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Sony’s Smartgrid Micropayment System

Sony is promoting a product concept: smart electric outlets that enable micro payments and authentication for energy usage at the device level. As described by The Verge:

Sony is developing power outlet technology that uses IC chips to determine a user’s identity or permissions. Possible use case scenarios include managing energy usage in large buildings, device theft prevention, and — yes — the potential for paid access to power. Sony says it expects the technology to be employed in cafes, restaurants, airport waiting lounges, and other public places. The outlets have an IC chip built-in, and send authentication information down the power line itself — this can come from an IC chip built into the plug, or potentially inside an NFC-equipped device or payment card.

This isn’t a surprising new concept – contemporary ‘smart systems’ are largely sold on these kinds of logic – but it’s telling that we would be moving payment and identity authentication into integrated ICs on the devices that we use in daily life. I’ll be incredibly curious to see the threat models and risk assessments associated with these next-generation smart systems: if they are deployed as imagined, payment security and electrical privacy issues would be incredibly serious, and challenging, issues to adequately address.