It's easy to take electrical safety for granted, given how great a role electricity plays in our everyday lives. Yet each year sees thousands of new injuries from household electrical hazards, including injuries to kids. Those are injuries that Brio, a start-up based out of San Diego, thinks it can help prevent.
Brio's product is a smart outlet, but not one with an initial focus on convenience or connectivity. Instead, the focus is safety. By default, Brio's outlet holds the power back until its patented microprocessor senses the electrical demand of a plug. As soon as it does, the juice flows like normal. Stick something else in -- say, a fork -- and it'll keep the electricity at bay, and keep you from getting a shock.
With a slightly large, circular build, each Brio Safe Outlet will take up some extra space on the wall. Aside from that, though, it's designed to look and work exactly like a normal outlet. You'll install the Brio in the same way as you'd install any outlet. Once it's wired in, plug in a lamp, or your laptop, and it'll receive power per usual. Non-plug items, not so much.
Each of Brio's two outlets is wired with an independent safety mechanism. If something's plugged into the top socket, the bottom socket will remain unpowered and kid-safe. If, for some reason, you need to override the current and manually stop power from flowing to one of the outlets, there's a button on Brio that'll do just that.
At $49 each (or $39 for Kickstarter early birds), Brio is definitely priced at a premium compared to the standard outlets you're already using, especially if you're going to be replacing a whole home's worth of them. It's also markedly more expensive than simply placing plastic safety plugs into each socket. Still, parents of small children who might be tempted to investigate the conveniently low-to-the-ground slots in the wall might find it to be a worthy investment.
Brio's Safe Outlets are slated to ship out to Kickstarter backers by next summer. Down the road, Brio's team plans to add new, app-enabled designs capable of communicating with external sensors to monitor for things like smoke, leaks, and carbon monoxide.
Given that, it might be worth waiting for the next generation before buying in on too grand a scale, but still, as a means of kid-proofing a nursery or playroom, Brio looks like the sort of intelligent, safety-minded solution that ought to be just as ubiquitous as electricity itself.