Plug gives control, data on power consumption, but application needs work (July 23rd, 2014)
Product Manufacturer: D-Link
- Monitoring capability
- No off-site control
Home automation fans have been getting their fair share of gadgets and accessories in the last few years. Starting with light bulbs, and ramping up to larger machines like refrigerators and washing machines, the home automation market appears to be growing every day. Smaller devices are still paving the way for consumers to jump into "smart home" products, giving companies like D-Link a chance to test the waters with new offerings. One such product, the Wi-Fi Smart Plug (DSP-W215) gives consumers a small taste of remote home control and monitoring. But is it the correct entry item for users to try?
The D-Link Wi-Fi Smart Plug is a simple device. No fancy installation or special tools are required to begin using the device. Install and use is as simple as plugging the Smart Plug into an existing outlet. The plug contains a single socket for use, as well as only requiring one to draw power from at the wall. Users can plug the Smart Plug into the top socket, keeping the bottom socket unobstructed.
Users familiar with digital camera battery wall chargers will find the design of the Smart Plug familiar. The white box doesn't stick out too much, as it measures 3.54 x 2.4 x 1.4 inches. It also won't be a burden on a wall socket, since it weighs only 0.28 pounds. It holds two LEDs on the front of the plug, with a circular LED on the upper right indicating the status of the plug. A bar LED that sits above the plug lights up when a device plugged in and is receiving power.
For those that don't want to deal with logging into an app to control the plug, a power button sits above the power LED for a quick way to shut off a device without unplugging it. It also contains a heat sensor that will cause the Smart Plug to shut off automatically if it overheats.
Adding the Smart Plug to an existing Wi-Fi network is easy, but is accomplished through a button press or manual setup through an iOS or Android device. The easiest method requires pressing the dedicated Wi-Fi protected setup/reset button on the plug while pressing a similar button on a router. For consumers without such a router, the Smart Plug must be connected to as a Wi-Fi device in system settings. Once there, information on the area network can be entered in.
While the functionality of the Smart Plug doesn't have any faults per se, the D-Link's associated application pulls the device down. The free app is purpose-built for the Smart Plug, allowing users to pull up multiple plugs from a single location. D-Link indicates that owners can use the general "mydlink" service for cloud management, but a post on their message board from May states it isn't currently compatible.
With the application, a number of things can be adjusted and viewed for the plug. Once set up -- since the cloud management doesn't work -- the plug settings can only be changed with a device on the same network through the plug app. The plug is slow to respond at times, forcing the user to restart the app for it to show up. It also doesn't save all the settings, like keeping Fahrenheit the preferred temperature measurement. Information from the plug is generally slow to populate, in addition to the initial startup issues.
Inside the app, the plug can be turned on or off remotely, as well as setting timers for use. Upon opening the app, power status, power draw and temperature for each plug are reported. Five different schedules can be set up for the plug, allowing different situations to be executed based on user needs. The internal temperature sensor can be utilized to set temperature limits up to 70 degrees Celsius for overheating alerts. However, without having access to a mydlink account - which is necessary for notifications - the changes don't work as intended.
The best feature of the application is how it tracks electricity usage through the plug. On top of the current draw, daily counts are kept for each hour. Additionally, the app tracks monthly numbers per day and yearly figures per month. A consumption limit can be set, triggering the plug to turn off once the limit has been hit. Warnings can be issued based on a percentage of the cap consumed.
Another problem occurs with how D-Link treats the "mydlink" program. Existing users of the service likely won't have an issue, but those trying to sign up for the first time run into problems. Over the course of two days, an account couldn't be created from within the iOS app. During the repeated attempts, the same error message would pop up, saying an account couldn't be created.
While common sense would suggest navigating to the website to sign up, there isn't an option to do so on the mydlink page. In fact, an account must be created from the app, or through an installer for a device associated with the service. Since the Smart Plug doesn't require software that a router or video camera might, users in the same situation are left with no options.
If it wasn't for the application, D-Link would be a smart entry for consumers looking to dip their toes into the home automation scene. With a low price tag of $40, it isn't so much of a commitment that could seem regrettable if automation turned out not to be ideal for the consumer. In its current state, however, the Smart Plug isn't going to be very useful on the automation front. Instead, it will appeal to consumers more interested in monitoring electricity usage.