I recently upgraded my heating control to the 2nd Generation Hive Active Heating Thermostat. To ensure complete Zigbee wireless coverage throughout my house I wanted to add a signal booster plug, which would extend Zigbee’s wireless range and give me the option to move the thermostat to different rooms in the house.
I contacted the Hive team via Twitter to inquire into how to purchase a signal booster, and, much to my surprise, after asking me a few routine questions (battery check, number of walls, distance), they kindly sent me a booster plug free of charge! I was very impressed with the customer service.
The booster plug they sent me was one of Hive’s next generation booster plugs which I assume has only recently been released along with their new smart plugs, motion, window and door sensors.
I was also intrigued about Hives older ‘SmartPlug’ and purchased one on eBay to see what it did. As it turns out it is not very ‘smart’ at all, and in the Hive system will only act as a signal booster. The plug does have a button on the top which can be used to manually switch it on and off, but that is as smart as it gets. It is a shame, as I am convinced this older plug is exactly the same hardware as that of its predecessor from AlertMe (before it was bought out by British Gas), it is exactly the same shape. When part of the AlertMe system this plug did act as fully functional smart plug and could be remotely switched on and off via Zigbee and feedback power values. On the back of the plug can still be seen the “Made in China by AlertMe.com” which further backs up my theory that these plugs are ‘old stock’ which Hive have simply inherited, re-branded and re-purposed with stunted functionality to only being a signal booster device. This may be because during startup the Hive team were focusing their efforts on their heating application and had did not want to develop the software in the hub, website and mobile app to support smart plug control.
But with the recent release of Hives new ‘Active Plug’ and updated apps which now have the facility to remotely control the new plugs I can’t help but wonder if Hive could, if they wanted, actually make their older ‘SmartPlug’ smart once again? I am sure the hardware would support it, and it would be a fairly trivial software update but it would be more a question of whether it is in Hive’s best interests to do so. On one hand this would be a massive thank you / free gift to all its customers and may promote the Hive product and entice some of its customers to its ‘smart home’ world, but on the other hand it may detract people from buying their new Active Plugs. There would probably also be some internal supports costs which Hive would also have to consider. I am sure they have done the bean counting…
The first observation of the new booster plug is that it is much smaller than its predecessor which had a large section which dangled beneath the plug, the new plug is neatly the same size as a standard UK plug, however you can no longer plug another plug into it, this brings one instant disadvantage that it now eats up another plug socket where once it could be dual use. There is a small button on the front which is used during the association process and a small LED light to indicate its status. It now has the new Hive logo on the front and and British Gas logo in the back. Its plastic casing is now a nice matt finish which matches the design of the other devices Hive’s new range.