Smart homes, while increasingly prevalent in developed countries like the United States, Britain or other European states, are still just a far-flung dream in developing countries like Pakistan.
The main reason for this digital divide is the level of costs associated with upgrading current homes to make them comply with smart standards.
To combat this, a number of entrepreneurs have developed intelligent yet incredibly cheap solutions that can convert your current home to a fully-connected smart home.
Meet “Smart Devices”
“Smart Devices” has been founded by Abdul Ghaffar, an entrepreneur and the current CEO and Director of the startup.
Incubated at Plan9 and PlanX, it was one of the first startups in Pakistan to jump on the Internet of Things bandwagon. It also won the very first IoT award in Smart Home Category at Telenor’s IoT expo last year for its relatively inexpensive IoT devices.
Smart Devices’ products let you control any electrical appliance remotely from anywhere around the globe, be it a fan, a light, air conditioner, water motors, etc. Basically, any device can be converted into a Wi-Fi connected smart device with the help of a smart switchboard.
Currently, they offer two devices; a Smart Hub and a Smart Switch Board:
The smart hub is the central communication unit. It is responsible for establishing a connection between the app on your Smartphone to the smart switchboard using your home Wi-Fi. There is no limitation on the number of devices that can connect to a Smart Hub so you would need just one central unit.
It costs 9,900 Pakistani rupees.
Smart Switch Board
A smart switch board is a Wi-Fi based piece of hardware that can switch any electrical appliance on or off. Just install it in place of a normal switchboard and switch it to “ON” and it will automatically connect to the Smart Hub. You can also manually switch devices on/off as you would on a normal switchboard.
They are currently offering two models; a 4,900 rupee version with 2 switches and a 6,900 rupee version with 5 switches.
How Does it Work?
All you need to do is buy the Smart Hub and connect it via LAN to your home Wi-Fi. Now, install the Smart Switch in place of a normal switchboard. That’s it for the installation part.
Once connected, you can switch your devices ON/OFF and see their status from anywhere as long as you have an internet connection. Have a poor internet connection? You can also access your Smart Devices offline as long as you are connected to the same Wi-Fi network. This is particularly important considering the state of most internet connections in Pakistan.
The startup lets you control your electrical appliances in four ways,
- Android App: Download Smart Devices Android app. (iPhone app coming soon)
- Web Dashboard: Use the Smart Devices Web Dashboard interface.
- Browser Extension: Download an extension for Chrome. (Opera extension in the works)
- Chat Bots: Use a chat bot to switch your devices on/off or get their current status via the Telegram app.
I tried out the Android app as well as the Web Dashboard and was happy to see that both worked as promised. The design is simple and easy to navigate. You can organize your switches into rooms and label them. It is not as feature rich as I would have wanted but it gets the job done. They do plan to add new features like setting alerts or scheduling times soon though.
Smart Devices Local Recognition
Smart Devices has won several accolades, including being selected by PTA for National Mobile App Awards. Just yesterday, it was nominated for the World Summit Award 2016, held in collaboration with the United Nations. They termed it as “the best and most innovative solution in Smart Settlements & Urbanization from Pakistan”. Smart Devices has also been selected by Facebook for FbStart, a global program to help mobile startups build and grow their apps.
The CEO, Abdul Ghaffar, said that they are finally pulling out of Beta and are going to make a big push in the Pakistani IoT market with an aggressive marketing campaign.
He also shared their sales figures with ProPakistani, disclosing over 1 million Pakistani rupees in sales. That amount, although relatively small, is promising for a startup still in its nascent stages.
The future of technology is in the Internet of Things. We have barely scratched the surface up till now. While the smart switch board system from Smart Devices is a mere baby step, it does give us a brief glimpse of what smart homes in the future could be like.