The Next Generation iSocket 3G Smart Plug Delivers More Awesome!
Regular readers of MacSources know that when it comes to technology; I am a big fan of simple over flashy. Such was the case in March 2015 when I reviewed the iSocket Environment Pro.
iSocket smart plugs take an entirely different approach to home automation by relying exclusively on text messages to control the smart plug. This simple but elegant solution can be handy in a number of real-world situations, such as monitoring a remote cabin’s temperature and electrical power to ensure that AC / Heating and sump pumps are working to avoid property damage.
You can also turn the iSocket’s plug on and off with text messages to control lights, a radio or anything else that can be plugged in.
Our original iSocket device was a review unit, but it has become a part of my daily IT life. I leave it in my office on the same circuit as my servers and networking equipment. This creates an early warning system if the power goes off. My battery backups will send an email, but this only works if the Internet connection is online and in a storm, this may not be the case. Also, emails often go unnoticed, while an SMS usually gets your attention.
The reason for the new iSocket review is that the previous units use 2G GSM networks so they will work anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, America and Canada have decided to turn these networks off and therefore a 3G device is needed to use iSockets in the United States.
You can use any 3G capable micro SIM card and most 4G SIM cards are backward compatible and can be used. You can buy a card directly from T-Mobile or AT&T or you can buy a prepaid card from any GSM mobile carrier. A word of caution, it may necessary to activate your SIM card in a mobile phone before it will work in the iSocket.
For our tests, we once again followed iSocket’s advice for customers in the USA and purchased a Truphone SIM from myaccount.truphone.com. The Sim costs $29.99 and includes $15.00 of credit. The Truphone SIM can also be activated online so you don’t need a mobile phone to get everything working. It’s also easy to log in to your account and add more credit to the Sim card.
Setup is simple, just insert the thermometer attachment into the iSocket 3G, insert the SIM card and plug the iSocket into an outlet. There is a blue light that will initially be solid and will begin blinking once a mobile connection has been established.
You then send a text to the iSocket with the command “MAKEMEBOSS” which tells the iSocket that your phone is the master. From here you now control the iSocket 3G directly with text commands or you can install their mobile app that will generate the commands for you.
Once thing that was a bit confusing to me at first was that the mobile device does not actually communicate with the iSocket over 3G / 4G data networks. It is not so much a communication app as it is a directory of commands that the iSocket can accept. This is actually really handy because you can just open the app and find the command or setting you want to change and then the app generates the proper SMS message for you.
As with our previous unit, we found that the device worked flawlessly in our tests of checking the temperature, alerting of a power failure and remotely turning the outlet on an off.
The final verdict is that the iSocket is a great little device that does what it’s supposed to do in a very efficient way. It is also very cost effective and fills a niche for people who want to monitor locations that don’t have or need a permanent Internet connection.