomas Edison, against genius inventor, Nikola Tesla, who actually worked for Edison at one time. General Electric joined with Edison and favored DC power, but the requirement to locate power plants close to demand was a challenge, along with the lack of demand for DC since electronics weren’t in use. Westinghouse purchased Tesla’s patents and worked with him to promote and deliver alternating current. It was a tumultuous battle with smear campaigns and sabotage. AC won the war and 120-volt AC power was delivered to all homes.
A century ago, most electrical devices, such as a fan or appliance, required 120V to operate. Today, 110V devices are in use, but technology has advanced to the point where electronics are prevalent and only need a low amount of DC voltage to operate; examples of this are mobile devices and even flat-screen displays. To meet this shift, a transformer is used to convert AC to DC. LED lighting uses much less energy than incandescent lighting and is readily powered by DC, creating another huge demand for DC power.
Enough on history and science; the bottom line is transformers are everywhere and there aren’t enough AC outlets to plug all of them in. Parks Associates research indicates there are 10 or more connected devices in every broadband household, and this is expected to grow to 17 devices in the next five years. Again, connected devices are electronics so every one of them needs AC power converted to DC power. Thus, the world is inundated with “wall warts” to power our beloved electronics.
The quick-fix solution is an electrical outlet with USB charging ports that eliminate the transformer brick, but still require a cable for connection. But a challenge exists — there are numerous charging cable types for different devices: USB mini, micro, lightning and the latest port delivering up to 100 watts, USB C. Wireless power charging, such as a Qi, is growing in use. As with any new technology, there is a learning curve and adoption takes time.
It is time to follow AC versus DC power options and consider how it might benefit your company. It may be as simple as offering electrical outlets selected with the appropriate DC ports. Remember, you are the security and technology source for your customers. You can help them make sense of low-voltage power options, meet their needs and continue to build trust and customer loyalty.