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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