Tag Archives: smart home

Meross WiFi Smart Plug with HomeKit Support Review



The fabled smart home as a building that responds your needs as they arise is still somewhat legendary and will likely remain so until the technology can be built into the fabric of the structure. Regardless there are many practical ways where the new technology can be used on a practical basis. For example, my living room uses a combination of overhead, wall and table lighting and in the past, I would have need to turn on lights at four different places in the room every evening. With smart technology, one of the lights comes on as dusk falls and the others will come on as someone enters the room.

For simple automation like this, one solution might involve smart bulbs such as those from Philips Hue or LIFX, but for floor standing or table lights, a good alternative is to add a smart plug which will do the on-off switching for you. It’s a pass through type device, so no re-wiring is need. Plug the smart plug into the wall socket and then the lamp plug into the smart plug.

And for the purposes of demonstration, here we have the Meross WiFi smart plug with Apple HomeKit support. This is a new iteration of Meross’ smart plug which now supports Apple HomeKit in addition working to working on Android phones via an app – look for HK on the end of the model name (MSS210HK) to be assured of HomeKit support. There’s integration with voice assistants including Amazon Alex and Google Home and the smart plug will work with Samsung SmartThings, which is great if you want to get into more complex automation later on.

As indicated by the name, this is a WiFi smart plug and connects up to any g/n 2.4 GHz WiFi network, which is what the vast majority of people have at home. No Z-Wave, ZigBee or hubs required here. The Meross plug comes in a fairly plain cardboard box and there’s just the smart plug itself plus two small leaflets…and I mean small. A magnifying glass might be required for those with less than ideal eyesight.

As the photographs show, this is the UK variant but it’s available to suit the wiring standards of many countries, including USA. The smart plug is white and plainly styled with just three notable features. One, it’s quite a big plug, so you may struggle to get another plug in to a neighbouring socket: best to check your socket positions. Two, there’s an on-off button with indicator light on the top, which is very handy if you need to switch the plug manually. Three, there’s a HomeKit QR logo and code stuck to the side of the socket, which brings us neatly onto Apple’s Home app.

Apple have made it extremely easy to add devices into the smart home solution. Using the Apple Home app, it’s simply a case of hitting “+” to add a device and then using the iPhone or iPad’s camera to scan the QR code. After a bit of chuntering between the iPad and the Meross, say, 30 seconds, the smart plug is setup within the Home app. Tapping the plug icon in the app turns the smart plug on and off in the real world. Job done and you can easily incorporate the plug into any of routines, scenes etc of the Home app.

Android users aren’t left out from using the Meross smart plug, though the process is a little less straightforward. The first steps are to download the app from the Google Play store and then sign-up with a username and password.  Adding a device through the Meross app starts with picking the type of device and there’s an initial negotiation between the smartphone and the smart plug which broadly concludes with you having to pick the WiFi network and supply the passcode. It’s not as slick as the Home setup but gets the job done. The Meross app offers direct control of the smart plug; scenes, which allow for setting multiple devices at once; and routines for turning devices on and off according to a schedule.

I was also able to easily setup the smart plug with both Alexa and Samsung’s Smart Things. For Alexa, open Amazon’s app and search for the Meross skill. Enable the skill and enter the username and password for the Meross system. Alexa will then search for new devices, which I find is a bit hit or miss, but eventually you’ll see the Meross smart plug in the list of devices. For me Alexa couldn’t find the smart plug initially, but it was magically there after restarting the app. I was then able to say, “Alexa, turn on living room lamp” and sure enough, the smart plug switched.

Integration with SmartThings was very similar but worked flawlessly in terms of adding and seeing the device straightaway.

Pricewise, the Meross smart plug with HomeKit comes in at GB£16.99 on Amazon.co.uk, which is competitively priced on its own, but note that if you don’t need HomeKit, you can get two Meross smart plugs for the same price. For a bit of extra discount, use the code O3ML85W5 at Amazon.co.uk which should be valid up to the end of August on both single and double packs.

The main takeaway for the Meross WiFi smart plug with HomeKit support is how easy it is to get setup on Apple, Android, Alexa and SmartThings. I was able to do all of these in less than ten minutes – if you don’t believe me check out the video below. The only downside I can find is the plug itself is fairly chunky.

Thanks to Meross for supplying the WiFi Smart Plug for review. The discount code provided above is not a referral code.


Airthings Hub Debuts at CES



Norwegian air quality experts Airthings announced the new Airthings Hub at CES 2020 this week. Centralising the collection of air quality data from the Wave range of monitoring devices, the Hub helps provide a comprehensive understanding of air quality in the home.

Building on the popularity of smart homes and recognising the health benefits relating to air quality, Airthings brought the Wave Plus radon detector to the market in 2008. Radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and the Wave Plus was recently named in Time Magazine’s list of 100 Best Inventions.

Next came the Wave Mini which measures temperature, humidity and indoor air quality level. The Airthings complementary app provides real-time information on indoor air quality using data collected wirelessly from the Wave devices.

With more people than ever relying on smart home ecosystems to provide them with the critical information they need to live healthy and productive lives, we felt it was crucial to deliver a Hub that will simplify the process of indoor air quality monitoring and make it an essential aspect of our customers’ everyday routines,” said Oyvind Birkenes, CEO of Airthings. “In order to truly gain an understanding of your home’s IAQ and threats like Radon and VOCs, regular monitoring is necessary. Our goal is to educate people everywhere about how air quality can impact their daily lives on both a short-term and long-term scale. By helping people track their air quality in real-time, even when they’re not at home, Airthings Hub will empower customers to breathe easy by keeping tabs on their air quality no matter the time or the location.

The Airthings Hub will be available for pre-order throughout Europe and the US beginning January 6 with an MSRP of US$79.99. The product is compatible with Airthings Wave (2nd generation), Wave Plus, and Wave Mini devices. For more information on the Airthings Hub, indoor air quality and why long-term monitoring is important, visit the Airthings website.

Airthings are at CES in Booth #40646 in the Smart Home area of the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas.


Philips Hue Looks Good



There’s a raft of new products and updates coming to Philips Hue with a big announcement from Signify today and confirming the rumoured LED filament lamps. Smart plugs are coming to Hue for the first time too, which have been badly needed and potentially move Hue out of smart lighting and into the wider smart home.

The LED filament bulbs mimic those ever-so-cool retro-style Edison lamps. Depending on your world-wide location, they’re available in up to three shapes – Edison, Filament and Globe. Output is 550lm which, while lower than a standard Hue bulb at 800lm, would be expected for a filament bulb. Think 40W.

In line with previous Hue announcements, these bulbs can be controlled via Bluetooth with a smartphone, while still integrating into the full hub-based Hue setup.

The new smart plug is a much needed addition to the Hue family. There are so many lamps and lights that can’t easily take a Hue bulb but would benefit from inclusion into a smart home. The new smart plug will be perfect, especially when paired with the existing motion detectors. Walk into a room and the lights go on.

An addition to the current controller range, the new smart button attaches magnetically to a wall plate, so can be used as a light switch replacement or as a handy controller.

In minor upgrades, there have been improvements to the GU10 spotlights and the E14 candle bulbs, and the Hue Go now has Bluetooth communication built-in with extended battery life.

Details are thin on the ground, but Hue have announced a partnership with bathroom specialists Hansgrohe. From the beginning of 2020, Philips Hue will be integrated with Hansgrohe’s newest innovation RainTunes. RainTunes “combines water, sound, light, moving image and scent to create a customized and invigorating shower experience. The product is transforming what the bathroom of today can be: a supremely restorative space of sanctuary where a perfect light plays a key role.” Sounds interesting…and expensive!

And in good news for proud home owners everywhere, several companies are now producing light switches that would be considered attractive. Here’s a selection from German firm Busch Jaeger. If I read the blurb correctly, these are kinetically-powered, meaning that the pushing of the button generates enough energy for the switches to work. There’s no need for wiring or batteries, so the switches can be placed wherever is convenient.

All the new Hue products will be available soon.


Flic 2 Launches on Kickstarter



Flic smart buttons first appeared at CES 2015 and since then, they’ve made steady progress as a useful element of a smart home solution. CES 2018 saw the introduction of the Flic Hub which eliminated the need for a nearby smartphone to process activity.

Flic buttons are little rubberised push switches that use Bluetooth to communicate with the complementary Flic smartphone app (or Flic Hub), which then initiates actions based on rules created in the app. There’s lots of flexibility built into the app so the Flic can turn on lights or make Skype calls – all kinds of things.

Flic 2 is coming to Kickstarter on Tuesday and the Swedish team is promising a brand new open platform to encourage community development and integration with other smart home systems. The buttons themselves have been improved with a new design, improved range, better tactile response and a three-coloured LED for additional feedback.

The Flic buttons will support Bluetooth HID (Human Interface Device) meaning the Flics can emulate keyboards, mice, gamepads and other devices. Maybe you want a button to do a screen grab – that’s when you could use HID to “press” PrtScn.

Although I don’t have a Flic Hub, I understand it has a IR port and can control TVs, set-top boxes and media players – anything that has an IR remote control. It would be handy to power everything down without having to find all the remote controls at the end of the day.

If you are interested in more details, you can sign up here (disclosure: this link will get me some Flic brownie points), or you can wait for Flic 2 to launch on Kickstarter at 1600 BST  / 1100 EST on 21st May 2019. Looks like there’s some good value early bird specials.

In particular, I’m hoping there will be good integration with Samsung’s SmartThings. Fingers crossed.


How To Use Ikea Tradfri Bulbs with Philips Hue



When it comes to smart lighting, Philips Hue is the market leader (UK) with a range of bulbs, luminaires and accessories, plus a good app and comprehensive integration to other smart systems. On the other hand, Ikea’s Tradfri is more basic but with the important benefit of being cheap and widely available in Ikea’s stores.

Inevitably, the question crops up… can Tradfri bulbs be used with Philips Hue? The short answer is yes as the Tradfri bulbs use the Zigbee system to communicate, just like Hue. The slightly longer answer is that while it’s possible, there are a number of steps in the process to get the Tradfri bulb transferred reliably onto the the Hue system. This article runs through those steps and the included video will show them too.

As a side note, the cost benefit of Ikea bulbs over Philips isn’t what it used to be, as the price of Hue bulbs, especially white, has significantly dropped in the past year or two, especially with regular 3-for-2 deals. Where the Tradfri bulbs really score though is on brightness. The brightest Hue bulb is around 800 lumens (lm) whereas Tradfri does 1000 lm, which is a noticeable difference. I now have three 1000 lm Tradfri bulbs in my home setup for spaces that would otherwise be too dim using Hue lights.

Let’s cut to the chase….here are my steps to painless use of Tradfri bulbs with Hue.

Part 1 – Tradfri Setup

  1. Buy (or borrow) a Tradfri gateway, dimmer (or other steering device, as Ikea calls them) and bulb(s). Ok, you might not need the gateway and dimmer but my experience suggests it makes life a whole lot easier (you can try going to Part 3 directly). Yes, it puts the price up so maybe this is a chance to ask around and see if you can nip round to a friend’s house to do the first part.
  2. Connect up the gateway with power and a network cable. Wait for all three lights.
  3. Download the Ikea Tradfri app to your phone. Run the app and pair with the gateway – all you have to do is scan a QR code on the back of the gateway.
  4. Continue to the use the app to walk you through the linking process for the dimmer. Pair the dimmer with the gateway by holding down the link button until the lights on the gateway flash. Read the instructions for other steering devices. The app will confirm correct linking.
  5. Plug the bulb into a handy lamp or light fitting and turn it on. The bulb should be lit. Make sure the lamp can be turned on and off easily – you’ll need it later.
  6. Again using the Tradfri app, go through the process of pairing the dimmer with the bulb. Hold the dimmer close to the bulb and press the link button. Watch the app to confirm linking.
  7. The bulb should now be shown in the app and can be controlled with the dimmer. Try it out to make sure.

Part 2 – Update and Disconnect

  1. The next step is to ensure that the bulb’s firmware is up-to-date. Use the Tradfri app to check  and update as necessary. This step is important in case the bulb is an old model with incompatible firmware. Updating to the latest version will remove the incompatibility.
  2. Next, use the app to disconnect the bulb from the gateway. Yes, I know it’s only just been added but trust me. Follow the instructions and use the dimmer. Don’t turn the light off yet.

Part 3 – Connect to Hue

  1. In the next part, you will need to be able to hold the Tradfri bulb very close to the Hue hub. Sort that out first.
  2. I recommend an app called Hue Essentials. It works with both Hue and Tradfri systems, but it’s only available for Android. The reason to recommend Essentials is that it supports a feature called Touchlink. It does have in-app purchases but you don’t need to pay for any of them. There must be similar Hue apps for iOS – look for ones that support Touchlink.
  3. Use Hue Essentials to find and select the Hue hub. Ignore the Tradfri one. You can even turn it off.
  4. Navigate to the part of the app to add or search for new bulbs. It should be like the screen shot on the right.
  5. To reset the Tradfri bulb, you need to switch it off and on six times. A steady quick pace does the job.
  6. Now position the bulb right next to the Hue hub.
  7. In Hue Essentials, press the “Touchlink” button in the bottom right. I find you often have to press it twice to work properly.
  8. If successful, the Tradfri bulb will start to pulse. At this point, press the “Search for Lights” button at the top. With luck, Hue Essentials will find the bulb and add it into the Hue system. Sweet!
  9. That’s it. Now the Ikea bulb is in the system, it can be used as any other Hue bulb. Mine was allocated to “Garden” and then set to come on when motion was detected at the back of the house. I’ve had no problems in several weeks of use.

If you’d like to see these steps in action, then check out the video below which goes through all the steps. It’s about 20 minutes overall. Get a drink.

Any problems or issues, leave a comment below and I’ll see if I can help.


UK Government Consults on IoT Security



The UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (aka Ministry of Fun) has announced plans to introduce new laws governing internet-connected devices, i.e. Internet of Things.

Given that there have been some high-profile instances involving connected toys and cameras, this is welcome news. In a perfect world, users should be educated in the basics of IT security such as changing the default password, but sadly it’s case of getting a gadget out of the box and setup as fast as possible.

The Government is consulting on a “Secure by Design” initiative which intends for basic cyber security features to be built into products and for consumers to get better information on how secure the devices are.

Much like food packaging or the energy ratings on white goods, the Government is proposing a mandatory labelling scheme that states the security level of the gadget. Only goods with the applicable “IoT” label could be legally sold in the UK.

The consultation proposes three essential requirements for internet-connected gadgets.

  1. Device passwords must be unique without any standard factory setting
  2. The minimum duration for which the device will receive security updates must explicitly stated
  3. A public point of contact as part of a vulnerability disclosure policy must be given

Point 3 isn’t directly for consumers but rather for security researchers who will be able to directly contact organisations about security issues. All of these points will be a significant deterrent to the “cheap’n’cheerful” IoT gadgets that typically come in from China with zero support.

Overall, this is a very welcome consultation and I would encourage readers to review the proposals and feedback on the options. This is very much about protecting ourselves and our families and reducing the risk of being hacked. For too long, manufacturers have got away with having little responsibility for their devices after they’ve been bought and these ideas address that balance.

If you want to know more on the consultation and comment on the proposals, it’s over here.

Photo by Dan LeFebvre on Unsplash.


Sleep Well with Philips Hue at CES



Announced at CES, Philips Hue will closely integrate with Google Assistant to activate sleep and wake lighting effects to replicate the best lighting for winding down before bed time and waking up naturally in the morning. This is the first integration of the Philips Hue sleep and wake up feature with a digital assistant platform.

From launch, the features will include:

  • One-time alarm sync: Users can say “Hey Google, turn on gentle wake up” which will sync their Philips Hue lights with subsequent morning alarms on Google Assistant. Every time the user sets their alarm on the Google Assistant, Philips Hue lights will naturally wake the user up with a sunrise effect commencing 30 minutes beforehand.
  • Scheduled sleep / wake: Users will be able to set sleep by saying “Hey Google, sleep the lights at 10pm”, changing the lights to a warm tone of white light which gradually fades over thirty minutes. It’s the reverse of the wake up process.
  • Direct action: Users can instruct their Philips Hue lights via the Google Assistant to sleep and wake immediately, meaning the Philips Hue lights will activate the sleep and wake process directly for the 30-minute duration.
  • Multi Person activation: Just like the Hue app, the Google Home app lets you manage your lights in different rooms which means you can set the wake-up routine not only for your own bedroom, but also for other rooms, e.g. Kids’ bedroom, Jimmy’s bedroom, etc

I have an Hue Iris as my bedside light and can attest to the benefits of having a light-based alarm clock.

Research is increasingly showing the important role light plays in how we feel and how well we sleep. Melatonin, the hormone that helps to regulate our wake and sleep cycle, is influenced by light, whether that’s natural or artificial light. By having the right light as we prepare for bed, we can get a better night’s sleep, whereas waking up with the right light can help us start the day feeling more energised.

While many people need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning, by using light that simulates sunrise by gradually increasing light levels before the alarm goes off, you can improve well-being, mood and cognitive performance even much later in the day.

Sleep plays such an important role in our health and well-being, so we’re pleased to be adding yet another option for our users to help them relax before bedtime and wake up in a way that prepares them well for the day ahead,” says Duncan McCue, Head of Partnerships for Philips Hue at Signify.
Signify is the new name for Philips Lighting – not sure on pronunciation, though…Sig-nify or Sign-ify? Probably the latter.

The new feature will be accessible to all consumers in English speaking countries by March 2019.

For more information about Philips Hue products visit www.meethue.com.