ConnectSense’s HomeKit-enabled Smart Outlet is Smart and Sensible

There’s no dearth of smart outlets with Wi-Fi connectivity, but you might not know of their existence because they really don’t get much ink (or pixels) in the press. Fancy smart home hubs and biometric door locks are much more exciting to talk about than an electrical outlet that you can turn on and off via Wi-Fi using an app on your smartphone. I’ve fallen into the same “been there, written about that” trap myself. But a review sample of the Smart Outlet from ConnectSense showed up on my doorstep a few days after CES2016 ended, and it is a Wi-Fi-enabled smart outlet that’s definitely worth spending some time talking about.

Two words will pique the interest of most people who are playing around with DIY smart home gear and systems: Apple HomeKit. Even better is that it’s a pretty cool product even if you forget to mention the fact that’s its HomeKit-enabled.

First a few words about Apple HomeKit. It’s not a smart home hub or even a smart home app. Instead it’s basically a system architecture that allows you to unite various smart devices (that are also HomeKit-enabled) under one app that also happens to allow you to control those devices using Siri. HomeKit has had a slow, bumpy introduction; and there are still a limited number of HomeKit-enabled devices available at this point. We have yet to see whether or not HomeKit will live up to the typical Apple-related hype. I use it (her?) all the time, but I have very mixed feelings about Siri—and especially about the prospect of using her not-always-reliable interpretation of my speech for controlling my home automation system. (I’m a much bigger fan of the Amazon Echo and it’s Alexa speech recognition service, although it ain’t perfect, either.) There’s also the lure of Apple Watch integration.

Here’s one thing I can unequivocally praise about HomeKit. It made the initial set up of the ConnectSense Smart Outlet incredibly quick and easy four-step process, one of which is downloading the ConnectSense app. Once connected and configured, the response time between pressing the on/off icon and the outlet physically changing state was as close to instantaneous as you can get.

As I’ve already said, there are plenty of other things to like about the ConnectSense Smart Outlet aside from the HomeKit aspect. For starters, I really like the cosmetics and ergonomics of the Smart Outlet. It’s designed to plug into your existing outlet, completely covering the existing wall plate. Most other Wi-Fi-enabled smart outlets—from Belkin’s WeMo, iHome, Ankuoo, TP-LINK, and D-Link—are designed to turn a bland wall outlet something more attractive. In this case, the height and width dimensions of the Smart Outlet are approximately the same as a regular wall plate, so aside from the fact that it’s about 1.2-inches deep, it looks like it belongs there. In other words, it sticks out a bit from the wall, but it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. Or even a pretty thumb. It’s just there.

On the right side of the Smart Outlet are two round buttons for manually turning the individual outlets on and off if you don’t want to use the app. On the left side is a 2.4 amp USB charging port, so you won’t have to use one of the outlets to plug in a USB charger. A vertical strip of opaque acrylic runs down the face of the Smart Outlet about halfway between the outlets and the edge of the right edge of the entire assembly. Two blue power LEDs (one for each outlet) hide under the acrylic. The feature I especially appreciate here is that the brightness of the each LED is individually adjustable, so you can dim either or both if one or the other happen to be distracting in a darkened theater room or a bedroom, for example.

I’ve only had a few days to play with ConnectSense’s Smart Outlet, but so far I like what I see. If you’re a HomeKit fan, this one is probably a no-brainer if you want control of your AC outlets. Even if you’re not into HomeKit but simply want to control a couple of outlets, the Smart Outlet is still worth looking into. It’s available for purchase now for $79.95.