DigitalSTROM Lego Bricks Make Regular Appliances ‘Smart’

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As the home becomes ever more connected, DigitalSTROM may have just figured out how to overcome one of the smart homes biggest challenges – how to connect all of the devices together. Lets investigate.

Smart homes are getting more popular, but we don’t always want to buy new appliances. What if we could turn our existing appliances into smart devices?

DigitalSTROM makes regular appliances ‘smart’

The Consumer Electronics show served to highlight the growing popularity behind autonymous home technology, smart appliances and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. From thermostats to home security, taking in kettles, locks and TVs, it seems that 2016 is the year when almost every home device will need to be ‘smart’ in order to thrive. From dumb to smart, our homes are evolving quickly. However, as there are now over 200 different device types which are ‘smart’, the increasing problem is how to glue together these appliances and devices into an ecosystem which actually adds value, rather than becoming a massive pain point. This is where the slightly inelegantly designed but impressively powerful and functional DigitalSTROM lego blocks come into their own.

DigitalSTROM, a company based out of Switzerland have a series of ‘lego bricks’ which can transform a regular old appliance or device into a smart one. They require no special connectivity, and interlink these device, whether natively smart or otherwise, via the homes existing electricity cabling, which has the added upside of stopping every home device from chewing through your wifi connections and slowing down your Netflix streaming. So having interlinked the devices through your power cabling, DigitalSTROM then utilises a central hub in order to inject the brain power, making the whole ecosystem streamlined yet powerful enough to act as a potent introduction to the whole concept of running a smart home. The concept is illustrated below.

 

DigitalSTROM integrated with Amazon Echo to use Alexa voice commands

There are of course a growing number of major technology companies who have grand ambitions to power your smart home. Principally, these include Amazon, whose Echo is being touted as  voice controlled home enabler and Samsung, who are attempting to place their market leading televisions at the heart of the smart home. There are others of course, not least Google (who have NEST, which is perhaps the most recognised smart device on the market as well as Android to power the ecosystem) and Apple, who have products here too. DigitalSTROM are both small enough to have to yet intelligent enough to recognise the need to integrate, and as such as the Consumer Electronics Show, they were showcasing their ability to hook into Amazon Echo, enabling Alexa voice controlled commands to control their vision of a smarthome.

DigitalSTROM see a world of inter-related commands, meaning one voice controlled command – like ‘prepare for breakfast’ fires up the stove, activates the coffee machine and adjusts the table height. Singular commands in the bedroom can turn on the lights, open the curtains and turn on the shower. This is where the Amazon voice technology comes in, enabling this voice command infrastructure.

However DigitalSTROM’s system is not all about using Amazon’s brains. Standalone apps, browser apps, and even using input devices like lightswitches differently – for example double pressing it – can act as command prompts. The latter is really intelligent, not least because of the way the companies tech hooks in with existing home systems.

The downsides of the DigitalSTROM

Naturally all of this sounds great, so what’s the catch? Theres a number, unfortunately.

Installing DigitalSTROM is not a DIY project

As we have previously stated, this product hooks into the existing wiring in the house. That should immediately set off some red flags, because that is much more than a plug-and-play project, and will – unless you’re genuinely an expert – require the aid of a professional electrician.

The DigitalSTROM block needs connecting to the wiring, and that involves implanting it behind the wall. They’re small enough to fit, but again there is a cosmetic requirement to make it work too. Older ‘dumb’ appliances, those retrospectively made smart by this device, need chips inserting into them, and that is challenging enough.

You need newer appliances

Making a dumb appliance smart is attractive, but that requires a chip to be fitted. That’s fine but realistically it makes no sense to retro-fit a 3 year old toaster with a chip. In our opinion, you need great quality appliances and they need to be new. If that’s the case, maybe you could or should just buy a smart one to begin with? Which leads us on to our lost point.

DigitalSTROM is expensive – is it really value for money?

This final point has got us thinking. The kit costs a chunk of money, and you need new appliances anyway to make it worthwhile or even practical/do-able.

In our opinion – DigitalSTROM is the solution for new homes only.

If I had a new build home, which by virtue likely has loads of new appliances, and if i could get to it in time to get behind the walls (IE, buying off-plan), then this would be a great solution. You could then easily fit the central hub, hook up the wiring and have an off the shelf smart home.

Is it value for money otherwise? As much as we like it – or maybe even love it – the hard answer has to be no. Unless you have a new home.

 

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