No matter where you turn, you’ll hear about the Internet of Things, something Google, Apple, and Amazon are all racing to get into in various ways, from the Google Home to Apple’s HomePod. Still, the light-activating speaker is just the start; making a smart home means retrofitting it, an intimidating task for most people. The CNCT IntelliPLUG wants to make turning your dumb home smart as simple as putting plugs in outlets, but while it’s a good idea, it falls afoul of the messy realities of the technology.
The IntelliPLUG, currently raising money on IndieGoGo, is basically a wireless switch; you plug it into an outlet, connect it to your phone or your voice-controlled device, and then can flip on or off anything you have plugged in. Or you can set and forget a timer, so if, say, you throw food into a crockpot and set a timer on the plug, you just need to throw the lid on and head out the door. In theory, at least, it fills in a gap for smart home fans and people who just need control over certain parts of their homes. Theory and practice, however, are two different things.
The basics are simple and user-friendlier than many smart gadgets. Many “smart” outlets and similar tools require some basic electrical knowledge to hook up properly, but the intelliPLUG just goes right into the wall. That said, there’s only room for one on your standard outlet plate. It’s fairly discreet as these things go, but still big enough that it takes up most of the outlet, and it might be a challenge to fit in on an outlet where you have a larger plug, such as a window air conditioner or a larger wall wart for an appliance. You’ll almost certainly want to fit it on the top, as on the bottom it comes up just high enough to make fitting a second plug with a ground a challenge. See for yourself:
Then there’s the setup. First, you have to download CNCT’s app, which works even on older model Androids, but has a flat unappealing design and an unusual number of permissions required for an app that’s basically a light switch. And then the trouble starts: Since the IntelliPLUG can’t access 5G WiFi, we had to spend twenty minutes or so figuring out how to switch a phone to a network it would accept. We tried the “direct” configuration guide, but the instructions simply didn’t work. Finally, we got the app up and running, and installed the Alexa skill. The next problem, which isn’t CNCT’s fault, is that Alexa has a hearing problem: It tends to interpret “intelliPLUG” as “Kelly Plug” or “IntelliCLOCK” or any of a host of objects that do not actually exist. Alexa’s inability to grasp what we’re saying isn’t CNCT’s fault, we suppose, but it seems like this should have been tested beforehand.
Despite all that, in the end what matters is the IntelliPLUG works, and frankly it works best for the money you pay, $20 instead of $40 or $60 for essentially the same product. Other solutions are bulkier, costlier, harder to use, and have the same connectivity problems or simply lack the features in the first place. Still, thanks to the messy nature of how we connect to the internet and the capriciousness of the other products it connects to, it’s mostly for solving a very specific problem. If you want to be able to turn a light or small appliance on or off while you’re at work, or set them on a specific timer, it’s your most cost-effective solution. But it probably won’t be the foundation of making your dumb home any smarter.
Verdict: Worth A Chance
This review was conducted with a sample provided by the manufacturer.