With the advent of the Internet of Things, Smart Homes have become a hot topic. However, it can be quite difficult to turn your home into one without some significant installation. This is where Elgato has a solution. Most commonly known for their video capture cards, the German company has launched a line of Smart Home devices. Collectively, they’re known as EVE, and I tried out three of their devices. One is a door monitor, to check how often it opens and closes. Another is an indoor air monitor, to check the temperature and air quality. The final device is a smart plug, which helps regulate power flow. I used them for a couple of weeks to see how they functioned.
Elgato seems to have taken some design lessons from Apple because all the Eve devices are minimalist and elegant. All three devices are a shiny white, and small enough to be unobtrusive in any room. The door monitor especially is small enough to be unnoticeable one you’ve set it up. Most noticeable is the lack of any buttons or screens on the devices. Make no mistake, Elgato has designed EVE around being connected to your smartphone.
Another design feature worth mention is how easy these devices are to install into your house. The door monitor requires a little bit of alignment and sticking, but instructions make it very clear how to do so. The plug is simple enough, just plug it into the mains outlet you want to use. The indoor air monitor is the simplest of all. Put in the batteries, stick it where you want and you’re golden. Even the process of connecting the devices to your phone is child’s play. Since Elgato have integrated with Apple HomeKit if you use an iPhone its just a matter of following the instructions on the app and you’re connected. Unlike other Bluetooth products I’ve used in the past, there have been no connectivity issues with any of the devices.
Apart from the very particular role the devices are designed to have, there aren’t many additional features other than Bluetooth capability and App integration. This is a good thing because anything else would take away from the devices. Due to the highly specialised nature of the devices, Elgato has made plug-in and forget devices that you can leave running for months. Aside from the plug, which draws on mains power, the other two run on batteries. They will need changing eventually, but Elgato has promised months of working life before that. In the short time that I’ve used the devices, I haven’t had any batteries issues.
Aside from doing the job they’re designed for, the only main point to add is that the plug is voice activated. With your iPhone, you can use Siri to turn the device on and off. This would be a gimmick where it not for the fact that it worked well, and if you put the device in a hard to reach location, this could be a significant quality of life improvement. The plug is the only device with a button, which also functions as a light to indicate if it’s on or not. The door monitor has a small red LED that lights up when it detects the door opening. The air monitor has nothing, not even a light to indicate it’s on. If you want to make sure, you need to look at the app and see if data is being collected.
So how well do the devices work?
Overall, the EVE products do what they do very well. With the plug adaptor, the latency between asking Siri to turn it off and the device responding to the command is about a second. If this were anything other than just a power socket this would be bad, but because it’s just an on-off switch this is not a problem. In fact, it worked so well that I ended up playing around with the Siri command for a while. The fact that it still worked after that is a testament to how well it works.
As a whole, all three devices work very well regarding recording metrics. The only small issue was with the air monitor, which until I did a reset (took the batteries out and back in again) was insisting that the temperature was minus 46 degrees. After that, however, it worked perfectly well and was reading temperature effortlessly. Same with the door monitor, which with a high degree of accuracy could tell when the door opened and closed without too many faults.
One area of performance which was a bit disappointing was the app itself. While the layout is perfectly clean and relatively easy to navigate, getting the data from the devices proved to be a fiddly affair. Rather than showing them on a home page, you need to navigate to a particular section of the app and click the device you want to read. This is only a few clicks, but having to hunt for the data is rather tedious and slightly inconvenient. This is a shame because overall the app is one of the best that I have had to use.
To see how well the devices worked, I put them through the wringer. This was to see how well they faired. With the door monitor, if you continuously open and close over a short period the sensor starts to fail a little bit and takes a moment to sync with the last data to remember if the door is open or shut. Mind you, this was opening and closing the door continuously for a minute, so unless you’re putting the monitor in a busy thoroughfare, this shouldn’t be an issue.
The plug worked well enough, even with me continuously pressing the button or using the voice activation. The slight delay does impact how many times you can press the button, however. Sometimes it took a couple of clicks before I got any response. Again, this is an extreme scenario, so don’t let this bother you in everyday life.
The air monitor is more temperamental. Elgato says that it works best when left in just one room to keep the data consistent. As previously mentioned, it is sometimes prone to have incorrect data if not set up correctly, so this is the most delicate of the devices. If you want to get any use out of this device, stick in a place and leave it alone. It is worth mentioning however that it was regularly moved around when the room was cleaned this didn’t affect its ability to do its job.
Each device on their own are very limited in their abilities but have had an impact on my life in subtle ways. The air monitor, for example, lets me know that during the day, air quality decreases. As a result, I make sure to aerate the room more often. The plug made me conscious of how much power I was consuming. The door monitor gave me a surprising insight into how often I move around my house. Overall I became more in tune with my house and how I lived in it. Enough so to make me look at Elgato’s full EVE catalogue to find more products to join the family.
Elgato has made some really elegant little devices that go quite a ways to improve your quality of life at home. With the move towards smart homes, you can’t go wrong with EVE. They work very well, and while the app isn’t the most intuitive out there, it works very well. I can’t say how well or even if it works with Android, as I couldn’t test that. Nevertheless, if you want to start making your energy use smarter or have an idea of your air quality, have a look at these devices.