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Keep the Power, Lose the Electrician: New UL-Friendly Solution Delivers Power over Speaker Wire

From 110v and back again: Joe Whitaker’s latest invention lets integrators put wireless speakers or TVs in the wall without calling an electrician – all within UL and CE guidelines.

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Last year, integrator Joe Whitaker developed an enclosure for hiding Sonos speakers in the wall. The only problem, he realized, was that you needed an electrician to run power to the units.

That reality led him to create this year’s invention, a system that delivers power over speaker wire – or other low-voltage cabling – without requiring an electrical contractor.

Whitaker demonstrated the solution at CEDIA 2016, where he teamed up with Thenos, another maker of in-wall Sonos mounts.

He told me after the show that it was “the simplest thing I’ve ever made, but it was the hottest thing.”

Big companies were ready to write big checks for it, he says.

“We’re not sending 110 from one end to the other. We’re only sending 12 volts.”

— ​Joe Whitaker, integrator & inventor on compliance with
UL and CE guidelines

Whitaker’s patent-pending technology resides in a back-box that converts 110v AC power to 12v DC. A jumper cable – just a standard power cord – runs from the existing power outlet to the magic conversion box, code-named Traveler.

At the device location, power is converted back to 110v.

To be sure, there are many “power relocation” kits on the market, but Traveler has many advantages. Most importantly, it follows UL and CE guidelines: There’s no high-voltage running behind the walls.

“We’re not sending 110 from one end to the other,” Whitaker says. “We’re only sending 12 volts.”

In addition, because “we’re sticking with 12 volts,” Whitaker explains, “there’s no worries about sparking and arcing and everything that goes on with electricity.”

Finally, Traveler enables longer distances between the power outlet and the end device. Most power-relocation systems – most of which are not UL-compliant — go only six to eight feet. Whitaker’s product can go at least 100 feet over standard 16/2 wire.

At CEDIA, Whitaker demonstrated the solution powering a Sonos speaker over 50 feet of wire via 12v (10 amps) power. Whitaker says there’s no degradation of sound quality.

He has three versions of Traveler in the works, including one that can power a big-screen TV. He also notes that new applications for the product emerged from feedback at CEDIA, like relocating IoT hubs to “spots that actually make sense, and not just where sparky puts electrical plugs.”

Whitaker had originally estimated six months until delivery of the product, but he says demand at CEDIA was so high that his company would need to tool up for higher volume. As such, we might not see the final product until CEDIA 2017.

More on Joe W. and Thenos

Whitaker is now partnering with Thenos on several projects. Last year at CEDIA, Thenos introduced in-wall mounts for Sonos speakers. The company will now take over Whitaker’s in-ceiling mounting system for Sonos and will resell the new Traveler system when it is available.

Chris Manouel and Joe Whitaker team up at Thenos.
 

Thenos marries the company's existing PlayBox in-wall Sonos mounts with Joe Whitakers in-celing flush-mount enclosure, now called the PB1-C

About the Author

Julie Jacobson
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Julie Jacobson:

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson

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