Tech Savvy: Electrify smart home potential
Smart electronic plugs provide a way to tap into useful, everyday technology without breaking the bank. The electronic plugs enable people to operate appliances and lights with a touch of a smartphone or through voice commands. The Wi-Fi smart pl...
Smart electronic plugs provide a way to tap into useful, everyday technology without breaking the bank.
The electronic plugs enable people to operate appliances and lights with a touch of a smartphone or through voice commands. The Wi-Fi smart plugs can mean never entering a dark home after work or being challenged to get the light when hands are full of grocery bags. Simply turn on the living room light by a quick click on a smartphone before putting a key in the front door lock. The smart plugs let users turn on lights or appliances in real time or to set up timers. It also provides a way to track energy consumption, such as how many hours a light is left on. They also create the ability to program lights to turn on in random patterns, making it more difficult to determine if a home is unoccupied when its owners are away. Or turn off a light accidentally left on.
A fully engaged smart home may still seem on the far horizon for most Americans-even as more and more devices from TVs to items like Google Home and the Amazon Echo Dot respond to voice commands. In addition to the plugs there are additional options for smart homes to include thermostats and door locks. But affordable smart plugs are the simple kind of addition that can make a difference.
There are a number of brands to choose from-D-Link, iHome, Orvibo, Panasonic, WeMo or TP-Link, among others. Entry price points range from $20 to about $60 with a number of options about $30.
I tried the TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi Plug. It allows remote control of lights or appliances-whatever is plugged into the smart outlet-by using a smartphone or tablet from anywhere and using the free Kasa app. The response is instantaneous. In addition to working from the phone, the voice commands come in by linking the plug to devices like the Amazon Echo Dot so a user can simply ask Alexa to turn on the living room light.
An away-mode means the smart plug can turn devices on and off at different times to provide the impression someone is home even when the home's occupants are traveling. The app makes it simple to set up schedules to turn the plug on and off at specified times or set up a timer to turn the smart plug on for a pre-set number of hours or minutes. All of which is easily changed or adjusted on the smartphone or tablet.
And, not to avoid getting step counts in, but having the smartphone nearby (and let's face it when is the phone not close at hand) means it's easy to turn a light on or off across the room. Or use a setting to make a change with one touch-like a popcorn icon used to tell a light to dim for movie night.
Smart light bulbs
In addition to the smart plugs, there are smart LED light bulbs like TP-Link bulbs or the Philips Hue, which can also be setup to work with voice controls. The Philips Hue is more costly but online reviews indicate a vast majority of customers are pleased with the product. The TP-Link and Philips Hue bulbs work with the Amazon Echo Dot as do the smart plugs meaning both can be activated by voice commands. Just tell Alexa to turn on the light and it's all done by voice control.
The TP-Link was a quick setup to link it to the internet and the phone. Setting up the device to work with the Amazon Echo Dot for voice controls was a little more tricky and took additional attempts, time and looking up info to make the connection.