At first glance, the Smarteefi SE315A Power Strip looks like any other spike buster, which is an under-appreciated but essential part of every PC user's life. The average techie probably needs one in every room to have enough outlets for a smartphone, laptop, PC, router, etc. The Smarteefi, manufactured by Delhi-based startup CoreEmbedded Technologies, is an entry-level home automation solution which lets users remotely toggle power to three plug points, while implementing conventional surge protection features.
A Wi-Fi router and a live Internet connection are necessary for the device, which lets users control appliances plugged in to it through an Android app or a Web dashboard on the Smarteefi website. It should take about ten minutes to set up the power strip. The manual details step-by-step instructions concisely, and practically anyone with basic tech knowledge should be able set this up.
In a gist, you need to activate a setup mode on the power strip after turning it on, following which it shows up as a Wi-Fi access point. You then log in into the device through a Web browser (using the default IP 192.168.4.1), and enter the Wi-Fi name (SSID) and password of your existing Wi-Fi network. Hit save and toggle back to normal mode, after which the Smarteefi SE315A should be connected to your router, making it accessible from your other computing devices and anywhere else through the Internet.
Once the LED indicator shows a stable green, each plug on the power strip can be controlled remotely. We managed to nail the setup process on the first try and don't see any reason why you shouldn't be able to do so too. Once configured, it takes less than a second to turn a device off or on through the app, or Web interface.
The Smarteefi SE315A is 13 inches long; size of a standard power strip but about 10 percent thicker and with one less socket than a regular spike buster. The unit has slots on the back to enable wall mounting. It consumes 0.45W of power in standby, which is up to four times the power consumption of a typical smartphone in sleep mode.
The company says that it takes security seriously. Communication from the Smarteefi SE315A to and from its cloud service is encrypted using 128-bit AES, and communication between the cloud and the app is encrypted using SSL.
Configuring the app takes a few minutes, starting with registration, following which users can add their Smarteefi power strip by entering its serial number and activation code, which are printed on the bottom of the unit.
LED indicators on the power strip show which mode it is in - if it's blue, the power strip is in setup mode; if it's blinking green, the power strip is too far away from the router or there's a password issue. Red denotes that the strip has trouble connecting to the cloud. The board also has physical switches for each of the power outlets, which emit a blue LED light when turned on.
The Smarteefi Android app is minimal but effective. It offers no bells and whistles apart from scheduling, which can be used to turn power to any of the three universal outlets on or off on a daily or weekly schedule. Scheduled events on the app aren't synced with the cloud, which means that your Android device needs to be online with the app running in the background at the scheduled time, in order to send commands. On the other hand, you do get notifications when scheduled events are carried out successfully or if they fail. The app doesn't have features like IFTTT integration, though the company is working on a way to send push notifications to your phone when the physical switches on the power strip are used.
You can also control your Smarteefi power strip through any device that supports a Web browser, through this interface lacks the ability to create schedules. There's no app for iOS devices yet, but it's on the company's to-do list, with a planned launch date of June 2016.
CoreEmbedded Technologies has decided to go with only three sockets, which seems like a limitation at this point - a four- or six-socket model would have been more appealing. The company says that it wanted the product to look and feel just like a standard power strip, which dictated its final dimensions. Vipin Galhaut, CEO of the firm, told Gadgets 360 that he has received orders from industries for similar power strips with eight sockets, and he sees no reason to turn customers away. Versions with more sockets are in the pipeline, but the next product is going to be a controller that can fit behind an existing switchboard, he said.
Three plug points are still enough to automate simple activities - plug in a coffee maker, toaster oven and kettle, and you can have a full breakfast ready for you as you wake up. The Smarteefi SE315A can support a total power draw of up to 5 Amperes before its over-current safety protection is triggered, so you could plug multiple small devices into each socket if you want them all on or off at the same time.
Users can have any number of these connected power strips in their homes, all controlled individually through the same interface. If you have an inverter at home, the Smarteefi SE315A can help you reduce load by turning off devices that you don't need to run on batteries. The ability to turn off a TV, PC or game console remotely could be of use to parents (though any kid should be able to find a simple workaround - just flip the switch to setup mode, and the device is cut off from your router, disabling remote access).
The Smarteefi SE315A can't be operated without an Internet connection, since all commands are routed through the cloud. Any ISP downtime or power failure will interrupt your ability to use it, which could be dangerous in cases where you need to turn something off at a particular time. Its lifecycle is also dependent on the company that manufactures it. For example, Revolv, a US-based IoT player which was acquired by Google, will stop supporting its devices, rendering them inoperable after May 15, 2016. Galhaut told Gadgets 360 that his three-year-old company is in this space for the long haul, with more devices in the pipeline. Its cloud service has an uptime of 99.9 percent, barring scheduled upgrades for major releases, he said.
The Smarteefi's SE315A's use cases are limited when compared to the Inoho's 5.1 home controller, priced at Rs. 11,999, which sits behind a switchboard and can be used to control electrical fittings and regulate fan speed as well. That's the space the company is looking to set target next. For now the Smarteefi SE315A complements such a solution by Internet-enabling appliances that need a plug point.
The Smart EEFI SE315A Power Strip is affordable, though much more expensive than ordinary power strips. It's intriguing for anyone looking to add some basic task automation to their day, and is something that every broadband-using geek would love. It could also be useful for the elderly and anyone with impaired mobility. Add a couple of multi-plug adapters, and its three sockets won't feel so limiting. However, it should be used only for convenience, not for any appliance or product that could be dangerous if you suddenly lose the ability to turn it on or off when you need to.
Price: Rs. 2,499
-Entry-level home automation at an affordable price
-Easy to set up and use
-No app for iOS
-Scheduling only works through the Android app for now
-No IFTTT integration
-Requires an Internet connection at all times
Ratings (Out of 5)
Value for money: 4.0