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National Runner Up

Mi Plug | Stackable Wall Plugs

A re-design of the classic 3-pin plug for use in the 21st century.

  • Mi Plug - A pinless plug redesign aimed at powering modern devices.

  • A short video showing off some of the features of the plugs and sockets.

    A short video showing off some of the features of the plugs and sockets.

  • A rethink on the extension lead, where one socket is used and the plugs stack upwards, not along.

  • The plugs can be stacked on top of each other, allowing each socket to power multiple devices.

  • The problem, user testing and early development sketches.

  • Lights on the sockets indicate to the user how much power is being drawn by each socket.

What it does

Mi Plug is an exploration into redesigning the 3-pin plug, to better match the power and convenience needs of a standard 21st century home. The plugs are stackable, waterproof and safe for children, thanks to their full plastic construction.

Your inspiration

The inspiration for this project came from watching my grandparents struggle with a 3-pin plug, where one of them half-jokingly suggested that “You need to make a better one of these!’ Taking their advice, I started to look into some of the issues with using plugs, and soon realised that there were major problems that affected everyone - not just the elderly or disabled - that we just accept. I wanted to return to the fundamentals of how we power our devices, and try to create a genuinely 21st century solution.

How it works

The idea for the technology came while staring at a toothbrush charger - which uses magnetic induction to charge the toothbrush through solid plastic. The plugs use a variation of this principle, with a transmitter in the socket and a receiver in the plug. Each socket is capable of powering up to 100 watts, and stacking up to 8 plugs on a single socket. As each socket has a set limit of how much it can power, a series of lights draw themselves around each socket as more power is being used - eventually filling up and turning red when it's reached it's limit. Because there are no exposed metal contacts, the plugs are very safe and can even be used underwater – opening up the possibilities for a much wider range of applications.

Design process

The design process began with a series of detailed user studies over a large variety of age groups, aimed at identifying the common complaints and overarching problems of the existing plug. A set of technology prototypes were constructed to see how people reacted to a pinless plug, and whether it would be something that they wanted to use. Doing a fundamental redesign allowed me far greater freedom when it came to tackling the issues related to the plug, with aspects such as the rounded corners on the plugs and high contrast colours on the sockets - coming from comments raised by a series of elderly users. Families with young children were also very enthusiastic at the thought of a plug that would be safe for their children to be around. The size of the sockets and shape of the plugs were designed to give a sense of familiarity to the product. As this project introduces a new action and method, I understood that people wouldn’t want to use something that feels too unfamiliar or unnerving. A second set of prototypes were then built to see what people thought of the design, where user-suggested changes such as the personalised colours (suggested by teenagers) and lights were introduced. With the seal of approval from user testing, the final models were then constructed.

How it is different

Every other plug redesign has been either an exercise in form or aesthetics, stopping short of tackling the fundamental issues of this 19th century technology. Most devices that people own are modern, energy efficient and low powered, which do not need cumbersome plugs with huge brass pins to power them. This project is a response to the existing plug not tackling fundamental flaws such as bare pins, which can be a serious shock hazard. This product isolates the user totally from the mains supply, instead allowing them to use as much power as they need, without the risks involved - and also allows the plugs to stack on top of one another, increasing the value and versatility of each socket.

Future plans

I would love to develop this project further, looking into other potential areas and use cases where it could be installed. The next steps involve improving on the form factor, making the plugs thinner, increasing the amount of power that can be drawn, extending the range, and then working with manufacturers to develop it's application - for example, a parallel standard so that it could be installed alongside existing plugs.


2nd Place - John Lewis Design and Innovation Award @ New Designers

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