Everything that can be Invented has been Invented
Attributed to Charles H. Duell, the Commissioner of US patent office in 1899, this apocryphal quote seems apropos to the ubiquitous smart plug.
Every introductory blog, video, or online article about starting a smart home seems to start with smart plugs.
Is there really anyone left in the modern world that /doesn’t/ have their coffee maker automatically turning on with a swipe on their mobile phone or a command to their voice tube in the kitchen?
Smartplugs are available from just about every major home automation device company and tons of smaller ones you may never had heard of.
Online shopping or offline browsing the brick and mortar aisles of Best Buy, Target, Walmart, and even Ikea will turn up a selection of these “must have” gadgets. (My apologies to my European and Asian friends for name-dropping only US big box retail store names).
Perhaps not surprising, but innovation in smart plugs seemed to grind to a halt.
I’ve used a variety of different products and they all are pretty similar. Compared to security systems, video cameras, and even multi-room audio systems, smartplugs are downright pedestrian.
And Now For Something Different
I just completed testing a new smart plug and I’m very impressed. This product is not just a me-to device vying for my attention with a low price, well-known brand name, or just gimmicky useless bell and whistles.
Instead of competing head-on with all the existing devices already on the market, this device has unique capabilities and has earned a place in my toolbox.
ConnectSense Smart In-Wall Outlet
As you might gather from the name, the most important feature of the ConnectSense smart plug is that it replaces your existing wall outlet.
Instead of an ugly blob that sticks out of the wall or power strip, the ConnectSense device is designed to replace existing US-style actual wall plugs.
The unit has two three-prong outlets and installs flush to the wall. Communication is via Wi-Fi wireless networking so you don’t have to fiddle with fiddly Z-Wave, Zigbee, or Bluetooth Low Energy systems.
Sure, there is a time and place for using those alternative wireless systems, but if you just want to quickly add a few smart outlets, Wi-Fi is the way to go.
Off To A Good Start With Table Stakes
The first thing I noticed is that ConnectSense checks all the boxes for required features. It works with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and is certified for Apple HomeKit.
Although every smarthome device really needs to support all of these major systems, there are still a lot of products on the market that do not.
Supporting Apple HomeKit is especially difficult and time-consuming – it requires special hardware or software and rigorous testing by Apple before a product will be certified.
IMHO, Apple HomeKit certification, by definition, is an important quality seal of approval. You simply won’t find Apple certification on the low-cost junk found online.
It’s simply a business reality – if a manufacturer is going to spend the time and money to get certified by Apple, they are going to submit only high quality products because cheap or flimsy products will be rejected by Apple.
Even major brands like Wyze and Ring still have not certified any of their products for use with Apple HomeKit. I’m not saying their products are junk, but they haven’t certified anything as of this date.
Electrical Safety Is A Must
For a product that you are going to permanently install in your home, especially a product that impacts electrical and fire safety, having the maximum level of certification is crucial, not optional.
ConnectSense is fully UL certified for the electrical and safety features. Many lower priced products, even those that plug in to high-voltage AC power do not have UL certification.
If you move or sell your home in the future, it is good to know that ConnectSense devices will pass inspection and can be re-configured by the new homeowner to work with the home automation system of their choice.
ConnectSense has incorporated features and capabilities not available with competing devices.
Setup is easier with the support for near field communications (NFC) wireless setup. If your mobile phone supports NFC, you can just tap the center of the outlet during the installation process.
Of course, scanning the QR code with your phone’s camera or manually typing in the HomeKit setup code isn’t all that hard, but NFC makes it even easier.
ConnectSense has precise power usage metering. With accuracy to 0.1%, the power usage data and charts let you see the usage and cost of electricity by hour, day, month and year.
Have you had rolling blackouts from your power company? We did. Have your electricity rates gone through the roof? Ours have.
Several years ago I ran around the house plugging in a device called the Kill-a-watt to measure electricity usage from air conditioners and refrigerators to figure out what devices were power hogs.
We have a refrigerator in the garage and I plan on installing a ConnectSense plug so I can see if the cost of running the refrigerator outweighs the benefits of having a “cold one” always available.
My favorite feature is the touch sensitive controls. If you double-tap just to the right of each outlet, you can turn the plug on or off.
That’s more convenient than a regular wall outlet. No reaching for your smartphone or talking to Google or Siri, just tap, tap and done.
In our kitchen, we like to keep most kitchen appliances unplugged when not in use. I plan on installing a ConnectSense so I can plug in the toaster oven and mixer and then turn them on or off with a tap instead of constantly pulling the cord out of the outlet when done using them.
A nice touch (bad pun!) is that through the app you can disable the touch controls if you don’t want then accidentally activated.
The requirement for an intentional double-tap instead of an accidental single-tap is probably good enough, but it is nice to have a full lock out if desired.
But Wait, There’s More
I’ve saved the best thing for last. In addition to having a standard in-wall outlet for regular 15 Amp electrical circuits, the ConnectSense is available in a 20 Amp version.
The 20 Amp version is unique – The first of its kind. It’s perfect for controlling high-current devices like heating or air conditioning units, pool filters, clothes dryers, and refrigerators.
So if you’ve been yawning when someone mentions smart plugs, dial back your boredom and take a closer look at the ConnectSense product line.