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.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Racing drones and robotic ping pong trainers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Computing

Dodge the biggest laptop-buying mistakes with these handy tips and tricks

Buying a new laptop is exciting, but you need to watch your footing. There are a number of pitfalls you need to avoid and we're here to help. Check out these top-10 laptop buying mistakes and how to avoid them.
Gaming

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Home Theater

New TV? Here's where to go to watch the best 4K content available

Searching for content for your new 4K UHD TV? Look no further. We have every major source of the best 4K content, along with the cost, hardware requirements, and features that make each service worth a look.
Smart Home

Foxconn interns reportedly work long hours to produce Amazon Alexa products

A recent report from the Chinese Labor Watch said that student interns are forced to work long hours without rest in order to meet Amazon Echo production goals at the Foxconn factory in China.
Smart Home

New Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo models vacuum and mop with multi-floor mapping

Ecovacs Robotics launched two new robotic home floor care models. The Deebot Ozmo 920 and Deebot Ozmo 950 add new laser-based navigation and multi-floor mapping capabilities combine robotic vacuuming and mopping for total floor cleaning.
Smart Home

Google Assistant’s reminders will soon nag your significant other for you

Let Google take the heat for all that nagging: Google Assistant will soon allow you to assign reminders to others. The feature will roll out to Google Assistant-enabled phones, speakers, and displays over the next few weeks.
Deals

Locate a runaway pet with the Whistle 3 GPS Pet Tracker, now $64 on Amazon

A good way to monitor your pet’s movements is through a GPS tracker. A great option is the Whistle 3, which is available on Amazon for only $64 as an early Prime Day deal. It’s normally sold for $80, so you get $16 savings.
Buying Guides

Back to school smart home gadgets under $50 for your dorm

Today’s students are accustomed to a high-tech lifestyle, which they'll want to maintain when they start college. But they're also strapped for cash, so these back to school smart home gadgets under $50 for the dorm are perfect!
Smart Home

Startup Camect is on track to deliver a private, unified smart camera hub

It's not every day you run across a crowdfunded startup that has raised nearly three times its goal but startup Camect has done just that to fund the development of a secure smart camera hub expected to launch in 2020.
Smart Home

Smart thermostats explained: How they work and how they save you money

Thinking of buying a smart thermostat, but don't know exactly what you're looking for? We explain how smart thermostats work, the features they offer, and how they can save you money.
Smart Home

The best pet tech products on the market for dog and cat owners

Pet-centric tech has come a long way in the past decade. From self-cleaning litter boxes to DNA tests designed to trace your pup's ancestry through the ages, here is some of the best pet tech available.
Smart Home

Amazon and Walmart match lower prices on Echo Dot and Google Home Mini

Amazon and Walmart resumed their price competition on the entry-level smart speakers for the Amazon Echo and Google Nest Home smart home ecosystems. The price cuts have started with 40% discounts on the Echo Dot and the Google Home Mini.
Smart Home

Alexa’s Custom Interfaces hope to augment gadgets, games, and smart toys

Alexa is growing smarter again with a new feature for developers called Custom Interfaces. The feature is aimed at augmenting interactivity between users of Alexa-powered devices like Amazon's Echo and developer's newest products.