Anyone who remembers the X-10 series of remote control devices also remembers how easy they were to use — just plug them into your AC outlet and control lights and other household devices using buttons on a control panel or a key fob. But it didn’t really catch on because it was limited in what it could do.
So why does D-Link’s Wi-FI Smart Plug and Wi-Fi Motion Sensor succeed? First because they continue this mode of simplicity in form and function. But mostly because they rely on a home network as their connection, which opens up the means for a wide range of options and remote control over distance.
First though I looked at the Smart Plug and saw that its 3 prong (grounded) plug was unremarkable — meaning that it could fit in any conventional wall outlet. It’s basically an On/Off switch, so any normal device can be plugged into it and activated — such as a lamp or box fan. It’s not something that you’d want to use with a coffee maker though, unless you had already filled it with the needed coffee and water. What I’m saying is that it’s designed to be used with devices that can be sensibly turned on and off as a matter of course.
The Smart Plug takes its power from the outlet to run its built-in WiFi transmission system which is to be connected to the home network.This is done quickly either using the WPS button or via the free app (if the router doesn’t come equipped for this). D-Link also builds in thermal protection which is VERY sensible, and which will kill the power should it sense an appliance overheating. It could happen.
Having connected a table lamp to the Smart Plug, with it now integrated with my home network, I brought up the app and used it as a “remote” to turn the lamp on and then off. The real value comes from creating a schedule, which in this case would mean having the lamp go on while I was out to give the impression that I was home. But as it has been really hot, I instead connected a box fan to the Smart Plug and had it scheduled to go on at 4:50 PM that day as I was going to be out and expected to be back around five. I got back at 5:06 and the fan was running merrily. So yes it works once scheduled, and no the app doesn’t have to be running to have a scheduled event occur. The next day I tried turning the table lamp (which had replaced the fan as being connected to the Smart Plug) on and off a few times from the Dentist’s office and later got a disapproving stare from my wife when I got home. You would think that she’d be used to me doing things like this by now.
The app also allows the Smart Plug to provide specific information, such as the temperature in the room and the power usage it is conveying. But to add to its use, couple it with D-Link’s Wi-Fi Motion Sensor. First a word about the sensor: similar in size to the plug but featuring a sensor “ball” in front, it plugs into a wall outlet and has a similar setup as that of the Smart Plug. The detection range is 26 feet (aprox), so it can cover a fair range of space. I tried plugging into the outlet next to the TV and downloaded its app (mydlink Home which can also be used with the Smart Plug). I then set it up to send me a push notification when anyone crossed its angle of path (I preferred this over receiving a text message). I tried walking past it and yep, got notified.
I also had my wife try it while I was out shopping and yep, again it worked and I got the message even though I was miles away. There’s no denying that the Motion Sensor is a one-trick pony, but it’s a very good and useful one. Especially when coupled with the Smart Plug, since them it can be used as an motion-activated On/Off switch that can provide many useful opportunities (such as turning on the lights when you get home as you enter or starting a recorder going to see just what the dogs are up to when you’re not there).
Bottom line: Both the Wi-Fi Smart Plug and the Wi-Fi Motion Sensor have their place in today’s connected home. But besides being simple to operate, they’re priced for true affordability: $49.99 for the Smart Plug and $39.99 for the Motion Sensor.
Indicator LEDs, iOS/Android app control
Must have free D-Link Cloud Service account
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.