I love the idea of home automation. I love the idea that more and more of the things we do every single day are being made easier by simply using our mobile phones. Wireless technology and home automation are two areas of tech that were meant to go together. The Smart Cord by the ZSmart Company has a product available that can help you get one step closer to fulfilling that dream of an automated lifestyle. I recently received a review unit from ZSmart and I thought I would share my thoughts with you on the product so that you can decide if this is something that would fullfill a need in your life.
The Smart Cord arrived in a package containg nothing but the cord itself and a set of instructions. Along with that package came two documents. The first of which was a thank you letter and some brief instructions to help you get set up. They also made it clear in this document that they have a support team that stands behind this product should you have any issues getting started. The second document is full of FAQs (frequently asked questions), a couple of which were anwsered for me within the document.
Now onto the device. The Smart Cord is simply a cable with a Bluetooth mechanism that receives "uniques modules" in the form of an audio stream. You connect to the Smart Cord by simply setting up a bluetooth connection with your mobile phone. Detailed setup instructions can be found here on the Smart Cord website. You will also want to download the Smart Cord iPhone app found here. (There are other alternatives for Android and Blackberry users. You can also use the web to power the Smart Cord if that is your preferred choice.) Although the app is not much too look at, it is the easiest and most straight forward solution.
Upon opening the package, I was delighted to see that the Smart Cord was just a cord. There was 1 piece and 1 piece only. No weird adapters or anything of the like. All I simply had to do was unplug whatever it was I wanted to use the Smart Cord with and instead plug it directly into the Smart Cord. Then plug the Smart Cord into the wall. Once you have your bluetooth connection set up, load the app and your are good to go. The app itself is straightforward. There is a power button and that is all. Press the button to power on and off the device that your Smart Cord is connected to.
There are a couple of ways I tested this Smart Cord that I will share with you. The first test was simply using the Smart Cord to power a lamp on and off in my living room. As the day comes to a close and I am rocking my beautiful 5 month old daughter to sleep, I like to turn off any extra light I can in the room. This device works perfectly in this scenario. The second test was using the Smart Cord to power on and off my cable modem. I don't like the Wi-Fi in our home to be on all night long and the Smart Cord fills a niche in that it allows me to power down my modem from bed after the lights go out and I am done with my usual internet browsing or Netflix streaming sessions. The same applies for the following morning when I need to power it back up. I questioned the choice by ZSmart in the use of Bluetooth over Wifi connectivity, but I was thankful in this use case that they did. Here is why the company chose Bluetooth as their preffered method of connectivity in their words:
"Our goal was to have products communicate directly with a phone or similar device. Telling people they needed a Wifi router, or internet access, or additional hardware to operate our products was not something we wanted to do."
This makes sense to some degree. But using Bluetooth brings it's own set of issues. The first of which is the limited number of Smart Cords you would be able to have in use at any given time due to the conncected device limit in mobile phones. So although I don't think it was meant to, you could not have a true full-fledged home automation setup using nothing but Smart Cords all over the house. The second problem that would arise is that you are not able to rename Bluetooth connections. So if you were to use mulitple Smart Cords, it would get easily confusing distinguishing between the connections. And finally, because it uses Bluetooth, if you are currently connected to any other Bluetooth device at the time such as a set of Bluetooth headphones, you will have to kill that connection to power off or on the Smart Cord and then go back and restablish your previous connection.
Now the Smart Cord is not without it's quirks. A connection to the the device requires you have the mute switch turned off and the volume all the way up. This is because of the afformentioned audio stream it uses to connect. This really puts a wrinkle into what at first seems like a hassle free process.
After 2 weeks with the Smart Cord from ZSmart, I can say with confidence that if you are looking for a specific need to be met where you could really benefit from the ability to remotely power and power off a device of some sort, then this device will do that for you and you can expect it to work as described. However, if you don't really have the need for such a connection, then I would save the $39.95 and do things the old fashioned way.
Thanks goes out to ZSmart for allowing me the opportunity to share this experience with my readers.