The guys at Itead Studios are running an Indiegogo campaign for a couple new smart home products they developed called the Sonoff and the Slampher. Itead asked me to write up a review in exchange for some free samples. I received the samples a few weeks back and they sat on my desk for a few days while I thought about what exactly I would do with them.
What are they?
Parts I received from Itead
When Itead was first talking with me about doing a review they kept calling the devices 'wifi switches' which really confused me. I thought they were talking about some sort of networking equipment. Once they sent me a link to the Indiegogo campaign I finally understood. They are smart home switches for controlling lights and appliances. They reminded me a bit of the old X10 systems but the difference with the Itead devices is they connect to your wifi network. They also have the ability to be controlled and show you current state of the device on your smart phone even when you are away from the house. The devices check in with Itead's cloud service to update their state and check for commands. The devices respond to smart phone commands nearly instantly which is pretty impressive.
Itead has an iPhone and Android application called eWeLink for controlling and configuring the devices so I had to install that before I could setup either of them. Installing the app was easy enough but I ran into trouble trying to create an account. Elsie from Itead said the iOS app was very new and had a few bugs to be worked out. To create an account all you have to do is enter your mobile number, a password for your new account and touch 'Send verify code'. Itead is then supposed to send an SMS message with a verification code. I got an error when trying to do this. After a few e-mails back and forth with Itead they fixed some things and I was finally able to create an account. I believe they have these problems worked out now so it shouldn't be a problem for anyone else.
Initially I had a little trouble adding devices. This was due partially to the instructions in the iPhone app being a bit sparse and partially because I had this thought in my head that I was trying to connect to a bluetooth device. I e-mailed Elsie again and she replied with some better instructions. I now realized the devices are strictly wifi. In pairing mode the device creates a temporary wifi network. You connect your phone to this temporary wifi network and then use the app to configure the device.
To put the device into pairing mode (and create the temp wifi network) press down on the control button for several seconds and release. The status LED will begin blinking rapidly indicating it is in pairing mode. Then join the wifi network named 'ITEAD-xxxxxxxx'. After that you go to the eWeLink app and add the device. The pairing process is just giving the device your wifi network SSID and password so it can join your network.
Using the Slampher
I decided to try out the Slampher first since all I had to do was screw it into a light socket. I installed it in my bedside lamp. One issue with the Slampher is the height. I suppose it would will work fine with some lamps and not so great with others. Lamps with tall shades will probably work best. Once you install the Slampher you have to stop using the normal power switch on the lamp and start using the control button on the device instead (or the smartphone app). It is convenient they still give you the option to control the lamp locally in addition to the smart functionality.
After adding the Slampher to my device list in the smartphone app I configured two timers. One that corresponds with my weekday alarm clock at 6am and another at 8pm every night. Timers are easy to configure and have flexible options that allow everyday, weekday, weekend or custom timers.
Using the Sonoff
The Sonoff is design to be used with an appliance of your choosing unlike the Slampher which is specifically for a light socket. It's a little more difficult to use because you have to do some wiring to utilize it. I didn't want to cut into the cord of any of my devices so I settled on cutting up an extra extension cord making it into a 'smart' extension cord :-). Make sure everything is unplugged before you go cutting into wires. K thx.
I cut the extension cord in half and stripped the ends of the wires.
I tinned the ends of the wires with my soldering iron to make sure I didn't have any stray strands that could short out.
The wires slide into terminal blocks and are tightened down with small flat blade screwdriver.
The samples I received didn't come with screws for the green cover plates. I think the covers are fairly important because you don't want exposed mains voltage! I had some screws on hand to attach the covers. I imagine the final product will come with screws.
Finished. My 'smart' extension cord.
The devices work as advertised but the iOS app needs some work. Like I mentioned earlier I had trouble creating an account and the english translations for some things are awkward. The 1.0.5 version has improved the translations dramatically. The first version of the app I used still had Chinese characters for some items. I've been using the timers for a little over a week now and they have consistently worked. I really like the convenience of being able to turn off my bedside lamp from my phone at the breakfast table if I forget to do it before heading downstairs. The pricing in their Indiegogo campaign is significantly cheaper than comparable devices from other manufacturers.
A downside to these devices is that they only work when you have an internet connection but I think for most people who would want to use a 'smart' device that wouldn't be problem. A bigger concern I have is that these devices are completely reliant on Itead's cloud service for smartphone control and the timers. If that service is shutdown these devices become bricks.
The Sonoff and Slampher are a good start but I think a device that could replace a wall switch would be the most useful to me. Something like this: