If you’re all in on the idea of making your home smart and automated, a company called Sonoff has created a simple adaptor that will add Wi-Fi connectivity to any USB-powered device allowing it to be powered on and off without you ever having to lift a finger.
In addition to becoming the ubiquitous way to connect and facilitate data transfers between random electronics, somewhere along the way USB also became a standardised power connector for cheap devices that don’t require a lot of power but don’t necessarily warrant a battery. As a result, USB ports on power bars are a common feature now, and you’ve probably got a multi-port USB hub hanging off your laptop so you can power and recharge a host of other ‘dumb’ gadgets on your desk. It’s those gadgets that Sonoff promises to make smart.
The Sonoff Micro, or Sonoff USB Smart Adaptor (we’re not entirely sure what its official name is) is designed to sit between a USB device and the USB port it draws power from, be it a small wall wart, the back of a computer, or a power bar. The adaptor is about the size of the USB charger that Apple includes with the iPhone, but instead of being packed with power regulating circuitry, it’s got a Wi-Fi chip inside and the ability to turn the power on and off remotely.
The most obvious benefit to an adaptor like this is when connected to a smartphone app it allows you to remotely turn USB-powered devices on and off without having to reach for a power button, or walk over and unplug them. But the adaptor is also compatible with the Google Home and Amazon Alexa smart assistants, so you can turn things on and off with a simple voice command. Even more useful for those who use voice assistants but are concerned about privacy, Hackaday points out that Sonoff’s USB adaptor could be used to set up timers to power off smart speakers and limit the hours when those types of devices are eavesdropping on your home.
With a price tag of $US6.50 ($10) (and an expected ship date of February 15), the Sonoff Micro isn’t terribly expensive, but you’ll need one for each and every USB-powered device you want to make smart, so the price could quickly add up. But as smart power adapters go, that’s about the cheapest we’ve ever seen.