Hands on with the HomeKit compatible ConnectSense V2 smart outlet

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2019
At the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics show, AppleInsider met up with ConnectSense and got to try out the second version of the company's smart outlet, with HomeKit, Google Home, and Amazon Alexa compatibility -- without a bridge.

ConnectSense v2
ConnectSense v2 provides HomeKit, Google Assistant, and Alexa with two outlets


The new ConnectSense outlet looks very similar to the initial release. Where many competitor smart outlet plugs are single outlets and are big enough to block the second outlet on your wall making it unusable, ConnectSense plugs into the upper outlet and blocks the second one with a HomeKit switched outlet. As a result, the end user experience is what you'd want to see -- you have two HomeKit switchable outlets.

Operating them is simple enough: there's a thin light strip that illuminates up with blue next to the outlet when switched on. The switches can be toggled on or off from either of the two round pushbuttons on the side of the SmartOutlet, or by HomeKit in Apple's Home app. Like the first model, there's also a 2.4 amp USB port on the side, suitable for charging any USB peripheral.

old and new connectsense
The original ConnectSense and version 2, side by side


Things are a little different with version 2 from a connectivity standpoint, though. In the past, we used the ConnectSense app to connect the peripheral to Wi-Fi, added the device to Home app and controlled it via Home. Done, and out.

Google and Alexa require cloud accounts. If you want to take advantage of either of them, you'll need to download the ConnectSense App and create a ConnectSense account. Once you've done that, then you can link your ConnectSense account to your Google Account in the Google Home app so that Google Assistant can control your ConnectSense SmartOutlet 2 from your Google Home device.

HomeKit
Connecting to HomeKit remains much the same.


After that, you don't have to interact with the app at all, although we understand why some people might. With the arrival of Home and Home on Mac, we don't really use any other manufacturer created applications, unless there's something that Home can't give us.

In the case of the ConnectSense app, that addition that Home doesn't have is energy monitoring, so you can see how much energy devices are consuming and make informed choices about how you manage them. The app is also required for the occasional firmware update, which we had waiting for us for the first version of the outlet, and didn't know about because we hadn't used the app in ages.

Energy monitoring is available in the app, which is a nice touch.
Energy monitoring is available in the app, which is a nice touch.


Google's device setup is a little awkward. We tend to think of adding a new device, but Google's world thinks of this as adding an already-set-up device, because it was set up in the manufacturer's app. It means finding it in the list of supported devices, and then linking a ConnectSense account with a Google account.

  • Pairing with Google means linking a Google account, and then finding it in the list of supported accessories
  • and then finally having two outlets added to a room in Google Home


If that's too much Google for you, you could decide to add the ConnectSense skill from the Alexa iOS app, sign into your ConnectSense account, and link your ConnectSense account with the Alexa skill. Enabling the skill from the speaker won't work, because account linking has to be done at the phone.

Once you've done that, tell Alexa to discover devices, and she should find the two outlets associated with the ConnectSense SmartOutlet2.


Alexa discovers devices.


Like Apple's Home app, the ConnectSense iOS app enables you to make custom schedules to turn on and off your plug-in devices automatically. You can schedule a lamp to turn on and make sure you never come home to a dark house or a fan to turn on at a certain time to ensure your home is cool.

Every HomeKit device has a code unique to it, to allow for registration. In the case of this particular switch, these numbers for the product are on the back, and obscured when plugged in. This is annoying, but isn't a deal-breaker as the code can be entered manually, and the manual does have a code included on its last page.

Despite the code location, overall, setting it up for HomeKit was easier than for Google Home or Alexa. Once set up, it works well across all three platforms. It should come as no surprise that it switches more quickly when using HomeKit - communications are local, and don't have to go up to the cloud to communicate with a ConnectSense account.

ConnectSense v2 is available now, costs $59 and will be available through Amazon or direct from ConnectSense.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15
    And how much energy do these devices use? I think people always forget that these devices also use energy. 

    This is the reason I have stayed away from these devices. They don’t do what I need them to do. They don’t help reduce my carbon foot print. 


  • Reply 2 of 15
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,274member
    This seems nice and the USB port is a plus, but most of the places I would want a controllable switch (i.e. to control a lamp, etc) are places I wouldn't use a USB port, so I'm not sure how useful that actually is. Either way, it would be nice if they had an installable device rather than something that sticks 1" out from the wall. 
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 3 of 15
    A confusing point in the article where it states

    Things are a little different with version 2 from a connectivity standpoint, though. In the past, we used the ConnectSense app to connect the peripheral to Wi-Fi, added the device to Home app and controlled it via Home. Done, and out.”

    Then you went on to describe Google/Alexa.  I missed what was different with version 2. 
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 4 of 15
    vmarksvmarks Posts: 760editor
    MplsP said:
    This seems nice and the USB port is a plus, but most of the places I would want a controllable switch (i.e. to control a lamp, etc) are places I wouldn't use a USB port, so I'm not sure how useful that actually is. Either way, it would be nice if they had an installable device rather than something that sticks 1" out from the wall. 
    They showed an in-wall version at CES. It wasn't ready to be put in our hands for review.
    MplsPScot1GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 5 of 15
    vmarksvmarks Posts: 760editor
    kruegdude said:
    A confusing point in the article where it states

    “Things are a little different with version 2 from a connectivity standpoint, though. In the past, we used the ConnectSense app to connect the peripheral to Wi-Fi, added the device to Home app and controlled it via Home. Done, and out.”

    Then you went on to describe Google/Alexa.  I missed what was different with version 2. 
    V1 and V2 are the same for HomeKit.

    V2 adds Google Assistant and Alexa compatibility. That would be why we went on to describe the new features.
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 6 of 15
    vmarksvmarks Posts: 760editor
    And how much energy do these devices use? I think people always forget that these devices also use energy. 

    This is the reason I have stayed away from these devices. They don’t do what I need them to do. They don’t help reduce my carbon foot print. 


    Yes. They have to have enough power to keep Wi-Fi up. I could put a meter on it and see how much it's using at idle. Even an in-wall solution wouldn't help you, because it would always be using vampire power to run Wi-Fi. Everything is a compromise.
  • Reply 7 of 15
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,274member
    vmarks said:
    And how much energy do these devices use? I think people always forget that these devices also use energy. 

    This is the reason I have stayed away from these devices. They don’t do what I need them to do. They don’t help reduce my carbon foot print. 


    Yes. They have to have enough power to keep Wi-Fi up. I could put a meter on it and see how much it's using at idle. Even an in-wall solution wouldn't help you, because it would always be using vampire power to run Wi-Fi. Everything is a compromise.
    The advantage of these is that they let you switch outlets that wouldn't otherwise be switched and do things that would not otherwise be possible. It's possible that they could ultimately save energy by helping to turn off devices that aren't being used that would otherwise be on. There's no way you would want to put them on every room in your house, though.
  • Reply 8 of 15
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 2,527member
    "Without a bridge"? I presume you mean it communicates directly with certain Apple devices. Which ones qualify? The average person probably doesn't know.
  • Reply 9 of 15
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 10,302member
    vmarks said:
    MplsP said:
    This seems nice and the USB port is a plus, but most of the places I would want a controllable switch (i.e. to control a lamp, etc) are places I wouldn't use a USB port, so I'm not sure how useful that actually is. Either way, it would be nice if they had an installable device rather than something that sticks 1" out from the wall. 
    They showed an in-wall version at CES. It wasn't ready to be put in our hands for review.
    I'll hold out for the in-wall version that connects and is controlled directly through HomeKit.  I don't want a patch work of external fixtures and neither do I want Google or Amazon spying on me -- or the extra complications of tying them into my home.

    This is the kind of thing where Steve had the insight and courage to say:  "This is crap!" and, design his own unique solution that inherently required a closed system design.   People criticize both he and Apple for their closed system designs -- but they are necessary to keep things simple, clean, functional and reliable.
  • Reply 10 of 15
    Is there any reason that this device couldn't be plugged into the bottom outlet, thus freeing up the top one, or does it extend too far up?

    It's nice to see more of these general purpose items coming for Homekit.  
  • Reply 11 of 15
    vmarksvmarks Posts: 760editor
    "Without a bridge"? I presume you mean it communicates directly with certain Apple devices. Which ones qualify? The average person probably doesn't know.
    Many HomeKit devices require a bridge to function - Philips Hue, or some Belkin WeMo devices for example. This device uses Wi-Fi and communicates with your network and Apple devices that control HomeKit (iPhone, Watch, Mac, HomePod, AppleTV) without the need of a bridge connected to your network.
  • Reply 12 of 15
    vmarksvmarks Posts: 760editor
    Is there any reason that this device couldn't be plugged into the bottom outlet, thus freeing up the top one, or does it extend too far up?

    It's nice to see more of these general purpose items coming for Homekit.  
    Correct, the plug is not directly opposite the top outlet, so it obscures the top outlet trying to use it like you're thinking.
    beowulfschmidt
  • Reply 13 of 15
    vmarksvmarks Posts: 760editor
    vmarks said:
    MplsP said:
    This seems nice and the USB port is a plus, but most of the places I would want a controllable switch (i.e. to control a lamp, etc) are places I wouldn't use a USB port, so I'm not sure how useful that actually is. Either way, it would be nice if they had an installable device rather than something that sticks 1" out from the wall. 
    They showed an in-wall version at CES. It wasn't ready to be put in our hands for review.
    I'll hold out for the in-wall version that connects and is controlled directly through HomeKit.  I don't want a patch work of external fixtures and neither do I want Google or Amazon spying on me -- or the extra complications of tying them into my home.

    This is the kind of thing where Steve had the insight and courage to say:  "This is crap!" and, design his own unique solution that inherently required a closed system design.   People criticize both he and Apple for their closed system designs -- but they are necessary to keep things simple, clean, functional and reliable.
    You say that, but there are a number of people who are afraid of doing in-wall work. Turning off the breaker, removing the old one and wiring in the fresh one isn't hard, but it's the breaking point for a lot of people. Plugging something into the wall is a much lower barrier.

    The in-wall one is definitely HomeKit, but may also be compatible with Google Home and Amazon Alexa. For users like yourself, just don't link your ConnectSense account with Google or Amazon, and you won't be exposed to them.
  • Reply 14 of 15
    vmarks said:
    MplsP said:
    This seems nice and the USB port is a plus, but most of the places I would want a controllable switch (i.e. to control a lamp, etc) are places I wouldn't use a USB port, so I'm not sure how useful that actually is. Either way, it would be nice if they had an installable device rather than something that sticks 1" out from the wall. 
    They showed an in-wall version at CES. It wasn't ready to be put in our hands for review.
    Did they mention any time frame for the in-wall version?
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