Ever dreamed of having a hi-tech home like Tony Stark aka Iron Man’s house with all the bells and whistles? Sure our homes are a far cry from the sprawling seaside mansion of Tony Stark but that doesn’t mean it cannot come close to the automation of it.
Enter the world of Picostone, which promises a home automation solution for everyone. Before you conjure up images of modifying walls with wiring everywhere, let me stop you there. Picostone aims at being as non-intrusive, invisible and simple to use as possible.
How does it do this?
Unlike full-blown home automation requiring planning, wiring work and a lot of money, Picostone achieves this in less than 30 minutes with a small black box that attaches inside your existing switchboard with the controller app installed on your smartphone. And, all this for under Rs 10,000 going as low as Rs 5,000 on sale days.
But does it work?
This is the question we asked, as it sounded too good to be true. So we asked Picostone to install a unit for us like a regular customer and here’s what happened.
The unit in question is The Basic, a small little black box that sits inside the switchboard.
We had a choice of either calling our own electrician or getting one from the company, we suggest you choose the latter. First, the local electricians cannot be trusted to handle something new like this, second, the company electrician is trained and cost only Rs 300 additionally.
The electrician very politely asked us to what time to arrive and arrived promptly on the decided time. He was from the HouseJoy team, trained in the installation of Picostone Basic product.
After checking out the switchboard, he suggested that I not install it there as there were far too many lengthy wires that did not allow the installation of the little black box. This would require cutting of the existing wiring which he did not recommend.
After a brief discussion, I pointed him to a bigger switchboard which could easily accommodate the box despite lengthy wires in it.
Knowing the limitations
Before the installation, it would be necessary to decide which switches ‘The Basic’ Picostone product ought to control as it can control a maximum of four switches. I chose two fans and two lights.
The Picostone Basic can do more than just turn a switch on or off, it can control via regulator if present. Unfortunately, in my case, I could not control the fan speed due to the configuration limitation. The dimmable lights clearly weren’t possible as I had regular lights and not the dimmable kind.
The switchboard will have to be popped open with the correct wires connected to the green connector unit of the device. S1 to S4 is the number of switches that can be controlled. If you are technically inclined, you can attach the connections yourself. It isn’t rocket science, there is a quick installation guide to help you too, however, you will need to know the basics of electrical wiring well before you embark on the “do-it-yourself” project.
Generally, the wires provided along with the unit are sufficient, however, since my switchboard was bigger than usual, additional wire of correct length needed to be installed for it to work.
Once all the wires were in, the green connector connected to the unit, it was time to try the Picostone app. After installing it from the Play Store, I needed to configure it.
Though the app and the quick install guide did help, it still got confusing as apparently, the app doesn’t connect to your Wi-Fi when the mobile internet is on. This is where the helpful electrician called up his senior who helped me through the installation process over the phone, step by step, till I connected the app to the device.
The basic operation
The Picostone Basic needs to connect via the app to the device to configure your home Wi-Fi settings on it (initially mobile internet will need to be off). Once that is setup, the app then automatically connects to the device as soon as Wi-Fi is in range without any issues with or without mobile internet on. From here you can control the switches.
One thing of note, Picostone will always show on the Wi-Fi network as the device emits Wi-Fi signal all the time. Thus on your home Wi-Fi network, you’ll see “Picostone” all the time there, which I mistakenly thought needs to be directly connected to for it to work. Helpfully, the customer support pointed out that all I need is to be connected to my Wi-Fi network and use the app, that’s all, nothing else needs to be done. Indeed quite easy.
You can configure a room, rename it to whatever you want, the default photo is determined by the room type chosen. Each individual switch can be renamed and can be controlled with the simple on and off switch.
Picostone Basic gets the security right too, as it is tied into your email account. If you want someone else to access your device, all you need is to give them access via their own account on their own phone without compromising your own. All the while, the control is with you.
Things to know
- The device OS is based on RTOS (Real Time Operating System).
- Picostone products are IFTTT (If This Then That) compatible. So you can configure to your heart's content with scheduling and varied scenarios. Eg. Have a couple of lights come on at a certain point in the day or dim all lights when watching a movie whilst sitting on the couch.
- You get a 1 to 2 year warranty depending on whether you paid full price or the discounted sale price. This warranty, however, covers direct replacement.
- You cannot buy Picostone from online stores such as Amazon yet, you get them directly via their website.
- Multiple Picostone devices can be handled via one app. You can add “Scenes” which lets you control multiple switches with a peculiar configuration via a single button.
- The Picostone Basic product works individually and doesn’t require an additional hub device or controller device to operate. As long as one product is installed, you have complete control.
- Picostone server stores basic data from the device. The team is working on adding statistical data in the future.
- The device can be easily be located somewhere else in the house and setup if you feel the current scenario doesn’t suit your needs.
- The device uses 1W, 802.11.b/g/n Wi-Fi with max 220W power per channel and minimum 5W resistive load.
I really liked the home automation idea a lot. The device while works great by itself, has an immense amount of expandability with the IFTTT compatibility. This means if you are so inclined you can totally geek out with various configurations and scenarios of truly automating your home environment or just playing the fool with your folks at home.
Price and affordability wise, the Picostone Basic product is well within reach from anywhere between Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 for controlling four switches. It may seem expensive if you want all the switches in your house automated, and yet it wouldn’t make sense as only certain appliances and in certain scenarios, you’d truly want to control your devices in the house remotely.
So finally it comes down to you, do you want the latest home automation setup to impress your friends or are you the kind who just wants to tip-toe into home automation without investing much or altering anything in the house? Whatever be the case Picostone certainly has you covered.