For the smarthome to work effectively and efficiently, you need sensors. There's no way around it. Elgato Eve delivers just that: a number of sensors for you to monitor your home and then have that information relayed to your phone (it's Apple iOS only for now) for you to act on as necessary.
It's one of the first systems that takes advantage of Homekit - the Apple smarthome system which uses your phone as a monitoring hub - which we've had linked up with some Eve sensors for the last six weeks to see what potential it has. Are we ready for the "sensorifaction" of the home?
Elgato Eve review: What is Eve?
Although Elgato offers a connected plug socket, known as Eve Energy, the core element of the system is sensors. There are three available, all powered either by replaceable batteries or plugged directly into the monitoring wall socket. Using these sensors you can "see your home at a glance, right on your iPhone and iPad", claims Elgato.
The first, Eve Room, will sense indoor air quality, temperature, and humidity and allow you to track that data over the day, week, month, or even year; the second, Eve Weather, is designed for outside and tracks air pressure, temperature, and humidity; while the third, Eve Door & Window, monitors when a door or window has been opened, at what time, and even for how long.
Eve Room and Eve Weather are both small white boxes, measuring about 80mm square and 25mm deep, both of which use three AA batteries for power.
The Energy plug will monitor energy consumption of the device plugged in, how long you use that device, and let you remotely turn on or off that device from your phone with your voice, via Siri - although we didn't test that sensor for this review.
Elgato Eve review: Homekit hub
Rather than a dedicated hub or bridge that connects to your Wi-Fi router, as is the case with system like Philips Hue smart lighting, the Eve system uses Apple Homekit to give you information on what is happening in your home at any given time - whether that's temperature, humidity, air quality, energy consumption or even whether someone has opened a door. Such information is relayed via Bluetooth to detail what's happened or happening at any given time.
Right now Homekit is yet to really get off the ground. The concept is that your iPhone, iPad, or even Apple TV acts as the hub, thus allowing you to monitor sensors, devices, and other elements within the home from your device easily. In our case that's Eve and Philips Hue, as separate entities on Homekit.
Connecting Eve to the accompanying app and Homekit is easy by using via a simple code that can be typed, or scanned-in using the camera. Setup really is effortless.
And with integrated Apple support you get to ask Siri what's going on. "What's the temperature in my bedroom?", "what's the air quality like?", "what's the humidity outside in the garden?", "turn off the switch in the kitchen" - it's all possible with Homekit-enabled devices.
Elgato Eve review: Lots of data, but what's the point?
So we've been tracking the temperature outside, the air quality in our bedroom, and when we've opened a certain window. But that's all we've been doing: tracking. You see, for all the intelligence of Eve, it doesn't really let you take meaningful action.
Things get worse when you realise you can only track locally. Without a centralised hub connected to your router, you've got to be in your house, and within 30-metres, to access the sensor. There's no seeing what's happening in your house when you are on a beach enjoying yourself, no notifications that something has gone wrong - that window you've got the sensor on has been opened, or the air quality in your bedroom is suddenly bad because the room is full of smoke.
All we've learned over six weeks is the obvious: that it's colder in November than it is in October; it gets a lot colder at night; and the air quality in our bedroom is mostly good, most of time. Oh, and it gets pretty humid in our bedroom at the weekends and we rarely open the window that we've put the sensor on - maybe we should have put it on the snack cupboard instead?
Elgato Eve review: If This Then (Not) That
All the data that Eve collects must be interesting to someone, but we expected more. As Eve doesn't currently come with the ability to act on that data in any practical way (shy of the on/off of the Energy monitoring socket), or connect with other applications or hardware that can, it just feels approaching pointless.
For example, you can't have your heating react to the information that it's too hot or humid in a given room, or that the lights change when the temperature outside drops to a certain level.
This is data for data's sake. And so six weeks in we are left with a barrage of information, but little understanding of what to do with that information.
Knowing that your room is a certain humidity and then getting your heating to act on that data is not only aspirational, but sums up the concept of smarthome. Such action has the ability to save you money, to make you more comfortable, to make your house truly smart... but if that's what you are expecting from Eve then you'll be bitterly disappointed.
At the moment the Elgato Eve is nothing more than a dumb weather station that can collect and analyse data - rather than actually doing anything distinct in response to it.
Sure, Elgato's sensors are accurate, precise, and do the job they are tasked to do. But we want more; we want cause and effect, we want the smarthome to work for us, rather than us working for it, perplexed about what comes next.
But that could well be the saving grace: what comes next. There's scope for Eve and Homekit to continue to evolve and with that we may see a more actionable Eve. Until then, however, and without the ability to communicate with other devices - even if Homekit can acknowledge those devices, such as Philips Hue in our setup - Eve is pretty useless as smarthome devices go.