The humble USB cable is part of an electrical revolution. It will make power supplies greener and cheaper
FIDDLY cables, incompatible plugs and sockets, and the many adaptors needed to fit them all together used to be the travellersâ€™ bane. But the USB (Universal Serial Bus) has simplified their life. Most phones and other small gadgets can charge from a simple USB cable plugged into a computer or an adaptor. Some 10 billion of them are already in use. Hotel rooms, aircraft seats, cars and new buildings increasingly come with USB sockets as a standard electrical fitting.
Now a much bigger change is looming. From 2014, a USB cable will be able to provide power to bigger electronic devices. In the long term this could change the way homes and offices use electricity, cutting costs and improving efficiency.