Combined with an Amazon Echo, the TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi plug provides a way of automating a home without requiring a master’s degree in integration.
Coming in at a relatively svelte 100mm x 66mm x 77mm, the HS110 is straightforward device to plug into a power socket. It is a little on the wide side, so you may have some issues with adjacent outlets (particularly if you use this on a multi-socket adaptor). Other than that, it is relatively discrete with a single activity button and doesn’t really occupy much more space than the timer that most purchasers will likely be looking to replace.
But this is much more than a simple timer.
Setting up the HS110 is a little complicated, requiring the installation of the company’s “Kasa” application on either IOS or Android (Windows Phone users, look away now.) Once installed, the app first needs connecting to the HS110 and from there, the smart plug can then be pointed at a Wi-Fi hotspot. I found this a painless process, and the included guide clear and well-written, but I can imagine a non-technical user struggling a little.
An account is also required with TP-Link, and once credentials have been setup the fun can begin, with the device added and a name and image (either from the provided library or via a photo) selected.
Ta Da, it’s Kasa!
The Kasa app is a great example of a simple, easy to use application with clean and uncluttered screens. A list of configured TP-Link devices is shown, from where a user can quickly toggle the power or view the properties of a device.
The current and historic energy usage of the device can be viewed, as well as the amount of the time the device has been drawing power. Unlike devices such as the D-Link Smart Plug, it is not possible to see the temperature or set cut-off levels. However, it is possible to define schedules (for example, turning lights on and off) and also have an entirely different schedule in ‘Away’ mode – useful for giving the appearance that someone is at home, or scaring the wits out of the babysitter (depending on how evil you are feeling.)
The Kasa app also permits the creation of ‘Scenes’ to group devices together for common activities (such as switching everything on in the morning) or allows for the creation of custom scenes. This is a useful feature, but does not go as far as a IFTTT-type solution (with which the TP-Link is not currently compatible.) However, for the vast majority of users, this will be sufficient.
Where the HS110 really scores is in the integration with the Amazon Echo device. With a Smart Home Skill available for UK users, this represents a very simple way into voice controlled home automation. Once a user has shared the TP-Link account information with Alexa, the Kasa Skill can then be installed and the Echo is able to ‘discover’ the HS110 either through Alexa itself or by using the Alexa app.
Once ‘discovered’ by Alexa, it is possible to group devices together (for example, ‘Downstairs Lights’) or control individually. And control is through the familiar Alex syntax (“Alexa! Lounge Lamp On” or similar.) I was very impressed with the simplicity of this integration – once one is used to talking to Alexa, extending the vocabulary for the Smart Plug devices was second nature (as can be seen in the shortest, least exciting demo the world has even seen, below.)
Sometimes the best devices are the least exciting. With the exception of the initial set-up (an issue common to most ‘smart’ devices of this type) there is little with which to find fault. While perhaps not being as wildly extensible as an enthusiast might like, the simplicity of integration with other consumer appliances like the Amazon Echo makes this an appealing way of dipping one’s toe into the waters of home automation. And for users that have already bought into the Amazon ecosystem, this makes a fine way of extending Alexa’s reach into the physical world.