The scoop: Mydlink Wi-Fi Smart Plug, by D-Link, about $50. What is it? The Wi-Fi Smart Plug is a power outlet adapter that includes Wi-Fi connectivity, letting you turn any electrical device into a connected device for power on/off purposes. With an included app for iOS and Android devices (phones or tablets), users can control the connected appliances wherever they are (whether inside their own home networks or over the cloud).
Why it's cool: If you want to dip your feet into the connected home device space but don't want to deal with the installation issues around things like replacing power outlets or setting up a new thermostat, the Wi-Fi Smart Plug is a great starter system. The Smart Plug attaches to a regular power outlet, and the app quickly gets you connected to your existing Wi-Fi network (the system needs an 802.11n or 802.11ac network, so you might need to upgrade your network). You can connect by pushing the WPS button on the device, but more-than-likely you'll want to set it up manually by connecting to the plug's own internal Wi-Fi network, then use the app to direct it towards your own Wi-Fi network.
Once setup is done (it's easier than that sounded), you can plug in a single device (a TV, lamp, electric fan, etc.) and then turn the appliance on or off by using the smartphone/tablet app. To connect over thecloud, you have to sign up for a free mydlink account.
The app provides basic data, such as power usage for the day, month and year. An Overheat Protection feature lets you disable the power socket when a temperature level is reached (you can set the level), as well as send you an alert when a power outlet is overheating. A scheduling feature lets you pick times to have the device go on/off, a good idea for things like Christmas lights or for turning on/off the lamp when you're on vacation.
Some caveats: You're limited to one device per Smart Plug in theory you could plug a power strip into the Smart Plug, but then you'd basically be powering everything else connected to the power strip (I wouldn't recommend it but may be that's something you would be fine with). Also, if you already have lots of devices in the home (power strips galore as well as powerline network adapters), finding an open power outlet might be a challenge.
Grade: 4.5 stars (out of five)
The scoop: Fuel portable wireless storage drive, by LaCie, about $180 (1TB capacity) What is it? This drive is the LaCie-branded version of Seagate's Wireless Plus storage drive, aimed at Mac users (although you can also access the drive via Windows systems).
The goal of the device is to have an external storage device that can wirelessly stream multimedia content (videos, music, photos, etc.) to connected iPads and iPhones. The 1TB capacity of the drive (a 2TB version is also available) means you can put a lot more content there instead of on your iPhone or iPad (saving you some money in the long run).
Why it's cool: The wireless capability of the drive means you can load up a bunch of TV shows,movies, music, etc. on the drive and take it with you your kids can watch stuff off the drive during that summer road trip or in the hotel room. Another cool feature is the Fuel's ability to stream content to Apple TV or other AirPlay devices, giving you a larger screen display than offered by the iPad or iPhone. Like the latest version of the Satellite, you can enable the device to have Wi-Fi passthrough, letting you connect the Fuel to an existing Wi-Fi network so you don't have to keep switching your phone/tablet between networks to access content and use the Internet.
Some caveats: If you already own a Seagate Wireless Plus, there's really no need to invest in the LaCie Fuel, since it's basically the same device, but with LaCie branding and styling. But if you don't own a wireless drive yet, the Fuel is certainly a great investment.
Grade: 5 stars