Smart Power Strip set to bring simple, cheap automation to the home (video)

Listen, we'd all like an automated home -- we've got the appliances and we've got the smart devices. What we really need is a bridge between the two, something that allows our little pocket computers to turn our home devices on and off at will. There has been no shortage of attempts by some of the most prominent names in the industry to become a catch-all solution, but none have really managed to make a major impact on our day-to-day lives. It's hard to point to a single explanation for the lack of mainstream adoption -- though if we had to choose one, we'd probably point to pricing. After all, automation's a convenience, to be sure, but for the vast majority of us, thousands of dollars is an awful lot to pay for convenience.

You could wait a decade or so for the cost to come down on some standardized solution, or you could bite the bullet and pick up something easier and considerably cheaper in the near future. It's not the most elegant solution we've seen, but Smart Power Strip is clever, intuitive and requires pretty much nothing in the way of installation to get started. Simply put, it's a power strip with a little extra. There's a WiFi module built in and controls that let you turn the individual outlets on and off using a smartphone and the company's proprietary app. That means you can turn the lights on the minute you get home without flicking a switch.

The really cool part, however, is all that you can accomplish remotely. You'll be able to check which devices are on (and turn them off), while a built-in power-consumption tracker lets you know how much juice each appliance is currently sucking up. You can also schedule those devices to go on and off, in case you want to, say, get a fan going to cool things off before you get home. On that note, creator Roger Yiu is also incorporating home-automation modules that make it possible to turn devices off and on based on things like temperature and motion.

Smart Power Strip is one of 10 devices currently in the running for our Insert Coin competition here at Engadget Expand. Yiu tells us that he plans on launching a Kickstarter campaign after the weekend, regardless of the competition's results -- though obviously a monetary award would help his campaign considerably. What you see above is a close-to-final prototype of the strip created on a CNC machine. The final version will have four automation-enabled outlets and two USB ports for charging (though not automating), because it's 2013, after all. Early backers will be able to nab one for $100.