Gareth Huw Davies

Green Technology

Switching the lights off from afar – are mobiles finally becoming really useful?

This may look like a boring line of plugs. but you can switch them on with your mobile from hundreds of miles away.

When will we be able to do really useful things with our mobile phones? I don’t mean check the weather, look up the train times or find an interesting restaurant nearby, although these are all valuable functions. But they can also be done on a portable computer. And even sending a text to pay for parking isn’t all that clever. I mean using the mobile (cellphone) as a device, not for information, but to get things done.

I mean, for example, turning on the lights in your house in rural Bucks when you’re on holiday in Turkey. But perhaps not all the lights – that would be too obvious to the burglar. Maybe play around for a bit, switching them off and on in different rooms at random. And while you are about it, check how much energy all those household gadgets are using, the ones you forgot to switch off.

A company called JSJS Designs would have us believe we are already there, in “really useful” land. There is something you can buy, and it’s not fabulously expensive, that does all that, or claims to. And you don’t have to be away on holiday – it’s not just something you use remotely. You can, as I read it, switch off the lights downstairs when you’ve just got into bed upstairs, and can’t be bothered to get out again. (Come on -isn’t that all of us?)

It’s all in the LightwaveRF Connect range of products, which Screwfix stores are selling. I haven’t tried it out, but I assume they have been well tested, so I’ve no reason to doubt the press release I’ve been sent.

This is what Screwfix’s PR promises:

“Screwfix has launched a range of home automation products, called LightwaveRF, [based around “smart” sockets] which allow you to turn off your power or lights using your smart phone, iPad, or tablet, giving you control of your home from your office, car or your holiday.”

It says it is “simple to set up and operate” but notes it is “easily installed by serious DIYers and registered tradesmen. We would expect it, then (wouldn’t we?) to come as standard in all new homes, particularly as it has CO2 reduction value.

Because there’s something else you can do from your mobile remotely, or your computer screen at home for that matter, and that is monitor how much energy your house is using, as you use it. LightwaveRF is one of the first products to offer this.

Many of us are, in effect, burning money by leaving things on when they could be easily turned off. I can’t imagine it will be too long before we are able to identify the guilty gadget – presumably plugs can be fitted with chips that tell us exactly how much power is being drawn from them.

In the meantime I’m looking forward to overhearing somebody say: “I’m on the train, switching the lights on. And do you know you left your curlers on this morning?”

The LightwaveRF Connect series is available at Screwfix stores nationwide, and online .