In a world where smart plugs are increasingly becoming commoditized--with mainline brands hovering around $30 and no-name plugs as cheap as 10 bucks--is there room for a $60 smart plug that's premium-priced because, well, it has a USB charging port on its side, monitors its energy consumption, and lights up in multiple colors? It's a tough sell, but at least the Fibaro Wall Plug with USB Charging Port does everything it claims to do without any real complaints. Fibaro's Wall Plug with USB (a less-expensive sans-USB version is in the works) has the familiar look of any number of oversized, single three-prong smart sockets. While it fits rather discreetly flush against the wall, the design has the immediate drawback that it blocks the second outlet in the socket, no matter which outlet you plug it into. If you use the Fibaro in the bottom outlet on a standard two-outlet plate, you can squeeze a two-prong plug into the upper outlet, but three-prong plugs won't fit because of the blocked ground hole.
Vera Control, Ltd. seems to be targeting the hardest of the hard-core enthusiast, boasting that its VeraPlus Advanced Home Controller is certified to work with more than 1700 smart devices. As with many smart home hubs, the VeraPlus connects to your router via an ethernet cable. I had fewer but still significant issues getting an Aeotec Smart Switch to pair – until I Googled how to perform a factory reset of the switch, which hesitantly got things working again. The good news: a LinearLinc BulbZ smart light (not included on Vera's website, incidentally, as being one of the compatible smart bulbs) paired and worked on the first try.
That's not the Eye of Sauron pictured above, it's a new multi-sensor that can detect not only movement but also ambient temperature and light intensity. It's one of three new products from Fibaro that are compatible with Apple's HomeKit smart-home platform. Fibaro also announced a new flood sensor and a new door/window sensor today. The $70 Fibaro Motion Sensor is battery powered and uses Bluetooth LE (low energy) technology to communicate with an iOS device and/or a central hub or control panel. The eye-shaped LED indicator changes color when it detects motion, temperature and lighting changes, and tampering (thanks to an onboard accelerometer that can trigger an alarm if the sensor is moved).
If you want a water leak sensor that tries to do it all, the Fibaro Flood Sensor might be for you. The $60 sensor works with any Z-Wave hub, and has a bunch of capabilities you won't find from the competition. On the downside, it's pricey for a hub-based sensor and requires expertise to tap its most interesting features. Fibaro's sensor uses the Z-Wave protocol to communicate with a hub device, which then uses Wi-Fi to talk to your smartphone. Using a SmartThings hub ($100), the pairing process was pretty simple: Just triple-tap a button inside the sensor to set it to pairing mode, then use the SmartThings app to look for new devices.
If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. However, our picks and opinions are independent from USA TODAY's newsroom and any business incentives. Apple's HomeKit smart home ecosystem might not have the same cool factor as Amazon Alexa, but it's still a compelling solution, especially if you own lots of Apple devices. Just as Amazon Alexa requires you to own an Echo speaker, Apple HomeKit requires an iPhone. And if you want remote control of your devices (which trust me, you will), you'll also need an always-on iPad left at home or an Apple TV.