But about a year ago, I received the Amazon Echo as a birthday present. To be honest, I didn’t really think of it as more than a smart speaker to play music and set timers for when I’m cooking.
That was until I went out to dinner with friends of mine who also have an Echo. They were talking to me about how they use it as their smart-home hub to control the lights and other electronics in their house through the use of Wi-Fi-enabled smart plugs, among other gadgets. Essentially, these plugs connect to the internet and can be routed through the Echo so that you can remotely control whatever is plugged into them via the smart speaker or your phone.
Coincidentally, I had just moved into a new apartment and was looking for ways to step up my residential game. These smart plugs seemed to be a great way to try something new, and I was quickly fantasizing about turning my air conditioner on remotely so my apartment would be cool the moment I stepped in the front door. My friends recommended that I try out the TP-Link line of products, which are designed to work with the Echo.
After some research online, I decided to go with the TP-Link Smart Plug Mini. They also have full-sized plugs, but from what I could tell, there didn’t seem to be that much of a difference between the mini and the full-sized plug in terms of performance, and the mini is specifically designed for plates with two-outlets. Many of the full-sized plugs would obscure the second outlet on a two-outlet plate, which I found to be inconvenient.
The plug was startlingly easy to install. All you need to do is plug it in, download TP-Link’s Kasa app, and follow the instructions. Then, just download the corresponding Kasa “skill” through the Amazon Alexa app and you’re essentially done. It takes maybe five minutes. What’s better is that you don’t even need the Echo. You can just download the Kasa app, and you’ll be able to turn the switches on and off with your smartphone.
I plugged my air conditioner in, and I have to be honest, the moment I asked Alexa to turn off the air conditioner, and it actually turned off... I was totally hooked. I now feel so savvy whenever I am en route home and I can turn the A/C on with my phone. I also feel like I am living the reality of Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century.
I also immediately decided that I wanted (needed?) at least four more plugs so I can control my lights, TV—and even perhaps coffee maker, too, via my phone and Echo. TP-Link even makes smart Wi-Fi-enabled lightbulbs so that even your analog ceiling lights can be included in the home-tech party.
But TP-Link isn’t the only company offering these sorts of products—there are a whole host of manufacturers with different Echo and Google Home-enabled gadgets out there. I was quite excited when I learned that Ikea is also getting in on the smart-lighting craze, too.
But until every last lightbulb and plug are swapped out in my apartment (probably just in time for the next wave of updates to render my technology obsolete), I’ll be very happy—especially in these sweltering midsummer days—to be able to switch my A/C on wherever I am.