The earliest years

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After the 2 Wemo smart plugs, things started to get serious for me. I dived straight in with LightwaveRF sockets. These work on 433Mhz so, unless you get a range extender, you’re limited by the distance from the hub.

This is lovely looking kit. Expensive kit that, at the time, didn’t support 2 way communication so you had no feedback. You sent an ‘on’ command and hoped. Nothing told you what the current state actually was.

It was also let down by a horrific app and range issues. You could have a device working, move it one metre and it would stop working.

I spent far too much on sockets and plugs before realising the it wasn’t for me. Some people swear by it and it has improved by all accounts. From what I remember, it also relies on a hub and internet access so you’re handcuffed to their ecosystem.


This turned out to be the low point in my automation history. It started with me wanting a smart thermostat. I researched for weeks. Nest, Tado and Hive were the main players at the time.

Nest looked very technically competent. Then I read an article on a site that I respect. My career is in User Experience. One of the leading companies globally in this field is a company called the Nielsen Norman Group. One of their consultants wrote an article about their experience with the Nest thermostat and it killed it for me.

Tado also looked very competent and had very good reviews from people. At the time it was relatively new and had a real “startup” feel about it. This was definitely a front runner.

Hive was shiny.

Hive looked cool with its multi-coloured display.

Shiny won. I bought it.

I bought sensors and bulbs and smart plugs at £30 a pop. By the time I realised that this was another wrong turn I was probably six or seven hundred quid deep in Hive kit.

The problems always seemed to be at bed time. Door sensor on the loo door. I’d walk in, no light came on. Go to bed. “Alexa. Night night”. Bedroom light would stay on. All the lights that were on in the house would stay on and I’d have to revert to the wall switches. Next morning it would be fine. This happened regularly for months and months.

Then there was the thermostat. One of my biggest bugbears with this was the lack of any occupancy detection. House is empty? Never mind, we’ll heat it anyway. The cynical side of me started questioning the wisdom of buying a smart thermostat from a company that sold energy. The resentment built and I funneled it into something positive.