back to article Lights, power, action! Smartplugs with a twist

For reasons that continue to confound consumers, the two most popular areas for smart-home technologies right now are lightbulbs and plugs. There are literally dozens of companies trying to do the electronic equivalent of designing a better mousetrap. Among the also-rans, there are a few that stand out, however. We've already …

  1. Justin Clift

    Probably useful for curfews too

    "Kids... lights off in 10..."

    10 minutes later, turn off the power to their games console.

    Sounds like a win until realising they'd just unplug it from the smart plug then plug it directly into the wall socket. ;)

  2. Your alien overlord - fear me

    3 out of 5 - you being drinking from the generous cup?

    Also, in the UK our double sockets are horizontal.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Boffin

      Not many people know this, but BS 1363 was actually designed by Leonardo da Vinci.

      1. John H Woods Silver badge

        The key purpose of BS1363 ...

        ... is objects that magically appear, prongs up, in the path of anyone who isn't wearing shoes

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: The key purpose of BS1363 ...

          Lego designers got there first.

          1. Mage Silver badge

            BS1363 vs Lego

            Committee for the BS1363 plug formed in 1941. Introduced in 1947.

            The Lego Group began manufacturing the bricks in 1949.

            I claim BS1363 got there first.

            1. TeeCee Gold badge
              Thumb Down

              Re: BS1363 vs Lego

              Committee for the BS1363 plug formed in 1941. Introduced in 1947.

              And that tells you absolutely everything you need to know about it. The product of six years of frenzied chair polishing by talentless tossers who couldn't get a job doing anything else.

              I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that there was an entirely different committee working on the sockets......

      2. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

        And even fewer have noticed the caption in the corner of the sketch:- "Caltrop"

  3. Mage Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    Fail

    Both networked and remote controlled plugs have been around for ever, more than 20 years.

    Time operated kettles since 1930s! You can only use them once without a reset because of the WATER. (the power switch can be left on).

    Zanussi or such does a nice mounted in the wall plumbed in coffee maker. So you don't have to refill the water. You DO have to refill the coffee.

    The "teasmade" timed "kettles" are still made. A £10 timer plug and £10 kettle will do the same, but doesn't pour automatically into the cups.

    There is a niche market for this late to market product. Or less, as the competition is more flexible. This is a 0 out of 5 product.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fail

      If you live anywhere in the south, you'll find the pipes on these things quickly get clogged up with limescale etc, often because people can't be bothered to install or replace filters.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fail

        My friend has a Jura bean-to-cup machine... it can be set to warm up at a certain time - though this only takes a minute anyhows - and can be set to turn off x minutes after the last cup. It also tells the user when it wants de-scaling. It's an enviable bit of kit, but it doesn't grow, harvest or roast your coffee for you, so I'll only give it 3/5.

        My old man uses an IR-controlled (on/off) plug adaptor, bought from Lidl, so he can turn his Roberts radio on and off without reaching over from the kitchen table. If he just bought a micro-'hi-fi' system, he would have on/off as well as volume up / down and Radio 3 / 4.

        Currently trying to guide him through Spotify.... the set he's found for himself is to have Spotify on a laptop to 3.5mm cable into his Brennan, and uses the Spotty client on his Nexus 5 to control the laptop. Managed to stop him making 500+ tracks available offline on his phone.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Fail

          Doesn't one have staff for this sort of thing ?

  4. Anonymous IV
    Thumb Down

    Life's too short

    Of even less use than a solution looking for a problem, and failing, is 2000 words about it.

    Congratulations to the author...

    1. Antonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: Life's too short

      Old Reg needs an "Infomercial" category to file all these product placements away under :(

    2. Turtle

      @Anonymous IV Re: Life's too short

      Oh, I kinda liked the article. It was informative, and humorous - although most of that humor was inherent in the nature of the product, such as it is, and its, well, shall we say "peculiarities", and there were a few good lines in the comments here too.

      So, for me, in my eyes, a good article.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Re: @Anonymous IV Life's too short

        Would have to agree (have an upvote too) - always nice to have this kind of semi-humorous articles on a Friday morning to tide us over until BOfH/Dabbsy in the afternoon, to keep the prospect of doing any work on POETS day away...

    3. Triggerfish

      Re: Life's too short

      Yep some of the uses seems to me the sort of thing you do when you spend 50 quid on a plug and then think gosh I need to justify it.

      Also digital timer plugs, £5 RTFM*.

      *Its not like they are terribly hard to figure out anyway especially if you think yourself a techy type surely.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Mushroom

    Nuka-toaster

    I inherited a Dualit toaster. It's over 25 years old, will withstand nuclear attacks come WWIII, and can be broken down to mod weapons in Fallout 4. In short, it's the pinnacle of toasting technology.

    Kettles are a bit more difficult. Steam is incredibly corrosive, and will break down plastic (possibly in combination with UV), and any sort of weld on the spout electrolytically corrodes.

    The best combination seems to be a kettle where the spout is pressed stainless steel as part of the body.

    Now this planned obsolescence smart gadget bullshit needs to stay out of the kitchen. In fact, fuck the free market; anything with an iPhone dock needs to be banned.

    1. Jan 0

      Re: Nuka-toaster

      Ah, now that's the most sensible toaster in the known universe. Glass over the heating elements, so you can fish broken chunks of toast out using a metal knife or fork even when the toaster is powered on. Full marks Dualit!

      As far as I can see the most useful household remote control would be a heating controller, to turn the heating on or off when you're miles from home. (Yes I know that there are proprietary and d-i-y solutions, but they're all pants.) What else would you need to turn on or off from afar? Well, I could see the advantage of running a bath from your bed, but, frankly, a short walk to the bathroom for a slash and to turn the taps on, followed by ten minutes back in bed with a timer set on the 'phone, to wake me up in case Today isn't interesting enough, seems adequate.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nuka-toaster

      Howdy doodly do. Hows it going? I'm Talkie, The Talkie Toaster, your chirpy breakfast companion. Talkies the name, toasting the game. Anyone like any toast?

  6. Charles Manning

    A Smart Kettle might make sense

    Turn it on via phone. Tells you how much water is in it and ETA for when it will be hot.

    When it's boiling it turns itself off then tells you via phone.

    It reminds you 5 minutes later that you still have not used the water and asks if you want to re-boil.

    But most of this Smart House stuff is crap. I'd rather they got on with developing the flying car we're supposed to all have sometime before 2000.

    1. Keef

      Re: A Smart Kettle might make sense

      No it won't, ever.

      And don't suggest I should re-boil, I'm guessing you're a coffee drinker as no self-respecting tea drinker would ever re-boil.

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        Re: A Smart Kettle might make sense

        I'll take re-boiled coffee over either no-coffee or cold coffee any day, thankyouverymuch. The office coffee maker isn't exactly churning out exquisitely metered individual cups on demand, you know. Although the "smart" gizmo is still useless IMHO, sorry...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      there's a smart-home thermostat kit on offer today for £56

      direct from the (spanish) manuf.

      momit.com using the code BLACKF

      this isnt an advert but a suggestion that those who wish to experiment with 802.15.4 6LowPAN by turning their heating on/off/smart - including proximity over iOS or Android or BerryOS - can experiment for a decent price!

      what could possibly go wrong!

      (I did buy a smart thermo + 6LowPAN ethernet gateway because amzn wanted £49 for a lot of the 'clockwork' thermostats) I've no idea if this model actually works

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Utterly idiotic

    and absolutely hilarious!

    Humanity is plagued by some serious problems and these guys are (intellectually) mastu$%@@ng over a plug ?!

    It is appalling to see what an iPhone can do to human mind.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Utterly idiotic

      I wish I could upvote you more than once. I'm still wondering why someone with the brains it takes to design this stuff couldn't design something, you know, useful, instead of something useless. Doesn't even have to be a serious problem, just something useful. This is waste of talents.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Utterly idiotic

        I'm wondering at what point these cutting edge designers will find out that the Japanese got there years ago with the venerable art of Chindōgu, and quite what effect it would have on their psyche.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Utterly idiotic

          Similar in spirit to Chondogu is the 1969 work by:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Carelman

          The Book of Unfindable Objects.

        2. A Twig

          Re: Utterly idiotic

          Depressingly the selfie stick was identified as Chindogu around 20 years ago and look at their popularity now..

          http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-32336808

      2. Fatman Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Utterly idiotic

        <quote>I wish I could upvote you more than once. </quote>

        I gave him an upvote on your behalf!

  8. frank ly Silver badge

    Zeroth world problem

    There's an overpriced tech toy for that.

  9. Borg.King

    @Kieren McCarthy

    I like this piece you've written here. I think you've made some good points and the folks at Zuli, if they're as smart as you believe, will take this and think some more about the use cases.

    Eventually someone will figure out what it is we really want our lighting, heating / cooling and appliances to do, and make a $10 unit to do it.

    1. Martin-R

      Re: @Kieren McCarthy

      I've just replaced a prehistoric heating clock with a Hive unit and smart plugs are on their list of add-ons, but I still can't see much use case. For me the biggest missing piece with all of these is a (secure!) API so people can start to extend things. For example, Hive lets me set what time the heating comes on and the target temperature, it knows the (forecast) outside temperature and it logs the inside temperature. Why not join up the dots and model the "thermal inertia" of the house so I can have what I really what, which is a toasty bathroom at 7am by firing up the heating at the appropriate time according to the actual temperatures. Similarly I want an easy way of telling it that I have to get up an hour earlier than normal tomorrow, rather than having to change the schedule then change it back...

      1. TheOtherHobbes

        Re: @Kieren McCarthy

        Thermal inertia? You wotty wot?

        Ah. I see. Your problem is you're thinking like an engineer who wants to build clever, useful things that actually help people.

        No. That's the wrong idea, young man. You should be thinking like a combined marketingdroid, designer, and hipster icon.

        Then you'll be really excited about the fact that you can sell three - three! - plugs to triangulate the position of a phone your customers probably left in the living room, instead of being someone of clue who would have used a cheap sensor technology that actually works.

        Pretty app though. Isn't it just.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @Kieren McCarthy

        But is it even worth turning the heating off and on? I wouldn't want the inside of my house to get colder than 5C, ever, and I wouldn't want it to get colder than 10C when there are living occupants (cats, dogs, etc). I never want it warmer than 15C. Experience shows that the heating never needs to be on until we hit the time of year where outside daytime temps are below 10C.

        So in the time when we are all out (which, for a large family is much less than would be the case for a single person. Nevertheless, I find the house cools quite slowly, which suggests the heat loss is fairly low. But if it's freezing outside and 15C inside then, turning the heating off and allowing the house temperature to drop a degree is only going to decrease the cooling rate by a few %. Ok, if we let it go down to 10C we have reduced the heating loss by 1/3, BUT it takes hours before it is that cold --- most of the cooling is at a higher rate.

        Isn't it best just to have a well insulated house and keep the thermometer at the same level? I'm really curious as to how much these systems save.

  10. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Why?

    All the hard work that must have gone into putting that product to market and it's still rarely less hassle than standing up, taking three steps and flicking a switch. It's not like most of us have rooms measuring more than 15' on a side -- hell, in a Barrett's rabbit hutch *everything* is within reach of your favourite slob-out seat.

    1. cosymart
      Happy

      Re: Why?

      Tell that to the inventor of the TV remote :-)

  11. Ketlan
    Unhappy

    FFS

    Seriously? $160-worth of three plugs to turn on a light three seconds after I would have passed the switch that's on the wall next to me as I enter the room. Then the time needed to program/reprogram this over-expensive crap...

    Until the Internet of Odds and Sods can come up with gadgets that are a)useful, b)necessary and c)reasonably priced for what they do, they can shove it.

    1. Captain DaFt

      Re: FFS

      You forgot:

      D. Secure

    2. VinceH Silver badge

      Re: FFS

      "Seriously? $160-worth of three plugs to turn on a light three seconds after I would have passed the switch that's on the wall next to me as I enter the room."

      The switching off sounds even worse. From the article:

      "You walk out, and it switches off according to pre-set time that you set (5, 10 or 15 minutes)."

      If those are the only options, with five minutes being the shortest amount of time, that strikes me as wasting electricity.

      Problem not solved? Problem not even found!

  12. Tascam Holiday
    Thumb Down

    Totally Pointless

    Really? Does anyone walk around their house with their phone all evening? Mine goes straight onto the charger when I get home, I don't want to lug the damn thing around for basic home functions to work.

    A solution that worked off something a bit more passive like RFID-with-range could be worth the aggro, a device that costs pence that you could stick to the hem of your PJs or embed under the skin (for the brave) could be a goer.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

      Re: Totally Pointless

      That was my thought as well (and in my case it would possibly actually cause more energy wastage, as I'm notorious for "popping out" and forgetting I've left the phone sat there in the charger.

      Plus given it's currently iPhone only and has to have the Bluetooth pinging away more than a submarine in a Tom Clancy novel, it's not exactly conducive to not having the phone away from the charger anyway.

  13. Lee D Silver badge

    Am I the only one that thinks that the listing of features is actually just more worthless features and provides nothing of real value?

    There's no reason these things can't be small enough to fit into a slightly-more-bulky-than-usual ordinary 13A user-wireable plug. Pass-through plugs just don't work well with UK plugs if they want to be safe. But a plug you could put onto anything yourself? That's more interesting.

    The scheduling and other "features"? I expect that for free with such a device. It's basically nothing more than a bog-standard bit of code inside the existing bits of code it must already have in order to talk to your phone.

    The motion-detection junk? It just screams gimmick. You'll use it once and then never touch it again. I can't think why you'd want something to do that. It's like keyless car entry - you still have to walk up to the bloody thing to get in it, so what have you saved except exposing a digital interface to the airwaves?

    But I have bought a "smart" plug. Several of them. They do interesting things. It just works in reverse. It texts me when the power goes off. It texts me when the temperature in the server room drops too quickly or below a certain level. If it could text me when power draw exceeded an expected level, or dropped to zero, that would be handy too. Those things are parts of UPS systems, so they exist, but mine is just a GSM power monitor.

    Combine that with remote on/off and, gosh, it could be useful to power-cycle a machine. Prime audience to sell smart plugs to? Geeks. Prime audience who would want to know about a power-cut, or a server being told to shutdown instead of reboot (whoops, did that myself a few weeks ago, embarrassing night-time work visit to press a power button!) remote control their Christmas lights, etc.? Geeks.

    Make it wifi and solve all those "you must carry your smartphone near it" problems. In fact, make it a wifi repeater too. Make it talk powerline Ethernet too.

    Or how about a plug that can have a camera on the back of it? Instant in-home CCTV. Why not put an I2C bus with a standard plug (e.g. headphone socket) on it and provide a range of modules? Water alarm for when the tumble dryer leaks? Temperature sensor for indoor/outdoor temperature monitoring? While you're there, it could also contain a speaker and actually be used for something practical - an instant doorbell, for instance, or music that follows you around the house (rather than a light, but you could do that too), or a voice alarm for any of the other sensors in the entire house plugged in in a similar way.

    X10 is good.

    GSM power monitors are good.

    Remote control power plugs are good.

    Wifi extenders are good.

    Temperature / humidity monitors are good.

    Portable speakers are good.

    Hidden CCTV in fake PIRs etc. are good.

    PIR-controlled plugs are good.

    Powerline Ethernet plugs are good.

    Water alarms are good.

    Wireless doorbells are good.

    Energy monitors are good.

    AND ALL TAKE UP A HUGE BIG SOCKET EACH WITH A GIANT BOX ON IT WHICH ALL CONTAIN 99% OF THE SAME TRANSFORMERS ETC. and only slightly different fancy circuits in the space that's left.

    Put them all in one.

    Make it modular, extendible, standardised, hackable.

    Then sell me that.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Would tend to agree, although I'm not sure modern UK legislation would allow it? I have a recollection (which may be wrong I freely admit) that plugs these days have to be the moulded type that are part of the cable, rather than the older "wired on" type that you could disconnect if needed. Hence you're not going to be able to replace the plug, at least without chopping the old plug off and stripping the wires back (if aforementioned rules allowed in this elf and safety world).

      To be honest I can't recall a recent electrical purchase which didn't include such a moulded plug arriving on the end of the cable. Indeed it has caused a couple of annoyances when I've wanted to feed the cable through a small gap/hole and not been able to as the plug and connectors at both ends were too large, even if the cable diameter itself would have been fine.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        What custard said - you can imagine a company being wary of selling plugs that a user has to wire themselves. I'm sure most of you here are competent at it (Earth wire longer and with more spare than blue, blue longer and more spare than brown etc) but before moulded plugs with new kit was the norm the Consumer Association randomly tested plugs that had been wired by employees of high street retailers.... the results were scary.

        Similar concerns about selling 'smart' power sockets to swap for the ones in your wall.

        Selling a 'smart' kettle lead as a single unit would sidestep that concern....though it wouldn't make it any more useful.

        1. Gordon861

          Sealed Plugs

          I think the law only says that a unit must be supplied from the factory with sealed plugs, there are no rules stopping you from cutting them off and rewiring them. Especially useful when you don't want to drill 50mm holes in your furniture to get to a socket.

    2. dogged

      > Make it talk powerline Ethernet too

      Oh shit, now 34 pretend radio HAMs will come along and hate at you.

  14. Andrew Jones 2

    Take a look at Domoticz

    Or for anyone that has basic computer skills - hopefully everyone here. Get yourself a Raspberry, pop along to www.domoticz.com to download the free open source home automation system that supports a huge multitude of protocols from RFXComm through ZWave and even MQTT. Our system started with those Radio Controlled plugs you buy in a pack of 3 from B&Q at this time of the year in the Xmas lighting section, they are called Home Easy sockets made by Byron. There is a whole range of additional stuff you can get in the Home Easy product range and a Transmitter/Receiver USB dongle for the Pi (or any reasonable spec old machine you have lying around) will control them all. Want your Byron Doorbell to turn on a light and email you a picture of who is at the door from your CCTV system - easy peasy. The event system is powered by Blockly which enables you to snap devices and actions together to run easy or complex tasks when events happen. For example we have one room with a ZWave socket controlling a LED light, a Byron door contact switch and a Byron movement sensor. The Door contact or the Movement sensor being activated will turn on the light for 20 minutes, and that counter is reset each time one of those devices is activated. Now we can go in and out of the room and the light will stay on, but if we forget to turn the light off (Byron wall mounted wireless switch) the system will turn it off automatically after 20 minutes with no movement. Home Automation no longer costs what people think it does nor is it anywhere near as complicated as people think it is. As an added benefit the RFXtrx433 USB dongle we use for all the 433MHz stuff, also receives data from Oregon temperature sensors in various rooms and the OWL electricity monitor.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Take a look at Domoticz

      the downvote seems a bit harsh here, for what seems to be merely an enthusiastic description of an open source home auto project...

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Take a look at Domoticz

        The downvote was probably bcause the poster mentioned B&Q and MQTT in the same post.

        1. Andrew Jones 2

          Re: Take a look at Domoticz

          Not sure I understand the significance - B&Q is a home DIY shop. MQTT is a lightweight messaging protocol perfectly suited to controlling "The Internet of Things".

  15. Thorne

    Does anyone make smart plugs that are actually built into the powerpoint?

    1. Paul Kinsler

      Re: Does anyone make smart plugs that are actually built into the powerpoint?

      Wow! What kind of presentations do you make that need integrated smartplugs? It'll take libreoffice presenter & latex/beamer a while to catch up with that one :-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Does anyone make smart plugs that are actually built into the powerpoint?

      For Americans the (easy) answer is: yes, yes there is. For almost 30 years, the X10 System

      http://x10.com

    3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Coat

      smart sockets

      @Thorne

      I presume you mean flush mounting wall sockets - A few around at £££

      e.g.

      Last week I saw the Siemens branded (Lightwave RF/JS Design???) units reduced in price a bit at well known large DIY outfit (recently mentioned above) - Still far too expensive.

      Lightwave RF units are also available in the (former) electronic component retailer, now purveyor of electronic tat, with annoying shop assistants.

      just looked on ebay - HomeEasy double sockets for £13 - less than half the price I saw of above mentioned units

      Note - IIRC, Lightwave RF operate at 866MHz - Can't see an android app, but Fanbois are definitely catered for. A match made in heaven.

      HomeEasy/Byron etal operate at 433MHz

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Until someone invents an iOt device that does the following I'm not interested,

    Turns on toastie maker.

    Gets egg from fridge.

    Butters both sides of both slices of bread.

    Places them in said toastie machine without it going everywhere (I doubt even a cyberdyne hal 5 could do that, it's not cooking it's an art form)

    Close toastie maker and cook to perfection.

    Serve with a bit of pepper after cooling to an acceptable human meatsack temperature where you don't feel as if you have just licked the sun.

    Code examples welcomed in VB,C,Java,Python,Monty

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      WTF?

      Quote

      Butters both sides of both slices of bread.

      Places them in said toastie machine without it going everywhere (I doubt even a cyberdyne hal 5 could do that, it's not cooking it's an art form)

      You toast already buttered bread? It is a wonder that the metling fat has not already burnt down your house.

      There was a bit on the radio in the last week where a woman did just that and had t ocall the fire brigade out..

      A see icon moment if you ask me.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        >Butters both sides of both slices of bread.

        I reckon if I took my RepRap 3D printer apart, I could probably achieve a good bit of that with the components. Extrude (one stepper motor) butter on the toast in an X-Y grid pattern ( another 2 stepper motors), leaving me one stepper motor left over. The bed of the 3D printer is heated....

        Hmmm.... I'll go away and have a think about this.

        Or..... Ryobi make a mastic gun that takes a 18v battery*.... could be re-purposed to apply cold butter to bread, methinks. It wouldn't be automatic, but it would be fun.

        * Not completely stupid.... applying a long thin bead of a stiff mastic like polyurethane can be tiring.... if it was a job I did a lot I might consider one.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          My wife has a gadget that does all that

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Steve

        This is what I meant,

        http://www.tesco.com/direct/tesco-2-slice-sandwich-toaster-silver/758-3674.prd

        extra points if the IoT can add cheese.

        However added bonus for this,

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRq_SAuQDec

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re AC: Until someone invents

      Until someone invents an iOt device that does the following I'm not interested ...

      It sounds like what you really want is a live in house keeper with a mobile phone.

      They exist already. :)

    3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Happy

      @AC

      Until someone invents an iOt device...

      Something along the lines of this?

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qc9h6FC6QgU

  17. s. pam
    FAIL

    Americans are so lazy...

    FFS -- a plug to turn something off? W. T. F. ...?

    It'll all end in VERY expensive epic fail when all the plugs are behind furniture.

    Oh well, they'll never make a UK equivalent Americans never go overseas or over the border anyway!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Americans are so lazy...

      "Pfft! English, who needs English ! I'll never go to England anyway." - Homer J. Simpson

  18. Martin-73 Silver badge

    Dimmers cost WHAT?

    Sorry, not strictly related to the product in question, which seems to be American, and thus useless in such alien voltagscapes as UKia, but, I believe the mention of dimmers is of STANDARD dimmers? Yes?

    If so, why are you paying more than £5 ($8ish) for them? Are you shopping at $Orange_box?

  19. pstiles

    magically turn kettle on and have tea ready BEFORE you wakt up.. yep we can do that

    lest we forget the noise and the liquid almost but not entirely completely unlike tea:

    http://www.swan-brand.co.uk/products/teasmades

  20. Frenchie Lad

    Hermit Fanbois for UAT?

    About time that these limited appliances were tested out in real-life situations and stopped assuming that we're all single and have one lamp to handle everything.

    I recommend that ElReg doesn't even look at IoT gadgets unless they have multi-user / multi-room capabilities as otherwise its not journalism just advertising or plugs for some unrealistic geeks who in any case won't make it big unless we all start living in cells be it monasteries or convents.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Zuli can tell if you are near it" ?

    According to this article, Zuli can only tell if a *phone* is near it - or more precisely, one specific phone.

    If you are coming out of the shower naked - the one time when it might be useful to have the lights turned on automatically - it won't work.

    1. Snivelling Wretch

      Re: "Zuli can tell if you are near it" ?

      For some of us, automatically turning the light off when we come out of the shower naked would be of greater benefit.

  22. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
    Trollface

    Chindōgu

    You have to wonder if America has decided to reinvent/remake/reboot (in the Hollywood sense) the fun Japanese art of Chindōgu and are just messing with our minds?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    no, no, no

    So many words, so much time wasted on one abortive design...

  24. Andrew Alan McKenzie

    Dim or dimmer?

    You all miss the point - this is apparently a great thing because it can dim a light and dimmers cost 'between $20 and $50'. Well Screwfix will flog me a dimmer for less than a £5, so is this the first ever known case of technology being cheaper in the UK than USA? (Of course the fact that the lamp you want to dim probably has a led or cfl plugged in, which can't be dimmed is beside the point).

  25. tiggity Silver badge

    sigh

    IoT is the new cocaine, something for those with far too much disposable income to waste their money on, but this product is underwhelming even by IoT standards.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: sigh

      IoT

      As is said in a thread yesterday stands for

      Idiots or Twats

      Can decide which (or both).

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: sigh

      >IoT is the new cocaine, something for those with far too much disposable income to waste their money on

      I'd say that 'IoT' is the new late-1970s home microcomputer. Not really productive, expensive, interesting for some to play with. Those who do play with it might have a head start when it becomes mre mainstream.

      As a concept it is mature in industry, in the homes of the stupidly wealthy (the high-end propriety stuff) and even in our cars (sensors and actuators on doors and windows, etc). Okay, these applications often use CANBUS or whatever and not IP, you get the idea... it's still packet-based with addressable modules.

      In our homes it is in its infancy - often insecure, and the preserve of hobbyists as denoted by a 'special' aisle in Maplins.

  26. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Trojan Room Coffee Pot

    Said to be the first webcam. Nothing to do with malware. Or Trojans.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Trojan Room Coffee Pot

      Not sure how condoms are supposed to heat a coffee pot... or I'd rather not imagine...

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Works for me

    I have a Wemo setup of bulbs, sensor and switches. My home office has a mechanically switched heater which I turn on when cold so the rooms warm when I go in. (If necessary, I use my Netatmo weather system to tell me the temperature). It logs the power usage so I could claim expenses / allowances if I wished. I have a switch running an outside light so I can turn it on when I arrive home, beyond sensor range, for the walk up the drive. A bulb in the hall comes on, at 50% brightness, at 30 minutes before sunset and off at 11.30. If I go to bed earlier then I can turn it off after it illuminates getting upstairs, where there is no switch for it. The sensor lets me trigger heayer / lights etc. separately using IFTT.

    The bulb in the bedside lamp dims over 5 minutes when I go to sleep.

    Works for me.

  28. JamieL

    Until there's value in the usage data..

    At which point you can imagine Google realising how much they can learn about you and your habits.. then they'll give them away.

    And we'll all lap up the gizzits without realising that we've become the product... yet again...

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yet another reason...

    To invent a time machine, go back in time and kill the parents of whichever numpty came up with the idea of the IoT.

    And repeat as many times as required to squash the idea once and for all..

  30. TheDillinquent

    Clearly one for the fanbois...

    they like overpriced kit with limited functionality.

  31. oiseau Silver badge
    WTF?

    Yes !!!

    > So why pay through the nose for something just because it connects to your phone?

    At last ...

    Someone with enough common sense to state the obvious.

    What will they come up with next?

    A toilet flush app?

    The times we live in.

    Cheers,

    CIV

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Yes !!!

      A toilet flush app?

      yes, to control your

      iBog or iCrapper

    2. Andrew Jones 2

      Re: Yes !!!

      Already exists in Japan - runs on Bluetooth and a few years ago had a slight bug in that people could flush the toilet while you were on it. As reported by this very website in fact - http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/08/05/posh_potty_owners_left_flushed_by_poor_bluetooth_password/

  32. Dieter Haussmann

    The switches on our 'nothing special' kettle and toaster don't stay down (latch) if the power is not on - so these plugs wouldn't work.

  33. GrantB

    Maybe one use

    Have a swimming pool pump that gets switched on for a few hours a day during winter, on for longer during summer. At 750watts, the cost is not insignificant to run for hours but the cost of not running it would be ending up with 55k litres of algae.

    Currently use a cheap digital timer that has a UI that makes me very reluctant to change anything.. and I do have a degree in computer science. But does turn the pump off/on with a fixed schedule.

    So something with a simple API I could play with in my spare time, I could see some use for.. add sensor data or a feed of data like weather or sunlight hours and the pump could get turned off an on as required.

    But like the review... I just can't see the point of most home automation until there are open cheap systems that allow people to tinker away and find stuff that really works and is useful.

  34. severs1966

    All that stuff about kettles switching themselves off is so 1980s. "Always-on" kettles have existed for decades, and are popular in the far east and S.E. Asia.

    You can buy them in the UK too...

    Here is one example http://www.superkettles.co.uk/

  35. Colin Tree

    dumb kids

    Smart kids designing whiz bang new age devices.

    If they worked with a few older, wiser, people most of the duhhh moments would be dealt with in the early design phase.

    Experience is what our amazing youth is lacking, and yes, "there is nothing new under the sun".

    And as was often said through the article, it wasn't invented before because it was dumb all over and a little ugly on the side.

    Kids, someone, probably lots of someones, already thought about it, and realised it was dumb and went on to invent something not quite as dumb and definitely more useful.

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