Voltower towers above other power strips and surge protectors

Surge protectors have long been among the most important electronic accessories to own. They not only provide consumers with the ability to power multiple devices at the same time, but also ensure those devices aren’t damaged if there’s a power surge.

patent-claimedOne common problem with them, however, is that it’s often hard to get devices of different sizes to reach the same power strip, at least without causing an unsightly mess of cables. Voltower is a patented and vertically-oriented, height-adjustable power strip that makes the task easier. It can be adjusted to stand from 25 to 36 inches tall and has the capacity to plug in up to 10 devices, with six 110-volt standard power outlets and four USB ports. The grounded and surge-protected strip also offers multiple mounting options.

Voltower ships in November at $129 in black, silver and black-on-silver SKUs. But early bird Kickstarter backers can get one for a pledge starting at $69. Its makers are looking to raise $188,888 by April 3. The device is clearly a handy one to have in a home or office. But it lacks the portability of typical power strips and surge protectors. It also lacks the original, eye-catching design of the similar TwistVolt.

Chargers/Batteries Smart Home

The YOUMO modular power strip makes supplying power electrifying

While smartphones and laptops continue to slim down and offer more powerful specs, the humble strip keeps on chugging along in all its practical, drab glory, doling out power and taking names. Most of the time, though, it doesn’t offer much in the way of functionality.

The YOUMO is a smart modular power strip offering users a wide range of plug-and-go modules for a custom power solution for any situation.  Good Gadgets, the three-man team behind the Kickstarter campaign, has designed YOUMO modules to be lightweight for travel and aesthetically pleasing, a far cry from most dollar store varieties. It all starts with a base cord in three different lengths and seven different colors. From there, six modules can connect in any combination to each other.

Tech Accessories Travel

Trix lets you keep outlets hidden up your sleeve. Or anywhere else.

Power strips have become a must-have tech accessory for people who travel a lot — or even for those who spend loads of time at Wi-Fi hot spots and desperately need to charge their smartphones, tablets and computers. All too often, one has to compete with others for only a couple of outlets, but toting a couple of outlets allows the power-starved to plug in and still let others juice up.

The Trix power strip is a very small (90mm x 90mm x 38mm) and colorful portable power strip with three AC outlets that makes it easy to plug in wall warts without worrying about them overlapping.  It also avoids having to drag along extra USB chargers since it has two USB ports in the fourth face of its X-like design. Trix costs $40 and will ship in September. Also planned is a Traveler’s Pack that adds a universal converter at $60, also coming in September. Its maker is hoping to raise $58,042 by April 30.

One edge that Trix has over theMonster’s Outlets To Go power strip is its design, which is smaller and easier to fit in a pocket.Trix’s curved design also makes it easier to grip. Its minimalism can also come in handy at home for preventing cable sprawl.

Smart Home

SAM lets you automate any part of the home just by plugging it in

The Premise. Everyone wants an automated home that they can control with their phone or even one that can sense what needs to be turned on or off without any user input. Dozens of companies promise this feature, but one wants to really deliver on the mixture of functionality and ease of use.

The Product. SAM is a smart outlet that comes in both single-plug and power strip varieties. Using environmental sensors to monitor time of day, temperature, electrical usage, motion, and light, SAM can be programmed to control any kind of product plugged into its outlets. Additionally, SAM can be controlled using an app to know if a device has been left on or not, or to start it while away from the home.

The Pitch. The idea of having a little kid act out the part of SAM and take care of the home while the adults are out working and celebrating a romantic anniversary is pretty creative. Of course, the actual product itself is more high-tech and less human, but the functioning principles are the same. Getting a chance to see the SAM app and how easy it can be to control any kind of device remotely or even without any user feedback beyond the initial programming phase is what makes this product so enticing., the creator of SAM, needs $75,000 primarily for tooling and appropriate certification.

The Perks. Single-outlet SAM plugs are available in black or white for $49. The SAM Strip with three outlets is available for $109. Both items will be delivered in November 2014. A beta option with early production units of the Plug and the Strip will be out in September for backers who pledge $299. A “full house” tier is available as a 10-pack for $450.

The Potential. Smart plugs or outlets like these are pretty much the backbone on which home automation is founded on these days, so the concept of SAM is nothing new. Watching the videos and getting to see SAM in action however, it seems like a great step forward for the concept. Based on how programmable the plugs and power strips are, complete with multiple sensors for conditions, full overrides, and the ability to communicate with one another, SAM seems like the simplest, most effective solution for smart plugs. There have certainly been other efforts that are gaining some momentum, like Belkin’s WeMo for example, but the execution here is what elevates SAM to the next level.