Smart Home

 You may have heard the terms "Smart Home", "Smart Lamp", "Smart Plug" etc and wondered what they mean? Sometime ago we acquired an Alexa device (we now have several of these) and find it useful to listen to music or a radio station, but it can also be used to control remotely located so-called "Smart" items such as a socket, into which my electric blanket is plugged, by using voice commands. The manufacturers of the devices are faced with a major problem however.. and this is how to market and support their products to the general public. Equipping one's house with such products is fine if one is an electrical engineer or a computer expert, but very few of us are in that category.

To help install these gadgets and to dumb-down the process a number of buzz words and phrases have been invented viz. "App", short for "Application" which means a software program designed for a specific purpose, and for example, "Pairing" which means part of the process of logging on to one's local area network. All very well, but I'm afraid many of the companies selling the stuff are supported by relatively short-sighted technical people.

Take our latest acquisition.. a "smart" electric kettle. This product requires drivers which interface between a computer and the kettle. Because many people have a mobile phone the majority of Apps can only be installed on a mobile phone, or a mini-computer in the shape of an A5 page, such as an Amazon Fire, Kindle, iPad or whatever. All of these mini-computers and phones use an operating system just like a PC except much simpler. Typically the operating system might be what's referred to as "Android" and just like Windows will have teething problems, faults, and a team of programmers keen to stay employed forever and a day. This means that a new version of an operating system will be pushed into the marketplace on a regular basis. Unfortunately, because devices need to be kept up-to-date and competitive, you cannot just install a new Android version on an older device. This means that the operating system on your Fire or your mobile phone cannot be updated beyond a certain point (and therefore incompatible with the App you wish to install).
 

 Returning to the Smart Home equipment. These will be accompanied by an App, or at least to be exact, accompanied by instructions telling you from where the App can be obtained. Now we are in the hands of the technical team supporting the smart device. They will produce software for their device using whatever operating system is current. Say it's Android 5.. your phone is Android 3 and either a message will appear telling you to buy a new phone, or simply tell you you can't proceed, or even none of these and continue to install the software. In my case, with a new smart plug, the App installed but failed to make sense leaving me to just puzzle over what had gone wrong. After a whole day of trying to get my smart plug working I gave up and waited for a visit from my son who has a new phone. Within five minutes the new smart plug was working, although it did not work exactly as described in the instructions... that needed an electrical engineer (me) to work out the fine details.

I should mention instructions. The V-Tac plug came with instructions. These were printed in such a tiny font in grey on off-white that even a magnifying glass didn't help.

Looking back.. we already have two other smart plugs (different maufacturer) whose installation was impossible until my daughter with a brand new phone installed them easily.
 

 Now, the smart kettle... the instructions were on a folded card, very nicely laid out and very legible. I followed these to the letter and got an error message on my phone. Could it be the wireless connection? I re-did the link to my wireless network and tested my own website.. which worked fine so tried again to access the iKettle App but got the same error message. Not to be thwarted I tried my PC. Typing in the address provided I found the page was missing. The instructions referred to a page removed by the web-designer. Pity he didn't inform the guy writing the instructions! I looked on the smart kettle website and noticed their free phone was weekdays only.. cheapskates.. so tried their instant discussion link.. they weren't there but a message popped up to leave an email message. I followed the instructions and was rewarded with a reply... sorry we're away over the festive period till 2nd Jan. I replied in a very annoyed tone that it was 4th Jan and I was very disappointed.

The holiday finished and it was now after 4th January, but alas I got a message telling me that the phones were off the air having planned maintenance. I decided to use email. 

 Hi Allan, Thank you for contacting Smarter support!

Please note that we are now closed for the festive period until the 2nd January.

Emails will be checked during the festive period and anything urgent will be responded to.

In the meantime please check our support pages for troubleshooting.

https://support.smarter.am/hc/en-us

Thanks
Smarter Support

 

Dear Smarter Support

OK on being closed till the 2nd Jan but it’s the 4th January today.

I think the fact that the instructions are wrong is pretty bad considering the cost of the kettle. I’m very disappointed.

Why didn’t you add a redirect on your website rather than merely deleting the page /smarter.app

Very unprofessional. I’m just a user of kettles not a computer whizz kid.

Allan

 Aaron (Smarter ) Jan 7, 12:32 GMT

Hi Allan,Thank you for your email.

We have had a backlog of tickets from being closed which means it is taking longer to reply.

Please see below link for the app you need.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=am.smarter.smarter3&hl=en_GB

https://apps.apple.com/gb/app/smarter-3-0/id1196743717

Thanks
Aaron, Smarter Support, 0800 802 1237

 

I’m afraid I do not understand the instructions etc

I copied the first link to my Amazon Fire and found the app but it said no device found or similar.

We plugged in the kettle and let Alexa discover devices but it didn’t find anything.

I’m stumped. I rang the 0800 number and its been turned off

What do I do now?

Allan

 

Aaron (Smarter ) Jan 8, 15:32 GMT

Hi Allan,Thank you for your reply.

Have you connected the kettle to the Smarter app yet?

This cannot be connected to Alexa until you have connected to the kettle via the app.

Thanks
Aaron, Smarter Support, 0800 802 1237

 

What happens is this:

I find the kettle app on my Amazon Fire and it seems to install OK

It then tells me to exit the app and Alexa will find the device.

The Smarter App offers no options, it just accepted my registration details and tells me to exit and allow Alexa to find the kettle

I would have expected the Smarter App to ask me to load my router security code and also to pair but it doesn’t and nothing can persuade it to do so.

Alexa cannot find the kettle, obviously because the kettle doesn’t know my router security code and it’s not paired

I had a similar problem with a couple of new sockets.

The socket app refused to enter any dialogue and eventually my son came and paired the sockets using his own mobile phone

I tried pressing the button on the base of the kettle to see if Alexa could find it but it couldn’t. It flashes a few times and then after more pressing the water started to heat up so I turned it off.

I clicked on the link you sent me in the last email but as I’m using a PC for email your website told me I’m not compatible with the App.

I’m getting really fed up and I think this “Smarter” App is far from smart, it seems to be badly written and is letting down your company.

What do you suggest? I re-read the Quick Instructions and I just cannot understand them as they seem to be completely different to what I see when I install the App.

I tried ringing your phone number but you seem to have decided not to take phone calls. Is this because you’re inundated with unhappy customers and decided not to help them?

Allan

 

Aaron (Smarter ) Jan 9, 12:32 GMT

Hi Allan, Thank you for your reply.

Have you connected the kettle to the Smarter app yet via your Smart Phone?

Thanks
Aaron, Smarter Support, 0800 802 1237

 

I tried to use my phone

It’s a Samsung but it does not seem to have an = sign in the letters and numbers so I cannot type in the address you gave me

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=am.smarter.smarter3&hl=en_GB

Is there another link without an equals sign?

I’m getting fed up

Allan

 

Aaron (Smarter ) Jan 9, 14:20 GMT

Hi Allan, Thank you for your reply.

Via your phone you need to go to the Google play store, type in Smarter and it will come up to download.

The only way you can use the kettle via Alexa is if you first connect it to the app on your wifi.

Without this you will not be able to use Alexa.

You could also open the link via email if you have that on your phone.

Thanks
Aaron, Smarter Support, 0800 802 1237

 

 I went to google store and found iKettle, selected then selected install which it said it did then selected Open, put water in the kettle and plugged it in.

Selected Next and Home network (recommended) had a green dot in it.

Selected Next and a blue light flashed on and off on the kettle base with a beep

Then a message: Sorry the application ikettle (processcom.venturelane.ikettle) has stopped unexpectedly. Please try again.

I tried a few times and got exactly the same results

Why are there no instructions with the kettle?

Now I’m about to take the kettle to Trading Standards as it seems to be a confidence trick unless you can tell me properly how to use it

Allan

 

Aaron (Smarter )

Jan 9, 18:04 GMT

Hi Allan, The reason you cannot set it up is that you are not following the instructions that I have provided.

The app you need is the Smarter 3.0 app which works with the latest version of the kettle.

It has a white logo on a black background.

Once you have this app you will be able to set up the kettle.

Thanks
Aaron, Smarter Support, 0800 802 1237

 

Hi Aaron

Your Quick setup guide does tell me to search for iKettle in the App store.

This is why I installed iKettle. I did in fact search for Smarter as you suggested and this did not produce any options other than iKettle.

You did not, I repeat did not mention “Smarter 3.0” so how could I follow that instruction when you did not mention it?

Last night I used my PC to investigate what’s going on.

This did supply several Apps including iKettle and your Smarter 3.0

The Google procedure I used allowed me to install any of those Apps onto my mobile phone remotely, however all but iKettle said the App was not compatible with my phone, which it said correctly was a Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 GT-I8160.

I now suspect that the reason for my difficulties is the phone will not install Smarter 3.0, or if it does the App will crash or otherwise fail to run.

The reason a search for Apps as you suggested did not give me the option of Smarter 3.0 was because it is not compatible with my phone.

Further, if I use Google’s search facility it takes me to a browser used by Google for this purpose and immediately comes up with the message “browser not supported by your phone”

The option that does work is to not select their Internet search option, but to use their Store search. Clearly, their store search filters Apps to offer ONLY those compatible with my phone.

This is confirmed when I register the phone with Google and it then lists all the Apps but with the note that only one is compatible with my phone ie. iKettle.

As your setup guide does ask me to install iKettle I naturally expected it to work, but clearly that iKettle App does not recognise my kettle, hence it comes up with an error report.

Was this instruction to install iKettle in your setup guide a mistake? Or was the wrong leaflet put in the box?

You should clearly inform kettle purchasers, say on the box in large writing, the minimum requirement for their phone.

I can see that to specify the operating system by name and issue might be a problem for your non-technical staff that produces the box, but surely you have this Quick setup guide.

Now we get to the real problem. You say you must install the App to read detailed instructions. If you can’t load the App you cannot read those instructions.

Why on earth don’t you add a decent set of instructions in the box. A QUICK SETUP GUIDE presupposes a SLOW version and if this is within the App it becomes a catch 22.

What do you suggest now? Clearly from what you have said I cannot proceed unless you get this infernal App rewritten to work with earlier versions of Android, for example.

Finally. Nowhere in your box is included anything on how to use the kettle. How do I turn it on? How do I turn it off?

I am now concerned the thing is at risk in terms of safety. Will it come on with no water in it?

Allan

 

Aaron (Smarter )

Jan 10, 16:49 GMT

HI Allan,

Thank you for your email.

I can confirm that our app is not compatible with the current phone you have which is as you have confirmed why you cannot find the app.

My apologies but it seems there was a miscommunication and I was not aware that this was the phone you were using to try and set up the kettle.

To turn the kettle on you simply press the round button on the base.

In terms of boiling dry, the kettle has a built-in feature that if there is no water it will shut off after 15 seconds, all standard kettles have this built-in but the shutoff time is 21 seconds,

If you need anything else please let me know.

Thanks
Aaron, Smarter Support, 0800 802 1237

 So there you go... these new fangled "smart" things are far from smart and you may need to buy a new phone if you'd like to try one. Usually, I wait for one of my children or grandchildren to visit as they all have newish phones. Our phone of course is a hand-me-down... from one of them. The same apparently goes for our Kindle.. because it's not the latest model it can't handle smart stuff. Below the kettle leaflet...

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