The Internet of Things might be driving us further toward smarter devices, but there are still plenty of 20th Century analog appliances out there that won't be immediately cast aside. The Nyrius Smart Outlet could be the interim solution, as it applies some smart controls to those plugged-in devices via Bluetooth-connected iOS or Android smartphones or tablets. We recently had the chance to try it out for ourselves.
First of all, we can confirm that it's as easy to set up as the company claims. It plugs into any standard three-pronged 120 V, 60 Hz AC wall outlet, and a button on the side turns the device off and on. Once on, the Smart Outlet establishes a Bluetooth connection to your phone or tablet via a free downloadable app.
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Once downloaded, you sync the app with the outlet. You can then plug in just about anything in the home you can think of, such as lamps, toasters, stereos, coffee makers, electric blankets or even a laptop. We tried all of these with no issues.
Users can control up to three Smart Outlets via iOS and up to seven via Android. Nyrius sent us one Smart Outlet so we could only test a single outlet, but we did use it on an extension cord with more than one device plugged into that, to see how it would handle the extra load. It did so with no problem.
The app is limited to some basic functions, but frankly we couldn't think of any others that might make it more robust. Tapping a simple on and off icon in the app lets you control any device plugged into the outlet. We put that to the test by turning on a lamp from outside the house after returning home in the dark. This could come in handy if you forget to use the timer function in the app and you don't want to enter into a dark house, apartment of even an office.
Any device you plug into the outlet can also be controlled via the app's timer function. It allows you to choose a set time frame and days of the week when you want the outlet to be activated. We tried it on a coffee maker that didn't have a timer, and it worked fine.
There's also a proximity control that automatically turns off connected electronics when you've traveled outside of range with your iOS or Android device, and turns them on when you're back in range. For example, a TV connected to a Smart Outlet will automatically turn off when you leave for work once you go beyond the proximity operating range, and turn on again once you are back within range.
Since the Smart Outlet is dependent on a Bluetooth connection, that range can be both a blessing and a problem. The company claims it will operate within a radius of 33 feet (10 m). That's fine for situations where you do leave the house, but you'll be hard-pressed to move outside that range as long as you're inside an average-sized house or apartment. This means that the proximity feature within such a situation may not be that useful. The upside is that unlike devices that rely on an internet connection, like D-Link's mydlink Home, using the Smart Outlet means you never have to worry about an always-on Internet connection.
Nyrius first introduced the Smart Outlet earlier this year via a Kickstarter campaign that raised a little over US$20,000. The company began shipping the product this past October with a list price of just under $40.
Check out the company's Kickstarter video to see how the Smart Outlet works.
Product page: Nyrius
Buy it now: Amazon