Kickstarter: Control your power outlets via Wi-Fi

Kickstarter is a site that gives people with product ideas a place to pitch their offerings to people who want to donate to their cause. While donators aren’t investing in the idea, they are given rewards for their generosity. Over the past several months, we’ve highlighted various projects and today we’re going to focus on one called the “Tech-Sync Power System.”

Whole home automation that works cleanly and efficiently has long been a holy grail of technology. While there are currently some solutions on the market, many of them are either difficult to install, buggy to use, or prohibitively expensive. X10, for example, has many modules available but communication between the devices is frequently spotty and the modules need to be plugged into your wall outlets which can look unsightly.

Steven Washington identified the current deficiencies and is working to create a low-cost solution to this problem. Dubbed the “Tech-Sync Power System,” he is creating outlets and light switches that can communicate with your home network via wireless G or N. All of the devices work together in a mesh fashion in your house and can be controlled via your phone or through a desktop client. Not only do the outlets give you the ability to turn them on and off at predetermined times, but you can also tie a light switch to a specific port of an outlet so, for example, when you turn your kitchen light off, your toaster is automatically turned off in order to save electricity.  Washington gave the following account of how he came up with the idea for the project:

I looked many times at home automation systems, and how difficult they were to use, to install, to maintain, and how costly they are. Often climbing to thousands of dollars to purchase, install and maintain. I looked at other systems many times, and really decided that none of them would fit my needs, or I just wasn't willing to pay a huge price for them. Developing this system, allowed me to create something that i wanted to use in my home. Something that I didn't have to work to maintain, something that's there when I need it, and disappears when I don't. That, in my opinion is what good tech should do.

Unfortunately Washington does not explain how his system works from a technical perspective. He confirms that each device has persistent memory and acts as a Wi-Fi extender but give no details on whether each outlet is using an arduino board or some other custom made piece of electronics. There are also no pictures of the actual devices or application, although a recent update states that the iPhone and Android applications are 95% complete.

There are many potential uses for the devices if they work as advertised. The project had a funding goal of only $2,000 but managed to breeze past that. It has currently raised over $9,000 with nearly three weeks to go before the project closes.

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As far as I know the 'Steven Washington' account on Kickstarter was deleted and the project page itself does not appear to be loading. Maybe the 400+ pledgers of money to this Kickstarter project are all trying to figure out what happened. IIRC the Kickstarter FAQs also included a reference to 'transparency' in this process so I am curious if this project page comes back up again along with the various comments from its former pledgers.


http://www.kickstarter.com/pro.../the-tech-sync-power-system

Kickstarter

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This 'Steven Washington' Kickstarter project went completely away with no explanation that I can find. Does this kind of thing happen often with Kickstarter? Projects are started, pledges collected, people's time wasted and then they just disappear?

This is very disappointing considering that the pledges totaled around $27,000.

That is a decent chunk of change that might have actually disappeared had this Kickstarter project actually gone up through funding which IIRC would have been in a week or two. In that case, credit cards would have been charged and then what?

The project could still have suddenly disappeared, no rewards would have been delivered and Kickstarter would not have done - could have done - a thing? What is up with that?

From their FAQs Kickstarter takes proof of identity in the form of drivers license, SS number, etc. There is, I guess, no additional due diligence so those who are actually putting money up are left to their own devices. If there is a scam or fraud or something is amiss then Kickstarter does nothing to help those whose money was taken?

I am curious if this happens often - or even occasionally - on Kickstarter and other sites.

> for example, when you turn your kitchen light off, your toaster is automatically turned off in order to save electricity

Seriously, that's the best example they can come up with?

_dandy_ said,
> for example, when you turn your kitchen light off, your toaster is automatically turned off in order to save electricity

Seriously, that's the best example they can come up with?


It was more to illustrate what it does, but yeah - it may have been a little weak.

JoeC said,
Replace "kitchen" with "living room" and "toaster" with "TV".

I certainly don't want my TV to turn off automatically when I turn off the lights in my living room.

Try again.

barteh said,
controlling your lights from your phone/laptop is just plain lazy.

Automating them and scheduling when they come on or off can also be a great security feature (e.g. when away on holiday).
Not only for the lazy though - if you are disabled it would be handy to turn everything off without having to travel round the whole house...
Could also be good for the odd prank!

I currently did something similar to this for European people. I use a system of wireless dimmers and glass switches to help new home builders save wiring costs and have the flexibility of an inteligent lighting system for a fraction of the price of other non-wireless systems. Everything is controllable via phone or computer and it has all the features stated above. http://www.seblectric.com is my website. Good luck to this person, I invested well over $9000 in this already so i know how hard it can be.

Very tempting, but they don't seem to currently be willing to serve Canada. We use the same voltage and outlets!

Looks cool but I just spent a ton of time replacing every outlet and switch in the house with some designer crap ... unless this is designer unfortunately the miss will not approve lol.

Maybe I will get a pack for my man cave.