Sense branded Smart Plugs

I’m a very new user of Sense, so this may have already been asked for in the past, but I’d love to see Sense release their own brand of Smart plugs that would tightly integrate with the main Sense unit to collect as much high resolution power data as possible on end devices that could be used to help produce even better models via machine learning. I’m sure data collected from the current TP-Link/Wemo/etc is good, but could be much better.

Plus, there’s a shortage of good smart plugs everywhere, so if Sense releases their own branded ones, I bet it will sell like crazy.

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I can think of three reasons that Sense wouldn’t want to try to offer their own smart-plugs with the higher resolution you are suggesting:

  1. Communication / bandwidth - The limiting factor today for Sense data resolution from smartplugs is communication bandwidth. Smartplugs actually sample device power with much greater resolution. But getting data from the smartplugs to the Sense monitor is the bottleneck that limits us to about 20 smartplugs today at an update speed of an update every 2 seconds from each smartplug. Just to put it in perspective, the Maxim 71020 part inside the HS110 does 2,520.6 samples / second, but accumulates the RMS data for 2,520 samples before updating, sue pretty much updated every second. Sense asks for an update every 2 seconds. If Sense was sampling every second, the limit for smartplugs might be closer to 10. And sure, there would be ways to reduce communication overhead and possibly send data back to the mothership instead, but that gets into my other two bullets.
  2. Synchronization - Once you have high-resolution data zipping around from multiple sources, you have to start worrying about aligning time between all the sources. We do have good ways to do that using atomic clocks and regular resynchronization of timebases between data collection devices. But that makes for a much more complex and expensive device an infrastructure. Aligning at the tenth of a second level is cheap. Not so at a thousandth of a second.
  3. Cost - Sense does make a device that does exactly what you are asking for - it’s called a Sense Monitor. It handles the communications challenges and synchronization issues above, mainly by doing lots of local processing so that it can upload only the most salient data to the mothership. I actually have a second Sense in my household that I use for monitoring 2 240V wired circuits. There’s a potential that Sense could squeeze 4 circuits / devices out of Sense monitor - that’s $87.50 per device.
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I’m with @kevin1 on this. The smart home field is replete with reputable and newcomers who want a piece of the pie. There are many who offer smart plugs (though very few with energy monitoring) and for Sense to develop/invest in such product, it has to make business sense. I’d rather they focus on what they do best. This Smart Home field is still very new i.e., fluid and dynamic, and I’m sure we’ll see quite a few mergers/acquisitions, and some companies will disappear. For now Sense has no serious contender(s).

On a different/related note, Sense was started by MIT-affiliated people. Typically, MIT goes after what is ‘new’, does a lot of fundamental research, then lets other people come along and beat it to death. There were many Smart-Home projects there about 30 years ago, and I’m sure many of the gadgets we see today started there (e.g. Roomba vacuum and Lego Mindstorms). So I’d say let them do the research, spend their efforts and brainpower on what they’re good at … and not get distracted by making a pretty penny from the masses.

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I understand your points @kevin1 but the Sense monitor has been going for over 3 years now at least. (As far back as I can look up). And there’s probably no one (outside Sense labs actual controlled environment) that has an absolutely fully functional Sense monitor at home that picks up every device correctly and never gets bad guesses.

To use a similar analogy for comparison, Machine learning can for example recognize items in images by finding patterns, but the less pixelated and less grainy the image is the easier it is to analyze and more accurate it becomes to recognize. Those higher quality images by consequence will take more bandwidth, and computing capacity to process but will yield better results and models.

So I guess the Sense branded plugs I thought of are just the tip of the iceberg. We will need a more powerful Sense monitor to go with it, with much higher bandwidth capacity (someone already wished here for RJ45 connection), and much more processing capacity not just on the local Sense monitor as well as the cloud computing side that Sense Labs probably uses to process all that data. A full new ecosystem probably would propel Sense to the next generation of faster, more accurate “sensing”. Home energy monitoring systems are still in their infancy, especially of this kind, but in the technology world, either one improves and upgrades or gets left behind in the blink of an eye.

I’m not sure it is a branded Smart Plug, but I believe Sense has something up their sleeve. When? Great question, but I don’t think they are just sitting on their hands.

@Jorge, I agree with you that Sense needs continually enhance acquisition of ground truth to get better at native detection, while also attacking direct measurement and proxy measurement of devices that don’t fit within their current detection strategies. If that requires a Sense-branded smart-plug, I’m all for it. If I means beefing up the number crunching capabilities of the Sense monitor and the Sense cloud (by leveraging improvement from AWS), I’m all for that too. Right now, I think one of the issues might be that the Sense monitor is underpowered for all the tasks it has picked up over the years.

I’m betting on continued growth of their current hybrid approach coupled with eventual beefed up hardware.

  • Native detection of half-second type on and off transitions
  • Specialized detection of large, slower power ramps - EVs and mini-splits
  • Smartplug integration for plug-in 120V devices and clusters of device that are used together
  • Direct circuit monitoring (DCM) for wired 120V and 240V devices
  • Hue-type hub integration for home automation that is capable of providing accurate power information about some or all of the devices connected to he hub.
  • Other smart device integrations like the Ecobee Historic, which supplies historic ground-truth data to improve models for HVAC, EV charging, etc.