When it comes to envisioning a smart home system, a couple of types of devices may come to mind. A welcoming voice assistant, secure smart locks, and convenient automated lighting and temperature systems are just some examples of fixtures that have become fundamental equipment that can be incorporated into a smart home. Nowhere on this list, however, are smart outlets despite them being essential aspects of developing and expanding the smart home automation landscape.
Smart outlets may seem to pale in comparison when put side-by-side with technologically advanced smart gadgets products. But they are more than just upgrades of alternating current (AC) power plugs and sockets or accessories to the wall-mounted outlets and electrical systems smart homes depend on to function. Like any smart devices, smart outlets are being developed at rapid rates, and it is time they were regarded as more than just devices that make arcane, plugged-in appliances intelligent.
An Overview of Smart Technology
The Tech Edvocate defines a smart device as “any device that can connect to the internet and be controlled or interacted with remotely.” Smart devices can “connect to other smart devices, share data, and work together seamlessly to make our lives easier,” elaborates The Tech Edvocate.
Smart devices simplify our everyday lives by collecting and analyzing data through tools like sensors to monitor environments. Smart devices have the ability to ‘learn’ our behaviors over time through machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms. With all these capabilities, it is no wonder many smart devices like speakers make users feel less alone. A research study by Ofcom revealed that smart speaker ownership increased from 22 percent in 2020 to 39 percent in 2022. In an overview of the study, which surveyed 100 owners and 15 non-owners who tested a smart speaker, The Guardian states that some participants “described their device as being like a companion” because of their ability to talk to it.
The pandemic saw an inordinate amount of loneliness as people became sequestered in their homes. It is natural to see why smart devices, with their advanced abilities to tap into our behaviors and meet our needs, made their way into the home.
Smart outlets are essentially the same as the wall-mounted AC power plugs and sockets that adorn many residential and commercial properties, just with smart capabilities. Many smart outlets are controllable via Wi-Fi connectivity from devices like smartphones, tablets, and smart home ecosystems such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Some smart outlets are also able to be accessed via a dedicated app. No matter their functionalities, there are several benefits to incorporating a smart outlet into a home, and not all of them have to do with technology:
A Step Up in Home Automation
Home automation is closer than ever with devices like smart outlets. As one of the central facets of smart homes, home automation refers to the remote and automatic control of devices connected to the internet in the home. Security.org elaborates that “with home automation, devices can trigger one another, so you don’t have to control them manually via an app or voice assistant.”
According to Security.org, home automation functions via an ecosystem of devices connected to the internet through various communication protocols like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Zigbee, according to Security.org. Devices like smart outlets can be managed through control systems like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, which monitor “changes in motion, temperature, and light so the user can gain information about the device’s surroundings.” In essence, with home automation, users can monitor and control lighting, air conditioning/heating systems, appliances, and more remotely. By being embedded into the existing electrical system, smart outlets are a leap in terms of home automation.
Like many devices in smart homes, smart outlets are energy efficient. One of the most common uses for smart outlets is their timer capability which can turn devices and appliances that are plugged into them on or off automatically. Not only is this function convenience embodied, but it also saves money on energy bills by cutting off excess power that is going toward a device or appliance that might not be in use.
Smart outlets are a discreet way to integrate smart technology into a home because, unlike bulky smart plugs, they can blend seamlessly onto the surface of a wall. Hardwired into a home’s existing electrical system, smart outlets are a great way to capitalize on smart home technology without completely transforming the familiar parts of a home, like wall-mounted outlets. If the appeal of a smart home is to reap all the benefits afforded by the devices and technology without seeing them on display, why not choose a device like a smart outlet to combine the best of advanced technology with a classic look?
Smart Outlets to Look Out For
Smart outlets are an innovation in the world of smart home devices. Here are some key players in the smart outlet realm that are changing the game when it comes to smart home systems:
Leviton Decora Smart Outlet, Tamper-Resistant 15A, Wi-Fi 2nd Gen
Leviton is known for manufacturing smart lighting, electrical solutions, data networks, and energy management. Therefore, it goes without saying they can make an efficient and reliable smart outlet.
Enter the Leviton Decora Smart Wi-Fi 2nd Gen Tamper-Resistant Outlet (D215R). The smart outlet is compatible with My Leviton, Amazon Alexa, Google, Apple HomeKit/Siri, IFTTT, SmartThings, and Schlage. The Leviton Decora D215R also provides for a number of plug loads, from plug-in lamps to holiday lights, electronics, and appliances. Users can turn the outlet off after a pre-programmed period of time. To heighten the smart capability, the smart outlet’s memory can maintain the ON/OFF status of plug loads during minor power fluctuations.
Installation is quick and simple. To accommodate its fellow smart devices, the Leviton Decora D215R’s bottom outlet is always on, making it ideal for smartphone chargers or any other device that does not rely on automation or control. Lights and plug loads can be controlled via the My Leviton app, available for iOS and Android devices.
Geeni Current+Charge Smart Wall Outlet with 2 Plugs & 2 USB Ports
Feeling frustrated about having no available outlets to plug your USB charger into is a thing of the past with the Geeni Current+Charge Smart Wall Outlet with 2 Plugs & 2 USB Ports. The smart in-wall outlet allows users to control four devices simultaneously and individually from anywhere. For ease of use, Geeni lets users name the outlets so each can be used to its full potential.
The Geeni Current+Charge Smart Wall Outlet is only compatible with 2.4GHz Wi-Fi networks, and no hub is required—simply download the Geeni app, connect the smart outlet to the home Wi-Fi network, and power away. But, just in case you desire another addition to your home automation system, the Geeni Current+Charge Smart Wall Outlet works with Amazon Alexa and Google Home.
The InvisOutlet Pro and InvisDeco by Intecular
This next-gen smart outlet is the whole kit and caboodle. Intecular launched the InvisOutlet Pro on Kickstarter, and was fully funded in 12 minutes. It is not difficult to see why; the smart outlet can fit the function of several smart devices into one unit. The InvisOutlet Pro has various sensors built inside its cover plate, the InvisDeco, decluttering the smart home space of an overabundance of sensors. The InvisDeco incorporates a microprocessor, smart sensors, and a dimmable night light into its compact design.
That is not all. The InvisOutlet Pro looks like a standard 15A two-plug wall-mounted outlet on the outside. Inside, it has a temperature and humidity sensor, an air quality sensor, a motion sensor, and a light sensor. It also has intruder alert capability. And with a dual-core microcontroller, the InvisOutlet Pro has a rapid response speed.
The highlight of the InvisOutlet Pro is its air quality sensor, which informs users of the state of their room with a color-coded indicator beneath the bottom socket. Based on what it detects, the InvisOutlet Pro turns on a connected air purifier. This sensor monitors various aspects of air quality, including temperature, humidity, air quality index (AQI), CO2, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). If the sensor detects unhealthy levels of these factors, it alerts the user promptly.
The InvisOutlet Pro is compatible with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, and Google Home. It also works with DIY smart home hubs like Home Assistant, HomeBridge, and Hubitat. Furthermore, the InvisOutlet Pro supports Matter, bridging the smart ecosystems together.
When considering which products to purchase for a future smart home, one should not skip over the smart outlet. They can be easily integrated into the home and have remarkable capabilities that extend the boundaries of what smart technology and smart homes are capable of.