Left the iron on at home? Got a phone charger on without a phone plugged in? Yasser Khattak says his affordable, simple-to-use remote smart plug sockets help you save energy and cash
Snuggled up in bed, Yasser Khattak wanted to turn off the light without getting up. It was his lightbulb moment.
That teenage frustration gave him the idea for a household plug socket and light switch where the on-off button is flicked remotely via a smartphone,so appliances such as TVs and lights can all be switched off at once, saving power.
The new range of products from Khattak’s company Den is expected to launch early next year and include motion sensors so lights turn on automatically, for instance when someone gets up to go to the toilet at night. A remote control can also be used to switch off everything in a home at once. He claims his technology will recognise what type of appliance is plugged into a socket at any one time: for example, an iron left on can be switched off remotely.
Khattak, now 20, developed the idea of having a remotely operated “rocker switch” while at school. He says: “[Switches] have been around for a really long time, for 100 years. There is just a better way to do it.”
Although almost identical to a conventional plug socket, the switch simply clicks on and off when a remote button is pressed. The remote control works within a radius of about 20 metres while the app communicates via a Wi-Fi hub which then relays commands to the switches.
Engineers designed just how the switch moves from on to off – a feature which Khattak refuses to detail. “I never studied engineering. I understand things from the user’s point of view. I understand how it should look, how people should feel when they interact with it. That is where I look at things, I look from the user experience. So I will say, ‘We need it to turn off when the iron is left on for more than half an hour’ – that’s how the user will see it and then we will talk to the team in terms of the software and electronics.” The size of the final product will be identical to a run-of-the-mill plug socket, he says.
Alongside the energy-saving potential and the convenience of remote control, Khattak says the system will help others, such as elderly people who will not have to reach behind the television to turn the TV set off at source or as a safety tool for children who go to the toilet at night. “If a smoke alarm detects smoke in the middle of the night, instead of a family having to run out in complete darkness, it can turn on your lights for you so people can see where they are going,” he says. “If you leave your iron on or your hair straighteners on for more than half an hour we can send you a notification to say that something is not right.”
This ability to understand what appliance is plugged into a socket is another key feature, says Khattak.
“If we detect that something has been plugged in on standby – like if there is a phone charger plugged in but there is no phone plugged in – it will automatically flick itself off after half an hour to save electricity. If you want your child’s Xbox to not be powered after 10pm, we can set it to stop giving power after 10pm regardless of which plug they try and plug it into.”
While there are other smart lighting and switch systems on the market, Khattak claims they are too complicated. Early suggested prices for Den devices put a plug socket at ￡9.99, a light switch at ￡8.99 and a Wi-Fi hub to control them at ￡59.99, although he says the final cost has not yet been determined. He aims to set them at the same cost as conventional plug sockets. The company raised almost ￡500,000 on a crowdfunding campaign last year and is now a team of six people.
“We have retained what people are familiar with. The whole idea is that if someone moves into a house with our switches preinstalled, they would look at our products and instantly understand how to use them. As far as they are concerned, it is a normal switch which you just continue flicking on and off with your hand in the exact same way that you have always been able to,” he says.