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.
The IC technology is based on Sony's FeliCa standard, meaning that millions of people in Japan are already using the system to make mobile payments. However, with the technology still in developmental stages, we imagine it'll take a while to catch on. Docomo's Qi-powered inductive charging solution Okudake Juuden is already rolling out across Japan, and while support is still limited, it has the distinct advantages (to consumers, at least) of being both wireless and free.