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This programmable, open source outlet can do things that off-the-shelf smart plugs can't

Excited by the idea of an open-source, Arduino-based outlet, capable of remotely controlling your various household devices?

If so, you’ll definitely want to check out the Portlet: a versatile portmanteau of “portable” and “outlet,” which — despite only consisting of 4 buttons and a simple 2×15 character LCD screen — can be programmed to do everything from switching your lights on at a certain time to keeping your coffee heated at the perfect temperature.

“The idea for the Portlet came about when playing in the kitchen,” Jon Thorn, creator of Portlet, tells Digital Trends. “I realized that most kitchen devices were controlled by 4 simple functions: turning a motor on or off, turning a heater on or off, measuring heat, and a timer.”

Thorn says that he wanted more control over the functionality of his devices, and figured he could incorporate all of these different controls into a simple control box. “As I played with it I also decided it needed at least two channels: two temperature sensors and two outlets as this would let you control both a heating device and a cooling device,” he continues.

Not everything was plain sailing. “Most of the disasters were around converting 110 VAC to 5 VDC to run the electronics,” Thorn admits. “Designing the Portlet was my motivation to learn how to use Eagle CAD as well. So add an ignorance about electronics on top of the learning curve of making mistakes in the board and you get… magic smoke.” However, he eventually learned what he needed to and the result is a great gizmo which can be used to carry out a plethora of tasks.

Right now, Thorn says that he has a Portlet controlling a toaster oven and another which controls the crockpot for making yoghurt. Provided that there is enough interest, future additions might include a European-style Portlet with the correct plugs, a Wattmeter or way to measure power going through the outlets, a built-in dimmer switch on both outlets, and more.

If you’re interested in getting your hands on a Portlet, Jon has helpfully made the list of parts, code, other documentation, and even 3D printing files available to download. Or you could be extra nice — and save yourself a bit of work — by purchasing a completed unit here.

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