Home appliances waste more energy than you might think. Incandescent light bulbs consume 20 percent to 80 percent more electricity than energy-efficient alternatives, like compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). A single dishwasher, meanwhile, can draw over 1,800 watts per cycle. That's why Hasty Granbery, former director of software engineering at PayPal, in 2015 founded Currant, a Palo Alto startup devoted to creating smart home devices that reduce energy consumption. In November 2018, fresh off a $7 million funding round, Currant debuted its first AI-powered product -- the Currant Smart Outlet.
In its marketing material, newcomer Currant says, "You've never seen a smart outlet like this before," and the claim isn't wrong. Smart outlets are rapidly becoming a commodity, but Currant's new Smart Outlet is shaping up as one of the best. To see why, let's start with the hardware. Currant's outlet is on the large side, but that's because it offers two receptacles which can be independently controlled. The Currant outlet doesn't even obscure both wall sockets.
ConnectSense's Smart Outlet has been one of my favorite picks for add-on smart outlets for a year now, thanks to its comparatively unobtrusive design and full array of features. The original Smart Outlet was an early HomeKit plug, featuring two independently controllable three-prong outlets, and it even sported a USB charging port on its side. My biggest complaint with the product was that it seemed always to be out of stock. ConnectSense has now updated the original Smart Outlet in a few key ways. While the Smart Outlet 2 keeps the same size, shape, and design of the original product, the upgrade now supports Android instead of just iOS/HomeKit, and new hooks let it connect to Google Assistant and Alexa devices, too.
There's no way to know just how low smart plug prices will go, as manufacturers continue to trim their costs--and retail prices--down to nearly nothing, but iClever's $14 device is pointing the way. You'll find even cheaper models, of course, but those devices are probably not something you should feel comfortable trusting your lamps and appliances to. Upscale smart outlets such as Currant and ConnectSense also have their place, of course, but it's understandable that not everyone wants to spend 60 bucks on a device that lets them turn a power outlet on or off with their cell phone. But to be fair, some of those higher-end devices offer features you won't find at the low end, such as energy-consumption monitoring, support for Apple's HomeKit smart-home ecosystem, and USB charging ports. At $14 per unit, this is a decidedly affordable smart outlet without a lot of frills, but it does get the job done and doesn't look too terribly industrial along the way.