The world’s first data transmission over a power grid has been successfully completed, paving the way for a decentralized future where smart houses tell each other how much energy they need. The tests, conducted by Reactive Technologies in the UK, sends data along the 50Hz electricity signal that passes through sub-station transformers that link up the country’s grid. The wires themselves have been used to send data before, but it’s getting through those transformers that’s never been done.

“We are keen to support innovative products like this one that can bring a real benefit for customers,” Cordi O’Hara, director of systems operator at National Grid, told The Guardian on Tuesday. “It represents another step forward in the development of the smart grid technologies that are going to play an increasingly important role in the energy systems of the future.”

One day, this technology could be used to connect up Internet of Things-enabled appliances to reduce energy consumption. Depending on current load, appliances could prioritize energy use, for example slightly raising the temperature of a freezer in acceptable moments, or switching the lights off late at night in office buildings.

A resident uses a keypad to enter her home at the smart home town complex (Home Network) on November 29, 2006 in Incheon, South Korea.
A resident uses a keypad to enter her home at the smart home town complex (Home Network) on November 29, 2006 in Incheon, South Korea.

Where many visions of smart homes see appliances speaking over high-powered Bluetooth connections, Reactive Technologies’ system would run through plug sockets, using existing home infrastructure and avoiding dropped connections or interference.

The breakthrough will also help to decentralize the energy grid. “The old mindset would be, we need to build more power stations,” said Jens Madrian, chief financial officer at Reactive Technologies, told The Guardian. “We disagree with that. There are other ways of managing electricity, one of which is carrying knowledge from the telecommunications and software engineering side into the energy sector.”

Photos via Getty Images / Chung Sung-Jun, Getty Images / Jeff J Mitchell, Caglar/YouTube