What the difference between a smart plug and a traditional timer plug?
So to get things clear, smart plugs are probably the best way to enter the world of smart homes. They work with almost all devices and can help you automate a variety of things in a house. They are usually connected to your wifi network, or a dedicated hub that talks to the internet. You can sometimes find ones that are Bluetooth connected, but they have limited capabilities, and loose out on the biggest features of internet connected ones.
In the past few years, Ive had the privilege of getting to use the iHome first generation smart plugs and I think I have a pretty good picture of how the work.
The nice things about a smart plug:
You can remotely control them. For example I have a small room heater connected to my smart plug, and I am able to control it from everywhere. So if its super cold outside, I can turn the heater on as I am approaching so that my room is nice and warm. Like most brands, my iHome smart plug has geo-fencing features. What this does, is that it creates a virtual zone that when your phone enters, the device can be triggered. So as I am approaching my house, I can have the device turn my heater on and as I am leaving, it can turn it off. This adds convenience and efficiency.
Geofencing is especially useful in the case that your smart plug is connected to light. With this feature you no longer have to enter a dark room, or worry that you forgot the lights at home on. All this is done automatically between your phone and the smart device.
Another great feature, is that the smart plug has the basic timer features, which allow you to set certain timers through the app. Ive been using the timer feature to turn on the coffee machine a few minutes after I wake up so I can have a fresh cup of coffee every morning. And this is a great point to also mention that I found the app to have an extremely nice interface and design.
But to add on the list of great features, the smart plugs are compatible with two great smart platforms (That I personally use), the amazon Alexa and apple’s HomeKit. What this does, is make the experience even more streamlined because it allows you to essentially control the devices with your voice or through simple interactions on your phone. Obviously this has a huge learning curve, but once you get used to it, its an amazing experience.
The bad things:
Home appliances and other devices are not really meant to just be turned on or off. Think of a toaster, or a television. Smart plugs have very little to offer them. Even if you turn the toaster on, you still need to actually push the bread down too. Also in the case of my coffee machine, even though the plug is smart and it can turn on the brewer, I still have to prep it from the night before with the filter and coffee.
Also in the case of lights. Smart plugs, and especially the iHome ones are great in turning them on or off. However, once you start getting more used to the smart home experience, you will quickly realize that you also need a dimming functionality. And this is something the company has not presented even in there newer release.
In short, iHome makes great products that I have found exceptionally reliable and useful. However there are a few points that could be improved before these plugs become my dream solution.