One of the most affordable ways to add a bit of brainpower to your lights and appliances is to smarten up the sockets you're plugging them into. We've already seen products like the
That's exactly what Quirky and GE have done with the Pivot Power Genius. An updated version of the company's original flexible, bendable power strip, Quirky's Pivot Power Genius adds Wi-Fi smarts into the mix, with two outlets that you can power on and off from your smartphone using the free Wink app. Or, if you'd rather let Quirky do the work for you, you can program your devices to power on and off automatically at certain times. And, if you're willing to spend an extra $50 on Quirky's
Quirky's $79.99 price tag for the Pivot Power Genius is definitely high compared with prices for standard power strips, but it isn't terribly unreasonable given that you're getting two smart outlets. A single WeMo Switch with its lone smart outlet, for instance, will cost you $49.99. The WeMo Switch, however, is compatible with IFTTT, which opens the doors to a whole multitude of triggers -- everything from rising stock prices and football kickoffs to Foursquare check-ins and Twitter mentions. For my money, I'd rather have one outlet that's really smart than two outlets that are kind of smart, and if I really needed two smart outlets, I'd probably just pony up the extra 20 bucks for a pair of WeMo Switches.
If Quirky can expand the smart functionality of its Pivot Power Strip to include IFTTT compatibility or something equally interesting, then I think it'll have a very compelling product on its hands, but as of now it isn't there yet. Additionally, the Spotter shows a lot of promise as a triggering device, but it also might need some additional development, as our tests have shown the reliability of some of the sensors to be a bit, well, spotty. Unless you have a specific need for a bendable smart power strip, and all you need is basic automated scheduling, I'd recommend waiting to see if Quirky can jack the Pivot Power Genius' IQ up a few points.
From a design standpoint, there's a lot to like about this power strip. The fact that you can flex it to fit your needs (and fit your plugs) has a lot of obvious, why-didn't-anyone-think-of-this-before appeal, and on looks alone, it scores points for coolness. I enjoyed the multicolored appearance of the original Pivot Power, though, and wish they had kept that design instead of opting for a conservative, all-white finish.
It's also a bit disappointing that the Pivot Power Genius has only four outlets in total. The original Pivot Power had six, and some common power strips have even more than that. We're also seeing more and more power strips and surge protectors incorporating USB ports into their designs, but you won't find any on the Pivot Power Genius.
Each of the two smart sockets on the Pivot Power Genius features a helpful blue light that shines whenever the outlet is powered on. There are also buttons on the side of the strip beside both smart outlets that will allow you to turn each one on and off manually. I have a hard time imagining scenarios where these would prove to be all that useful, but still, it's nice to have them there if you need them. If you want to turn all four outlets on or off simultaneously, there's a button built into the base of the power strip's plug.
Connecting the Pivot Power Strip to your home's Wi-Fi network is a pretty interesting process. Rather than having you follow a multistep scan-and-connect process, the Pivot Power Genius simply asks you to hold your phone up to its house-shaped indicator light. With the Wink app running, your phone's screen will flash a rapid sequence of lights and communicate your Wi-Fi info to the power strip. Within seconds, you'll be up and running. In all of our tests, we found that this process worked quite well, making setup a lot more painless than you'll see with other home automation systems.
Much of this is also thanks to the free Wink app, available for iOS 6 and above, iPhone 4 and above, and Android phones/tablets with OS 2.2 or higher. The app is beautifully designed, with helpful illustrations and an easy-to-navigate interface. Unlike a lot of home automation apps, which look dated and unattractive, the Wink app is rich, modern, and perfectly pleasant to use. I really can't think of much of anything to complain about with the Wink app's usability, unless I really start to nitpick (here's one quibble: when you're done creating a new automation, there's a Delete button, but no Save or OK button -- you have to give the back button a counterintuitive tap).
Using the Wink app to control your Pivot Power Genius is just as simple as setting the thing up. You'll see an image of your power strip with sliding on/off buttons over the two smart outlets. If you want to schedule an automation, simply tap the clock icon to the side of each outlet and tell the app when you want your device to turn on or off. From then on, it will automatically repeat every day at that same time. This means that there's no option for a one-time automation, or for an automation that only occurs on certain days, and I would have liked more controls in this regard. Fortunately, it's the sort of thing that Quirky can (and should) address with a simple app update.
If you're also using a Quirky Spotter, you'll be able to quickly switch over to the Wink app's Spotter controls, where you'll be able to tell the Spotter to trigger the Pivot Power Genius if changes in light, sound, motion, temperature, or humidity occur. In our tests, the last three of these all worked fine, but when we set the Spotter to trigger the Pivot Power Genius when the lights came on or when there was a sudden spike in noise, our test lamp wouldn't always turn on. I'll have a full review of the Quirky Spotter up in the coming days that will dig a little deeper into its performance.
These triggering issues highlight one of the main challenges facing the Pivot Power Genius. With any smart device that relies on condition-based, if-then-statement automation, the trigger -- the "if" -- is the really important part. The Pivot Power Genius has no trouble powering your devices on and off (the "then"), but its usefulness is directly tied to what's capable of reliably triggering it (the "if"). Unlike the WeMo Switch, which has dozens and dozens of unique "ifs" through IFTTT alone, all the Pivot Power Genius has are the schedules you set and the five types of changes that the Spotter is capable of detecting. And unlike WeMo, which is ready to take advantage of IFTTT's free automation right out of the box, the Pivot Power Genius requires you to spend an additional $50 on the Spotter in order to have access to those additional triggers.
With multiple automatable outlets and a very strong app, the Pivot Power Genius shows a great deal of potential, and is already a smart, useful product in its own right. But I can't say that I find it nearly as useful as the