Before he earned God-like-genius status for spearheading the greatest scenes that football has ever seen, Italian coach Claudio Ranieri earned the nickname āTinkermanā. He was seen as a man who was never settled on what he had, and one who didnāt know what his best set-up was ā even if the system he had was working perfectly well at the time.
Ladies and gentleman, I am the āTinkermanā of smart home tech. Everything works well in my house. There are no major issues. My wife, who played no part in any of the process of setting up our house of connected tech and is no way a techy person at all, has very few problems commanding Alexa to carry out the various scenes and automations Iāve set up.
Everything. Works. Just. Fine.
But am I happy with the system? Am I settled with the setup? Like Ranieri in those dark-days, pre-miracle-season, I am not.
I just canāt let things be ā even if they work just fine. And Iām constantly assessing what needs to be done next in my quest for the ultimate smart home.
And itās on this latter point that this weekās smart home diary is based. This week Iāve been making things smart that donāt really need to be smart at all. But things I want to be smart because, hey, why the heck not?
Iāve become obsessed with smart plugs. So much so that, if you read our features on smart home fails recently, youāll know that Iāve taken that obsession too far. But they are great. Why not have everything dumb in your house connected? Why turn a switch on and off ā like the olden times ā when you can use an app or, better still, have a digital assistant turn them off for you when you tell her to?
The main use cases for smart plugs are for appliances such as lamps with dumb bulbs, fans, heatersā¦ Iāve got one attached to pretty much all of them. I actually compiled our best smart plugs buyersā guide very recently, so click that link to find out which of the contenders I rate the highest (spoiler: they are all much of a muchness, it just depends what ecosystem you want them to play nicely with and whether you want to pay a few extra bucks for energy monitoring).
But itās beyond the usual use cases that my obsession starts to show. Sky Q boxes in my house ā thatās the main one and two Minis ā all have them. I know what youāre thinkingā¦ āno one ever turns these boxes off at the plug.ā And youād be right, most of the time. But, once every few weeks, one of these boxes crashes and the easy fix is the tried and tested āturning it on and off againā. Thatās right, I have smart plugs on things just for the handful of times a year they need resetting. Because why not?
Next up, and in my office (a glorified shed at the bottom of the garden) Iāve gone beyond the usual plug and play smart plugs. In there, Iāve got a smart plug socket (the super easy to install Mi|Home double socket from Energenie). The beauty of a smart socket is: stick a regular old gang-plug into it and youāve got yourself a bunch of dumb-tech-turned-smart.
In my case, and what Iāve spent most of today setting up actually, this is a double socket with a gang-plug in one, which has my iMac, desk lamp, Echo Show and wireless charging pad connected (Iāve called this group āDesk Powerā, which sounds like a bad 80s electro-pop act); and on the other socket Iāve got a double-gang which gives power to my Apple HomePod and a Google Home (group name āOffice smart speakersā; and no, itās not normal to have Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant all in one room but remember the website I write for).
Now, when I leave the office and head back to the house I can simply say, āAlexa, Iām going back to the house now,ā and that activates a routine Iāve set up that powers down this socket (and its two groups), as well as turning off my Nanoleaf, my big office light (Hue bulb) and activating the Somfy One alarm.
I think thatās pretty cool. Then again, I have smart plugs on all my Sky boxes so my opinion of cool probably isnāt all that valid.
Next weekās smart home diary will go into more detail on what happens when my tinkering cocks things up ā which is exactly what happened today while I was setting up what Iāve described above, but is too raw to talk about just yet.
Now read - Week 4