Sunday 25 March 2018

The clever and easy way to set about creating a smart home of the future from scratch

Lightwave Link Plus (€160 from Apple), Lightwave remote control sockets

Lightwave Link Plus
Lightwave Link Plus

Talk of 'connected' or 'smart' homes often causes eyes to roll. It's not just the ludicrous cost that such concepts have historically had, with their expensive rewiring requirements. It's that no-one really explained what a 'connected' or 'smart' home really was or why it would have any use to non-millionaires.

Today, products such as Lightwave's Link Plus and remote-control sockets are recasting the connected home in a pragmatic, everyday light.

At its most basic, the smart socket lets you control whatever is plugged into it to from your phone (via an app for either iPhone or Android). At a minimum, this means switching stuff on and off remotely, no matter where you might be.

But you can also program it. For example, you can ask it to keep track of when the sun goes down (by checking online) and to switch itself on when this happens. Or you can set an endless variety of scenes for your home.

For example, with a few different sockets and the Link Plus, you can turn on a home cinema system, a dimmed light in the corner and some other mood-setter with one pre-programmed tap on the phone.

The sockets work by connecting to your home wifi (themselves or via the Link Plus, which plugs into your router via an ethernet cable) and giving your phone access to it via that route, no matter where you are.

This Link Plus device is actually the core of a larger, wider Lightwave range of products that include dimmers, switches, heating and alert systems as well as the aforementioned sockets.

Once installed, the app gives you a simple remote-control-style array for you to choose among the various devices you have installed throughout your house. The sockets come with a physical remote control, if this is more to taste.

Those interested in voice control will be gratified that the whole thing is designed to be compatible with Amazon's Alexa ecosystem, Apple's Homekit (including Siri) and Google's Assistant. Obviously, of these systems, only Amazon's is officially supported in Ireland. But as the recent acquirer of an Echo Plus and Echo Dot, this is a nice bit of extra functionality to have.

The Lightwave systems are also generally compatible with IFTTT ('If This, Then That'). This is a system where when one connected device does something - switches on a light, for example - another one detects something else happening.

For example, if a sensor on a door detects movement, another sensor attached to a lamp or the radio or the heating might turn one of those things on.

The are umpteen common household products and gadgets adopting this standard, such as Philips Hue lighting, Nest's Thermostat, Amazon Echo, WeMo smart plugs and more. One of the most interesting features is an energy-usage counter. The plug reports back to your phone how much energy the connected device has used and how long it has been running.

If you're looking for a smooth way into a smart home future, this is a good option.

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