Any household with small roaming humans inevitably has to block its electrical sockets from tiny probing fingers. But most of the childproof measures out there—plastic plugs, sliding faceplates—can still be impregnated by determined hands. This outlet prototype wouldn't supply any electricity to its sockets until a plug is inserted—and it could even tell the difference between a plug and, say, a wet fork.
A concept for a new outlet by a company called Brio says it will work by sensing impending electrical demand. Most of the time, it would remain in the off position, with no current flowing to the sockets. But when you bring a plug close to the socket, an embedded microprocessor could confirm that it is, indeed, a plug and would supply voltage to the outlet, but only once it's firmly inserted inside. Same deal when a plug comes out—no more power to the socket. This is slightly different than the typical ground-fault circuit interrupter (those outlets with the red and black buttons) which are designed to shut down in the presence of moisture to prevent electrical shock.
On its website, Brio says it's also working on another smart home-enabled outlet that functions like an emergency sensor for fire and carbon monoxide.
The idea seems great at first blush. But man, if they do get made, these puppies would be pricey: $49 if you pledge to the Kickstarter (there are also a handful available for $39 but it looks like they won't be around long). So while you might want to stick one or two of these in the most prominently kid-visited places in your house, you probably won't be installing them in every outlet in your home. [Brio via CNET]