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Grow Your Business Technology

How to Better Your Business Using Smart Plugs

smart plugs
Credit: Bevan Von Weichardt/Shutterstock

What business doesn't wish there was some way to further automate and economize? Smart plugs can help you do both, saving you time and money by managing mundane activities, conserving electricity and making your workplace more secure.

Smart plugs – hardware/software combos that pair a power adapter with an app to remotely control just about any electrical device – are not glamorous tech, but they are a convenient way to give you more control over your workplace from any location. Smart plugs are considered starter devices for small offices interested in smart technology.

You can activate or power down lights, heating and cooling systems, coffee makers, TV and stereo systems, outdoor lighting, and any other electrical item.

Smart plugs are easy to use: You do not need a sophisticated network setup, hubs, programming skills, special installations or any kind of mechanical know-how. They plug into standard electrical outlets, letting you use a phone or tablet to control whatever you've plugged in. You can also use apps to set up schedules and integrate devices into larger smart environments.

The best part is you don't have to replace any of your current appliances: The plug "smartens" all devices.

Control: Controlling your electronics with smart plugs allows you to light and heat your office before you arrive at work, and it can even have your coffee ready. You can schedule your equipment to start up at the same time every day or manually command each item at will. Some brands feature additional customization, like setting actions for individual days or according to temperature or time of day.

Using smart plugs helps you save energy, runs equipment only when you need it and gives you peace of mind that you haven't left any appliances and lights on after you've left for the evening.

Attaching an entertainment system to a smart plug can cut down on the costs of phantom power, drawn from plugged-in devices even when they are off. Some models have a built-in energy monitor that lets you track how much power your appliances use.

Safety: Even if you can't remember whether or not you turned off the portable heater or fan in your office, attaching the device to a smart plug ensures you can control that item so you don't have to turn around and go back to make sure. If you mistakenly left something running in your office, just use the app to shut it down.

Versatility: Most smart plugs are compatible with some combination of voice activation technology like Alexa, Google Home, HomeKit/Siri, Nest, Samsung SmartThings, Wink and IFTTT.

Most use 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, though some also operate over Bluetooth. While Bluetooth connections require you to be within range, if your smart plug supports Apple HomeKit, you can control Bluetooth-based plugs remotely via Apple TV, HomePod or home-based iPad. Plugs are available for both indoor and outdoor use.

Security: Everyone is justifiably concerned about hacking these days. With smart plugs, your devices are controlled remotely with an app and run through your company's Wi-Fi router. If you have password-protected your network and it is otherwise secure, there should be no additional security risk in using a smart plug. If your network is safe enough for your computers, it should be equally safe for your smart office.

While each small business has a different emphasis, in general, you want to ensure that your smart plug's design fits your needs.

Consider whether a single plug will block a dual plug outlet or stay in its own lane. Consider how many you need – buying a two-pack or a power strip could be more efficient and save you money.  Does the plug have its own on-off switch or indicator lights?

Most smart plugs hook directly into your Wi-Fi and operate easily via iPhone or Android app, but it makes sense to test the ease of use of both the setup and the apps first. This way, you know how well they work and they do exactly what you expect them to do. If not, go with another brand.

Finally, how many smart systems will it work with? Alexa, Google Assistant and HomeKit are the most popular voice-activated features, so make sure the plug you buy is compatible with the system you have.

Here are some of the best smart plugs available for your small business.

Credit: Wemo

With your existing Wi-Fi network providing wireless control, your Wemo Smart Plug means no-fuss automation for your company. Its compact form does not block other outlets, and you can add another plug to the same outlet. It's compatible with Google Assistant and IFTTT, the free web-based service that can control lamps, coffee makers, fans and other electronics.

Credit: iDevice

The sleek, stylish iDevices Switch controls and monitors your appliances. You can create schedules for turning devices on and off or create a scene that lets you control multiple appliances at once.

You can also monitor the energy usage of any device plugged into the iDevices Switch with the free companion app. An easy setup lets you plug in the switch and scan the code without having to enter Wi-Fi network information.

It works with HomeKit/Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant for voice control.

Credit: iHome

This versatile Wi-Fi enabled smart plug works with a variety of smart home platforms, including Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Nest, Smart Things, Wink and Google Assistant. You get remote access, plus control and notifications with iHome's secure, encrypted data and privacy protection.

A pre-paired iSP8 remote control lets you (or others in your office) turn the plug on or off without a smartphone or tablet, and you can control multiple plugs simultaneously.

Use the iHome for controlling lights, air conditioners, fans, heaters, coffee makers and audio systems as well as tracking the power they use.

Credit: Kasa

You can control your electronics from any location with your smartphone and the Kasa Android or iOS app. You can also use voice controls with Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana to schedule the Kasa smart plug to automatically turn on or off, or create a scene for controlling multiple devices with a single button.

The plug is UL certified to switch up to 15A for a wide range of devices.

Credit: Wemo

If you're looking for a smart plug that's compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant and Nest, consider the Wemo Insight.

In addition to controlling your appliances via smartphone app, you can monitor your energy costs. The device provides real-time reports for each appliance's energy consumption right on your phone or tablet.

An Away Mode controls lights to discourage intruders, or you can hook it into Nest's home and away modes.

Credit: iClever

What's better than one smart plug? Two smart plugs. The iClever 15A Smart Plug comes in a two-pack, complete with Alexa, Google Assistant and IFTTT compatibility for app or voice control.

You can then schedule or use the countdown/timer function to ensure all your appliances are turned on or off.

The 15A output is compatible with handheld electronics as well as kitchen appliances, TVs and lamps. The compact design accommodates two plugs in a single outlet.

Credit: Aukey

Aukey's compact design lets you insert its two smart plugs into a single duplex outlet without any problems, and with them, you can control appliances and electronics via voice or app.

The Aukey works with Alexa, Google Assistant or via Wi-Fi app without the need of a smart hub or subscription service. You can customize a schedule for your lights to turn on or off or preset a timer so the coffee is ready and the heater is running by the time you reach your work site.

Credit: Meross

Sometimes your smart devices are outdoors with plugs exposed to the elements. And for that you need a high-voltage, high-wattage smart plug like the Meross MSS620 Smart Home Power Strip.

This Wi-Fi plug has an IP44 waterproof, non-immersible housing for your garden, landscape lighting, fountains, pumps, holiday lights, and other indoor and outdoor appliances.

It has two AC outlets, which can be individually controlled via the Meross iOS or Android app. You can also control connected devices with voice commands via Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, or you can create on-off schedules or set daily timers. Just connect it to your existing 2.4GHz Wi-Fi – no extra hub is needed.

Credit: iClever

The iClever Outdoor Smart Plug slots into a single outlet, but provides plug-in ports for multiple devices, giving you control through voice commands or an app. The iClever lets you use Alexa or Google Assistant to operate your heater, air conditioner, lights, TV system and more.

It's also great for landscape lighting, fountains, pumps and other outdoor appliances. You can also set automatic timers, so devices switch on and off on their own.

Credit: Kasa

Sometimes you need more than individual smart plugs, in which case only a power strip will do. The Kasa has six smart outlets that you can control independently, plus three built-in USB ports. The plug's ETL-certified surge protection protects your devices against sudden power surges that can damage your appliances.

The Kasa also monitors the amount of energy devices connected to the power strip. Remotely control your smart plug with voice commands from Alexa, Google Assistant or Microsoft Cortana. The Smart Power Strip works with a secured 2.4GHz wireless network without the need for a separate hub.

Credit: Conico

The Conico Wi-Fi Smart Power Strip gives you four AC plugs that you can control individually with an app or Amazon Alexa voice control. The strip also has four USB charging ports, which must be controlled together.

This power strip supports surge protection and absorption of sudden high voltage that protect the connection equipment from damage. With its 5-foot power cord, it's great for the office and professional workstations. The app lets you create a timer to schedule the wireless multi-outlet power bar.

Conico Smart Power Strip has been approved for safety and quality assurance and certified by ETL and FCC. The Conico Smart Power Strip works directly with Aelxa and Google Assistant to manage your devices through voice control.

Smart plugs are the primary building block of the new style of smart workplace. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from a single plug that works in one outlet to multiple plugs that can be independently controlled with a variety of voice platforms or apps – both indoors and out.

Smart plugs are cost-effective, starting at $15, depending on their functionality. They're also secure: Your encrypted office network is all you need for smart plug remote management. Available in single, two-pack or power strip models, smart plugs are easy to set up and require no special networking skills to hook right into your company's 2.4GHz network. There's no harm in giving smart plugs a try. If you aren't thrilled with the result, you can always disconnect and return them.

Jackie Dove

Jackie Dove is an obsessive, insomniac freelance tech writer and editor in northern California. A wildlife advocate, cat fan, photo app fanatic, and VR/AR/3D aficionado, her specialties include cross-platform hardware and software, art, design, photography, video, and a wide range of creative and productivity apps and systems.