Currant: The First Smart Outlet With AI FeaturesBy - 12/06/2018
How smart can a smart outlet be? We’ve witnessed smart outlets offer features like remote smartphone control, scheduling, geofencing, and rule-based automation, but not much beyond that, until now. Currant claims to be the first smart outlet to offer AI features, and we’ve had the honor of testing this device firsthand.
Disclaimer: Currant was given to me for testing. This did not affect my opinion of the product, but I thought you should know.
Stylish And Clever Design
Before I talk about its AI features, let me mention that Currant is one of the most stylish smart outlets I’ve tested. Upon opening the box, I was greeted by Currant’s reflective glass-like faceplate (which isn’t scratch-resistant, by the way). The face bears the company’s logo and two inverted V-shaped notches that mark where the outlet’s on/off buttons are located. The notches also light up when Currant is turned on.
And while the design is a little boxy (3.2″x 2.5″x 1.5″) and larger than other smart outlets I’ve tested, they make up for this by including two standard outlets. Also, the design features a patent-pending retractable rear plate that lets you change Currant’s physical orientation. Simply retract the back plate (where the prongs are located), rotate it 180-degrees, and then reattach it. For example, in my bathroom, the wall outlet is installed horizontally. I first plugged Currant into the leftmost terminal of the outlet. Of course, it covered up the adjacent terminal. After changing the device’s orientation, I was able to use both outlets. Nice job, Currant.
Easy Setup Process
I also appreciate how easy Currant was to set up, despite experiencing a slight hiccup at first.
Currant shipped without a manual. The only provided instructions were on the box itself. They simply suggested I plug the device in and download the Currant app. So I did. Unfortunately, the app lacked further instruction. Instead, it again suggested that I plug Currant in.
I tried different things to get the setup process to initiate, like pressing the outlet’s buttons and restarting the app, but nothing worked. Right before throwing in the towel, it occurred to me that I might need Bluetooth. So I opened up my iPad, turned Bluetooth on, and lo and behold, the app detected the outlet.
The rest of the process was automatic. I provided my Wi-Fi SSID and password. The app did the rest.
With setup complete, I could see both of Currant’s outlets represented on the app’s home screen. After some testing, I figured out that the device’s left outlet was controlled by the option labeled ‘Top Outlet’ and the right outlet was controlled by the option labeled ‘Bottom Outlet’.
The first thing I recommend you do is to change each outlet’s name. To do so, tap on the outlet’s icon on the dashboard and then tap Edit. Editing the name requires that you choose an icon from a list that best represents what appliance you’re plugging into the outlet. You can also group outlets together into Rooms to make managing your smart home easier.
Schedules, Geofencing, Usage Limit, & Other Features
From the Currant app, you can control your outlets manually (turn them on/off individually) or create Rules (schedules, geofencing, usage limit, power save). You can also use third-party services such as Alexa and Google Assistant.
Manual Smartphone Control
Let’s start with manual smartphone control. You can view all of your Currant smart outlets from the app’s dashboard. Beside each outlet is a toggle switch that allows you to turn the specific outlet on or off. If you’ve created Rooms, they will also appear on the dashboard with an on and off button. Turning a Room on or off affects all devices associated with it.
Of course, as Currant connects to Wi-Fi, you can use smartphone control wherever you are as long as your phone has internet access. What’s interesting here is that you can also use manual smartphone control even if your internet is down, provided that you’re within Bluetooth range. I found this feature useful as I recently switched to a new ISP. My other smart outlets temporarily stopped working during the switch. Nevertheless, I was able to control Currant with my smartphone.
Unfortunately, the degree of control that the app’s dashboard offers is limited. If you want to sink your teeth deeper into Currant’s automation features, the app’s Rules tab is where you want to be.
Rules are Currant’s way of automating your outlets based on your schedule, location, or preferred usage limit. To create a rule, head to the Rules tab and tap on ‘Add a New Rule’. You can then select from four types of rules: Schedule, Home/Away, Usage Limit, and Power Save.
Rules can be applied to multiple outlets or even an entire room. Once you select a rule type and assign it to an outlet or room, you’ll be taken to a page where you can customize the parameters of your rule. Take note that each rule is limited to a single rule type, but you can create multiple rules involving the same outlet. However, be careful when doing so. If your rule parameters overlap, the contradiction might affect the consistency of the rules.
Speaking of rule parameters, let’s talk about how you can customize each rule type.
Schedule-type rules let you program your smart outlets to turn on and off based on the time and day. The Schedule editor has a clock-like interface with two hands (On and Off) and seven buttons representing each day of the week. Simply rotate each hand to the desired on/off time and select which days to activate the schedule. Take note that the clock-like interface only lets you customize the on/off time using 5-minute increment. If you want to fine-tune your schedule to the minute, you can use the Fine Tune option located on the same screen.
Once you’re done creating your schedule, tap ‘Next’ to finalize the rule. Before saving it, you can rename the rule and you have another chance to edit which devices are controlled by it. You can also create more schedules by selecting ‘Add Another Schedule’. For example, if the first schedule you created is for weekdays, you can add a weekend schedule within the same rule.
Home/Away rules let you use your phone’s location to trigger your appliances to turn on or off. The interface is simple.
First, select an action (Turn On or Turn Off) and then select a trigger (When I’m Away or When I’m Home). Next, select which smartphone or tablet’s location should trigger the rule. Click ‘Next’ to finalize the rule.
As with Schedule-type rules, you can rename the rule, edit your settings (action, trigger, trigger device, etc.), or create a schedule. In this case, creating a schedule tells Currant when to fire up your Home/Away rule. For example, you can schedule the rule to activate between 9 AM and 5 PM.
My only issue with Home/Away is that you can only have one action and one trigger per rule. For example, if your Home/Away rule turns off your device when you leave, the same rule can’t be set to also turn on your device when you return. Instead, you will need to create a separate Home/Away rule.
Usage Limit rules prevent your appliances from running for too long. To create a Usage Limit rule, you will set a limit on how long a device should be allowed to run. You can set the limit between 5 minutes and 24 hours. Once set, the outlet will automatically turn off after running for the amount of time you’ve allowed. Take note that unlike other rules, each Usage Limit rule is assigned to one outlet.
Usage Limit also has a nifty feature that allows it to know if the appliance plugged in is turned on or on standby. If you use this feature, Usage Limit will only measure the amount of time your device is turned on. If it’s on standby, your Usage Limit rule won’t apply. So how does it know when your device is on or on standby? By measuring the wattage. When finalizing Usage Limit rules, you have to calibrate your device first. It will ask you to turn on the outlet, turn on the device, and then turn off the device. The rise and fall of the wattage will determine how much power your device uses when turned on and when on standby.
The final rule-type is called Power Save, which is kind of like schedules but instead is only focused on turning devices off. It’s as simple as that. Using a clock-like interface, with only one hand this time, you simply have to set the time you want your outlet to turn off.
As with Schedules, you can select which days you want Power Save to run and create different Power Save schedules for different days of the week.
Using Third-Party Platforms
If you want to integrate Currant with your existing smart home products, you have two options: Alexa and Google Assistant. Alexa and Google Assistant both let you use your voice to control Currant. For example, “Alexa, turn on the TV,” or “Hey, Google. Turn off TV Box.”
I haven’t used Currant with Google Assistant, but I’ve been using Alexa to control it and it’s been nothing short of impressive. The response time is usually quick (around 1 second) and it’s only failed once over the course of two weeks (due to a Currant server issue that lasted for a couple of hours).
Connecting Currant to Alexa was also an impressively simple process. You can either use quick setup, which requires that your Alexa and Currant outlets are on the same Wi-Fi network, or use account authentication. Using quick setup, all you have to do is simultaneously press Currant’s two on/off buttons and Alexa will discover it automatically. With account authentication, you need to log into your Currant account and ask Alexa to discover your newly added smart outlets.
Finally, let’s talk about Currant’s highlight feature: Artificial Intelligence. According to Currant, their smart outlets use AI to “identify usage patterns and suggest changes that can help you save.”
If you worry that it might ruin movie night by randomly turning off your TV when it’s decided that you need to save, let me point out that Currant’s AI doesn’t make decisions on its own. Instead, it offers suggestions, which will appear under the Rules tab.
Suggestions are presented in the form of rules. For example, if Currant notices that you watch TV between 8 AM and 9 AM, it will create a Schedule rule that turns your TV on at just the right time. Take note that the rule remains a suggestion unless you activate it. Once you activate the rule, it will move from the list of suggestions to the list of active rules.
Is Currant Worth It?
All in all, my experience using Currant has been a pleasant one. It’s been reliable for the past couple of weeks aside from the server issue I already mentioned. Still, during the incident, Currant’s customer support team was extremely apologetic and they quickly responded to my ticket even though the incident occurred around Thanksgiving. I also like that users can chat with support anytime via the app.
Where Currant Wins:
Compared to other smart outlets, Currant wins with its highly customizable rules, something I did not experience while testing the Voltson Wi-Fi Smart Outlet. The AI feature is also a nice touch, although it might not be of much help to users who prefer to make their own rules.
Where Currant Loses:
When compared to other smart outlets, Currant lacks third-party integrations. Alexa and Google Assistant are your only options at this time, although I’m sure they’ll expand its compatibility with third-party brands soon.
If you think Currant is the right smart outlet for you, you can buy one on Amazon for $59.99. Take note that there’s a Bluetooth version that sells for a lower price ($39.99). Between the two, I recommend the Wi-Fi version as the Bluetooth version lacks remote smartphone control. However, you can use a combination of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi smart outlets. In such a setup, the Wi-Fi outlet will serve as a Wi-Fi relay or bridge. The only catch is that the Bluetooth outlet and Wi-Fi outlet must be within Bluetooth range of each other. You can buy a three-pack bundle, which includes one Wi-Fi outlet and two Bluetooth outlets,for $129.99.