We write about smart plugs a lot here at GearBrain. They are cheap, simple and often a great starting point for your smart home, as they give phone app and voice control to almost any device or appliance that uses a wall outlet.
But their inherent simplicity can count against them when you want to do more. This is where Currant, a Palo Alto-based startup, wants to stand out from the crowded market.
The Currant Smart Outlet has two outlets and plugs into any regular wall socket. Like other smart plugs, it connects to your router over Wi-Fi and can be controlled either via a companion smartphone app (for iOS and Android), or by speaking to Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant.
But where Currant hopes to stand out is with its app and artificial intelligence. The idea is, you plug something into the Smart Outlet (like a lamp, cable TV box, desk fan or heater), then continue to use the device as normal for a week.
This teaches the plug your usage habits, much like how the Nest Learning Thermostat works. After a week, the Currant app will suggest changes to your habits, then begin to automate itself, turning the power on and off in a bid to reduce your energy usage and save money.
Examples of where this can work are with devices left in standby mode overnight, such as your television, cable box and games console.
The app shows you exactly how much energy each device is using, then gives you options for scheduling them to be more energy efficient. If you use portable heaters to keep your home warm in the winter, the Currant app will suggest you set up a location-based rule which automatically switches these devices off when you go out.
Currant claims using the smart plug can save you up to $85 per year for each air conditioning unit you own, around $27 for a cable box, $40 for a halogen lamp, and almost $60 for a fan - all by using the devices more efficiently and fully shutting them down when not required.
Multiple Smart Outlets can be split into rooms within the app, much like how bulbs of smart lighting systems like Philips Hue can be. That way, you can see the energy consumption of entire rooms at once, and control all of the Currants-connected devices in a room at once.
As with other smart plugs, the Currant can be operated when you are away from home. That way, you can open the app to make sure you switched off potentially dangerous items like hair straighteners and the iron.
There are two versions of Smart Outlet sold by Currant, one with Wi-Fi ($60) and one with Bluetooth ($50). Only the former can work with voice assistant like Alexa and be controlled while away from the home. (Check out The GearBrain, our smart home compatibility checker to see the other compatible products that work with Amazon Alexa.)
At this price, they are somewhat more expensive than the cheapest smart plugs available on Amazon, where they can cost in the region of $10 each. However, Currant's device has two sockets, and the company claims the energy-saving AI can have the Smart Outlet pay for itself after just eight months' use with an air conditioning unit, or after 12 months with a fan.
How to Create a Smart Dorm Room Part 3 - Smart Plugs www.youtube.com