Review ~ Eve Energy HomeKit-enabled smart plug


There are many HomeKit-enabled devices now in the geek-o-sphere, and we are finally getting some of the really well-made ones in New Zealand.
Eve Energy is very simple to look at: it’s essentially a little power plug (7.1×7.2cm across) that goes into a power socket, with a female socket, in turn, on the outer face. You plug this into a wall socket or power strip and control it with your iPhone, Apple Watch or Mac (all of any of them). There’s a light that glows when it’s on, plus this light is an on/off button if you hold it in for ten seconds. (Note the Energy is for indoor use only.)
Make sure the device you want to control is plugged into the Eve and turned on so you can then turn it on or off with your device (or Mac). Thanks to the beauty and behind-the-scenes complexity of HomeKit, of course, once you’ve configured your setup on one device, it’s replicated on all thanks to iCloud integration, assuming they’re all signed into the same Apple ID. Now you can also activate or deactivate any device that’s plugged into it using your voice over Siri (which is integrated nicely) or directly, with a tap, on your device.

Setup — For iOS 12, setup is as follows: unbox the unit and plug it into the socket. Download the Elgato Eve app from the App Store (it’s free). Open the app and it asks to ‘see’ the code number included with the unit – this is on the little Get Started guide clipped to the inside of the box lid you took the unit out of. Line that up with the rectangle on the camera screen (inside the app itself), and it registers the code, there’s a pause of about a minute and they’re paired.
The Elgato Eve app, by the way, as per the directions in the little, very easy-to-follow included setup booklet, doesn’t exist for iOS 13 so I guess that little printed manual will be updated according to the manufacturing schedule, since mine still had the iOS 12 directions in it. Under iOS 13x, you need the Eve Home app, as Apple has changed and expanded how HomeKit works for the updated iOS. This is a bit mystifying when you go searching in the App Store for the Eve app, as you won’t find it. But once installed, this works the same way as the instructions, above, for iOS 12.
Now the Eve can be added to a ‘room’ which is a virtual assignation in HomeKit that may or may not correlate to an actual room, since you get to configure this how you want. By the same token, it impressed me that the Nanoleaf panels – which are from a different company – also added into the Eve app and lets you control them from there. Mostly, I assume people will control everything from the Home app anyway.

Added features and the Eve app — If you can check your own particular power bill, you can put in the rate you’re paying for electricity. You set the rate you actually pay for this in the Eve Home app under Settings>General>Energy Cost. Now the Energy unit can let you know, via the Eve Home app, how much power anything plugged into it is using.
Do this by tapping Rooms at the bottom of the Eve app, choose the name from the list of wherever the Energy is plugged into, for example ‘Living Room’, and then tap the name of whatever the Energy has plugged into it (in my case, ‘Lightbulb’).
If you have, say, on old heat pump which doesn’t have a timer function, or at least an easy-to-use timer function, you can set up schedules via the app of just turn it on remotely before you leave work, for example, so your house is toasty when you get there.
You can also download a version of the Eve setup guide from within the Eve app (and this has been updated-for-iOS 13 process).
The Eve app has a haptic reaction when you turn the Energy on or off, unlike the Home app. The Energy unit itself makes a definite click noise when it’s turned ff or on, should you be close enough to hear it. It’s a nice touch.

The more devices you add, the more comprehensive your control centre – the Home app – becomes

Home (the app) — The Home app, on Watch, iPad, iPhone and Mac, is a master controller for any HomeKit enabled device meaning whatever light bulbs you have, or other devices, you can have a snazzy interface in your pocket and act like a lesser god, turning things on and off and altering their characteristics according to whim. In my case, all I have is this and Nanoleaf lighting panels which I leave on, at a low setting, at night for an interesting night-light-style glow to assist night time navigation, and soon I’ll add the Eve Aqua which will let me control watering from a hose outlet.
You can see a good cross section of what HomeKit enabled accessories are available here on the Apple NZ site.
As a rational human being, of course, I don’t need any of this. However, as a geek, I love it! And now I want to try a whole of of things. There are many different bulbs you can dim and change the colour on, but honestly, while they look great, beyond an evening softening and warming, there’s really not all that much need for just changing the colour of light, is there? But there are devices that let you know when your front door is opened, for example, and cameras, temperature and atmosphere gauges and a lot more, meaning you can monitor these things whether you are at home or not. I’d be keen so try the Eve Weather Station and/or the Room air quality/temperature monitor and the Eve Wireless Door and Window Contact, and there’s plenty more to titillate the technocrat.
Meanwhile, I have a lot to learn about HomeKit. There’s a handy guide at iMore.

Summary — I’m glad Elgato has added the Australia/New Zealand style power plug to its range of minimalist and attractive devices. I am now eyeing these up with a relish which will alarm my partner. The Energy is attractive and particularly easy to use – I just wish I had something more exciting to plug into it than a standard lamp. You could plug a coffee machine into it and turn it on remotely when you wake up, presuming you set it up the night before with coffee and water in it of course, and there will be many ingenious uses for something you can plug almost any electrical device into. It also seems to me to be an affordable price for such a well-designed and well implemented unit.

Pros — Easy setup, easy pairing, excellent HomeKit integration

Cons — It’s almost instantaneous to turn something on or off if you’re close by with your iPad or iPhone, but it’s much slower if you’re in another room. This is due the low range of Bluetooth, since it’s Bluetooth-only and not wifi. (Apparently an Apple TV can work as a booster, but mine’s only on when I’m watching stuff.) You can buy a Bluetooth extender, though, or a bridge that taps it into your wifi, should you go further with automation.

What — Eve Energy $89.95 (NZ RRP)

System — For indoor use only. Output AC 220-230 volts, 50/60Hz, maximum and total loading 8 Amps at 1840 Watts. Requires Bluetooth compatibility up to Bluetooth 4.0, HomeKit on iOS 11.4 or later and the Home app on Mac OS 10.14 or later.
Height 7.2 cm (2.83 in), length 7.1 cm (2.79 in) width 7.2 cm (2.83 in) weight: 123 grams.