The Theengs Smart Plug Brings BLE to MQTT

On this week's Electromaker Show, we took a look at the Theengs Smart plug. Theengs actually sent a unit for review, but sadly it was the wrong plug type and power rating, so I was unable to get hands on with it. Intrigued, however, I looked at the documentation for the plug, and it looks like a great choice for DIY smart home setups using MQTT. As well as acting as a regular controllable plug, it has several interesting features.

First, it integrates a BLE gateway extending its potential Smart Home use cases. It features a BLE scanner and decoder, presence detection capabilities, and data transmission to an MQTT broker. It is compatible with numerous BLE sensors and tracker devices, with YAML-free integration thanks to MQTT auto-discovery. The plug also offers customizable settings, remote control, power usage tracking, persistent plug state, over-the-air updates, and on-demand BLE scan. The plug uses the open-source OpenMQTTGateway (OMG) firmware, which I was not familiar with before, but it appears to act as a "do-it-all" layer between various control schemes and smart home ecosystems.

While I was unable to really dig in without getting hands on with the Theengs plug, we took a look at it in this week's Electromaker Show [Timed YouTube Embed Link]:

One important fact I missed out on in the video is that the plug is only available as a Type B electrical socket (American standard NEMA 5-15). I thought they did alternate versions for the EU/UK market. They do not at the time of writing, but I'll update this article if they extend their range!

There are a number of interesting potential advantages to this setup, though it relies heavily on you using the sensors that are already supported or contributing to the Theengs Decoder library. The Amazfit integration, for example, connects to Amazfit smartwatches. While the potential for sharing data from your watch to your MQTT broker might not seem all that interesting, it does open the door to simple presence detection. After all, watches are the one thing we almost always wear, and if you have things you want to trigger when you get home - like lighting and heating - it might fit nicely into an already existing DIY smart home setup.

Andreas Spiess used OpenMQTTGateway in one of his videos to connect both 433MHz and BLE sensors to his MQTT broker, showing just how easy setup can be, even when using development boards:

While the plug is relatively new, Theengs have been working with OpenMQTTGateway for some time, which runs on a variety of devices, including computers, single board computers and microcontrollers. They also have an iOS/ Android app that functions as a standalone BLE to MQTT gateway. The full list of software can be found on the main page.

While Theengs aren't the only company making consumer-grade plugs aimed at the DIY market, the highly versatile software libraries they use makes them a little more robust than consumer devices that may suddenly stop being supported one day - and at only $39.90 USD from the Theengs store (sale price), it seems a perfect budget choice for US-based DIY smart homes.

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