Gizmodo has a great piece on cheap home automation gone terribly mediocre. It’s actually really interesting to realize how often we as humans need to relearn the idea of resiliency, durability, usability and in systems. Home automation is neat, and I’ve enjoyed playing with parts in it. But if your normal workflow requires a smart phone, you are taking a step backwards. Sadly, most of the solutions out there today head down that path.
A much better approach would be to put smarts directly into existing electrical structures (wall plates, switches), and ensure that all of them had physical manual override. Some of the zwave wall switches out there do that, to the best of my knowledge no one has done that with plugs.
I think a lot of the folks working on these solutions probably need to read The Design of Everyday Things. I promise if you read that, you’ll never look at a phone or a wall switch the same way again.