Home, safe home.
When I was in fourth grade, the teacher told us a horror story about a kid who stuck a paperclip in an outlet and turned 18 different colors human skin isn’t normally capable of. I don’t know how true it was, but the need for such urban legends -- that is, the very real danger of electrocution from power outlets, especially for children -- may soon be behind us.
In fact, preventing electric shock is just the start of the home safety system built around the Brio Smart Outlet. By making a shock-proof WiFi outlet the hub for a network of wireless sensors, Brio plans to detect hazards like fire, carbon monoxide, and flooding or leaking throughout a home.
Brio’s outlets use a combination of optical sensors and low-voltage current to tell the difference between an appliance’s plug and a child’s fingers (or fork). As long as it looks like nothing is plugged in, the power is totally off -- unlike traditional outlets, which are always live. When the outlet thinks an actual plug has been inserted, it double-checks by running a mostly harmless current of 24V through the circuit and checking the electrical resistance. Only if that number meets the expectations for a gadget, and not a human, will the full voltage start to flow.
Other smart outlets can shut off the power supply, but they’re usually just add-ons to the existing “dumb” infrastructure of the home. Brio’s outlets replace that infrastructure outright, which does make them more difficult to install but also ensures that all of the live wires remain tucked safely inside the walls.
For full-home protection, Brio expects users will install a combination of “safe” outlets, which include just the technology described above, and “smart” outlets that feature wireless connectivity. These act as hubs for a network of smaller, battery-operated sensors placed around the house that will send mobile alerts if they detect anything amiss.
Brio completed a Kickstarter in December for the “safe” version of their outlets, and is using it as a proof-of-concept to woo investors as it gears up to produce a full home safety system; backers should receive their outlets in May 2015. The company is taking preorders for the “smart” version on its website, and expects to deliver in August.
See the video below to learn more.
Related: Smart Outlet Round-up