“Hook” Up a Smart Home For Under US$100

By moving remote-controlled outlet and light bulb switches onto a local Wi-Fi network, it’s possible to create a smart home for under US$100.
Published: Fri 01 May 2015

One of the biggest barriers to smart home adoption is the cost of connecting everyday appliances such as light bulbs and outlets. It is easy to spend hundreds of dollars connecting all one’s household appliances, but there is a new and more cost-effective solution on the market: Hook. While it may not be super elegant, it is certainly proving to be considerably cheaper than most solutions currently on the market.

Inexpensive smart system

The new and innovative device, Hook, connects inexpensive remote-controlled outlet adapters and bulb sockets to the Internet. This enables existing electric home appliances to be controlled with your phone from anywhere in the world.

The cheap light bulb socket caps and outlet switches are already commercially available from Amazon, Home Depot and Costco-the switches are normally sold in multi-packs for as little as US$6 each and include a radio frequency (RF) remote control for turning switches on or off. They work on RF 315/433MHz frequencies and are not line-of-sight.

Hook essentially clones the RF connection over Wi-Fi, using a small hub device and a companion Smartphone app. After cloning the remote's on-off functions, users can control their light bulbs and outlets from anywhere in the house with a smartphone. Hook should work with anything that uses the abovementioned frequency.

Simply replacing a physical remote with a smartphone may not be too useful on its own, but Hook aims to work with IFTTT as well. IFTTT  is a web-based service which enables users to create chains of simple conditional statements called "recipes", which are triggered based on changes to other web services such as Gmail, Facebook and Instagram. 

This should enable users to set up lighting schedules, receive alerts when an appliance has run for too long, and connect Hook with other smart home devices. This is all powered by Spark, a company that sells cheap hardware development kits to anyone who wants to make their own connected products.

Hook is charging US$40 for the hub, and is offering several pre-programmed outlet and bulb socket bundles. One hub with a pack of five outlets and three bulb sockets costs US$85. Hook plans to ship units to backers in December.

Smart home devices-simplicity and cost-effectiveness

A survey conducted by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has revealed that nearly half (46%) of consumers believe smart home devices will be mainstream by 2020. The study explored the attitudes of American, German and British consumers towards connected living.

The report reveals that 6% of those surveyed already accepted that the era of the smart home has indeed arrived, with two-thirds (66%) thinking that smart home devices will be mainstream within the next decade. This strong consumer interest was tempered by their high expectations for simplicity and cost-effectiveness so Hook may be onto something.

When asked what is required for commonplace purchases of such devices, 54% of respondents cited simplicity and straightforwardness in use with 41% believing that they should be easy to configure. Moreover, 28% suggested that these gadgets should connect seamlessly with a smartphone, tablet or PC. Nearly three-quarters (73%) admitted they would be frustrated if it took too long to set up a smart home unit.

“This study confirms consumers are looking for smart home products that ‘just work’,” added Mark Powell, Executive Director of the Bluetooth SIG. “It’s evident demand for smart home devices is ramping up and consumers are keen to live in the scenarios conjured up by the Jetsons over 60 years ago. Smart home manufacturers need to deliver products that are simple, cost-effective and secure for this segment to become mainstream.”

Further reading

Bluetooth-Making the Smart Home a Reality: Consumers Voice Priorities