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Google wants to make us all less clumsy with motion-sensor LED power cords

Why it matters to you

Patents don't always lead to products but Google presents an elegant solution to an everyday problem.

Big tech firms file weird patents all the time and Google is no exception. Recently, the Mountain View, California, company filed a patent for a particular kind of power cord — one with an accelerometer and motion-sensing lights.

Filing a patent doesn’t necessarily mean a product will end up on store shelves, sometimes it’s just a preventative measure to get a leg up on the competition. But the patent published on Thursday describes a device that solves a common and pernicious problem some of us face on a daily basis.

You’re in bed, the lights are off, you’re about to fall asleep and you remember you forgot to plug in your phone. Wonderful. Now you have to fumble for your nightstand, grab your phone, and light up the screen to find your power cord. The patent aims to put an end to this minor annoyance, by putting a series of accelerometers and LED lights directly into a USB Type-C power cord.

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“A user may have many power cords used for various different devices in a particular location, and the different cords are often difficult to distinguish, particularly in dim light and when the cords are tangled and jumbled together,” the patent reads, painting a moving portrait of a struggle we all face.

The cord described in the patent is able to help out by lighting itself up when it detects your clumsy human hands. The LEDs are in the plug end of the power cord and would provide enough light to illuminate not only the cord but the outlet on the device you’re trying to plug in.

It’s bizarre but this patent application provides a window into the industrial design processes at work in major tech companies. Even if this little idea never gets used by Google, they will rake in licensing fees when someone else attempts to make this kind of power cord. It’s a common-sense solution to a minor, but common, irritation and that makes it an excellent design to patent.