Smart Outlet is a very promising home automation device and application but lacking in useful instruction for setup and use.
Since I was a child, I have dreamt about a futuristic Star Trek world. I have read comics, watched movies and have hoped that our computers would one day function like those on the U.S.S Enterprise. I was in awe of the Ironman movies and the current DC Legend of Tomorrow series, with JARVIS and GIDEON. Siri is amazing, yet has a long way to go before serving like the AI systems. Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, and Cortana all have strengths and drawbacks, yet they each attempt to enhance our smart home environment. Who has not wanted a door to automatically open, with the characteristic whooshing noise, or to have a tricorder/communicator? Each year new tech is developed and old tech is enhanced/upgraded to make our world a smarter, more integrated environment. Personally, I am a fan of the Apple ecosystem and the Apple Home Kit technology.
If you have upgraded to the latest iPhone 7/7 Plus, you will have noticed a little house icon labeled “Home.” This is an application that functions to unify your smart devices. I have received an Incipio CommandKit Wireless Smart outlet. It arrived in a rather eye-catching retail packaging. The box showcases the device on the cover and clearly labels “Works with Apple HomeKit.” Turing the box counterclockwise, the installation details promise super easy installation steps. Simply plug in the outlet, download the app and start controlling the outlet. The back also details a metering function, which will allow you to monitor the output of the outlet. Lifting the front flap, you will see the outlet behind clear plastic. On initial impression, the device appears quite bulky and only has a single outlet type B outlet port. The coloration is pleasing and clean, but the oval shape does appear bulky. The left inner flap further details the functions of the device: “remote accessible, dry installation, metering, zero configuration, Siri Voice control, proximity.” Basically, you can use SIRI to activate/control your device.
Excitedly, I opened the packaging and pulled out the outlet. It measures 4 1/2 inches long by 2 1/8″ tall and 1 5/8″ thick. It is designed to plug into a standard B-type wall outlet and to stick out the side, without occluding both of the outlets. If you are like me, you have furniture blocking many of your outlets. This device is not ideally suited to allow furniture to rest closely to the wall. For some, this may limit the location of the smart outlet. To test the device, I found an empty outlet in my room and plugged the device into the bottom outlet. The power indicator lit up briefly and then turned off. There is a power bypass switch along the side opposite to the outlet. Pressing this button will activate the outlet and you will notice a green LED on the front power indicator. I downloaded the CommanKit App from the iOS app store and ran the application. I had previously installed and utilized the Home App. The CommandKit was able to see my home, but there were no listed accessories. Pressing the accessories button, there were no accessories located. I unplugged the outlet, plugged it back in and pressed the factory reset button with a paperclip. The blue LED flashed and the device was immediately accessible via the application. You will be prompted to scan the 8 digit code and then you can utilize the outlet. The setup was easy, but not as easy as the 1, 2, 3 promised by the packaging.
Within the application, you can set up groups based on rooms and zones. You can also utilize preset scenes such as light on/off, good morning, leave home, arrive home, Good Night. You can also set up automation, which was my favorite feature. Each of the options within the app (except settings) will offer you a tutorial or you can skip it. These will walk you through the setup of each of the features. Personally, these were straightforward and provided minimal extra information. I plugged a multi-colored LED bulb into my lamp (remote control bulb) and turned the light to red with the bulb’s remote. Within the app, you will notice CMNDKT-004 and a toggle. Moving this to on/off will activate/deactivate the switch and the light will turn on/off. While connected to the same WI-FI network, this was incredibly receptive. The on/off feature was nearly instantaneous. Switching my iPhone 7 plus into LTE, there was no ability to control the device, even sitting directly beside of it. Turning Wi-FI back on, the device was again immediately receptive to commands. I then created automation and created a quick light on/off loop separated by 1 minute. This was very easy and worked flawlessly. Moving over to the Home app, the scenes I set up were located on the main screen. I was also able to see my ConnectSense outlet as well. Being able to control both devices with a single app is a huge deal.
I try to create my reviews based on an average tech user, instead of someone who is already well aware of the tech. Prior to this review, I already had set-up a HUB in my home. I do not have an Apple TV, but I do have an iPad. Many people would look at the packaging and the promise of “remote accessible: remotely access your home automation devices from anywhere,” and think that the device will serve as a HUB. Why would you think otherwise, when just 3 sentences down, the product packaging clearly states “zero configuration, connect the product to power and then to your WiFi network. It’s that simple!” However, this is not the case. You will not be able to use the device from anywhere, you will not be able to use it, even at your front door, if you are off of your WI-FI network. You will need another device, in your home, to be set up as a HUB. It is true that you can use SIRI to activate/deactivate the switch. Again, you must be on your own Wi-FI network.
The idea that this is remotely accessible is a loose one at best. Inside of the application, if you tap “settings,” along the bottom right, you will be taken to a screen detailing the Wi-Fi Network, home settings, and help/about/extras/legal/info. Tapping help, you will be able to access setup and troubleshooting. Under troubleshooting is a single question “I cannot control my CommandKIT accessories while I’m away from my Home.” This device is not, in itself, remotely accessible. To be able to access this device you will need to set up the HomeKit in the Home app on your iOS device and to have an Apple TV 3rd generation (will not support cameras) or Apple TV 4th generation. To set up automation and permissions, you can use the Apple TV 4th generation or an iPad with IOS 10. Either the Apple TV or the iPad can be set up as your home hub. This device must remain in your home to continue with the remote access. To set up your iPad, go to settings, select iCloud, sign in using your Apple ID, check that Keychain and Home are turned on. Then go to settings, select home and make sure that the iPad is set as your home hub. It must remain in your home and powered on to be able to remotely connect to you. Once I reactivated my iPad as a HUB (deactivated to test the device), I was able to remotely control the outlet via LTE. You now have control anywhere. Again, this is not as easy as 1, 2, 3.
I was excited about the metering feature of the device. There is no information that is readily available about how to find this. Under accessories, tap on the CMNDKT-004 (device name) and it will bring up a metering option. You can see the voltage, the wattage and the current. You can also edit the device and change its SIRI name as well. I wish that this feature was available for Bluetooth accessories as well.
The device is rather bulky and may limit your ability to place it behind furniture. The app and device promise amazing options, but the setup is not nearly as simple as it promises. The included instructions are minimal and really unhelpful. The app does have tutorials, which are helpful. However, playing with the application is the best way to learn its functions. I have an iDevices outlet, a ConnectSense Outlet, a lamp module from Vivint. I wish that this device had 2 outlets for its size. One or both could be controlled outlet or the other could simply be a pass through. I love that the device integrates with the Home App. Further evaluation of the packaging, specifically the small print on the base, shows: “controlling HomeKit enabled accessories away from home requires an Apple TV (3rd generation or later) with Apple TV software 7.0 or later and an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with iOS 8.1 or later.” Again, being aware of HomeKit and the need for a device HUB will help with the device setup. I would rate this device at 3/5. The average user may not know about the need for a HUB and the instructions are not as clearly detailed as they should be. Once set-up, it works well. If the instructions were more detailed, I believe a 4/5 star rating would be appropriate.
BUY FROM AMAZON