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Panamax/BlueBOLT BB-ZB1 Gateway and MD2- ZB/SP-1000 SmartPlug

By Dennis Burger January 13,2014




The $99.95 BlueBOLT BB-ZB1 Gateway is the very definition of plug and play. Simply provide it with power, plug it into an empty Ethernet port on the home network router, and you’re pretty much done.
I spent most of last week struggling with the review of a preamp designed for the custom installation market, written for a consumer audience, when a thought that I’m sure you’ve had on many occasions came to me: I wonder if an end user would ever have the slightest clue just how much work went into making this beast of a machine so easy to use? The hours that went into basic setup? The numerous return trips to the instruction manual just to figure out how to get audio and video from point A to point B? By the time I was finished with the review, I was just nearly ready to move to Pennsylvania, swear off electricity, and spend the rest of my life making cheese. And then the new Panamax MD2-ZB SmartPlug, BlueBOLT BBZB1 Gateway, and BlueBOLT SP-1000 SmartPlug arrived on my doorstep to renew my love of electricity and remind me that “custom” doesn’t necessarily always mean “complicated.”

Because, in all honesty, it almost took me longer to type “Panamax MD2-ZB SmartPlug, BlueBOLT BB-ZB1 Gateway, and BlueBOLT SP-1000 SmartPlug” than it did to get this system installed and configured. And it would take me far longer still to untangle the web of brand names and product lines associated with this three-piece review system. And yet, despite their simplicity, these three products have allowed me, in a very short time, to whip up some truly custom scenarios in and around the home.

BlueBOLT, of course, is Panamax/Furman’s cloud-based energy management and control platform. You’re probably already familiar with it from products like Panamax’s M4320-PRO power management system (a 2011 Resi Awards winner) and Furman’s F1500-UPS battery back/power conditioner. But now that platform is making its way into smaller, more modular products like the BB-ZB1 Gateway, a little BlueBOLT router of sorts that gives you access to the MyBlueBOLT web portal, as well as quick and intuitive setup and control of up to fifteen SmartPlugs, like the MD2-ZB and its brand-new little brother the SP- 1000.

The $99.95 BB-ZB1 Gateway is the very definition of plug and play. Simply provide it with power, plug it into an empty Ethernet port on the home network router, and you’re pretty much done. From there, you navigate to mybluebolt.com on the web, enter the MAC address and serial number of your device, and you’re ready to start adding SmartPlugs to the ZigBee mesh network. That boils down to nothing more than clicking a button labeled “wireless joining” within the web interface and holding a physical button (or buttons) on one of the SmartPlugs for five seconds.

The $119.95 MD2-ZB SmartPlug takes up only one plug on your outlet of choice and gives you two outlets worth of noise filtration, surge protection, and individual control in return. Once you’ve got it identified in the system, you’re prompted to name each side-mounted outlet (one of which is oriented horizontally, and the other vertically). Et voilà, you’re done! There’s even a pretty green light on the SmartPlug that lets you know it’s communicating just fine via ZigBee with the BBZB1 Gateway.

The $49.95 SP-1000 SmartPlug is, by contrast, understandably a bit more basic in design, with no noise filtration or surge protection. Both of its outlets (one front-mounted, the other on the bottom) are also controlled in unison, and their energy monitoring histories are combined in the mybluebolt.com web portal. But despite that, it has actually become the key component in my BlueBOLT system. If anything, its compactness and simplicity work to its advantage in my system, because it provides power to both my network router and cable modem, and reboots both in unison if the system can’t connect to the internet.

Once you’ve gotten through the initial setup, the mybluebolt.com web portal eases up a bit on the hand-holding, but clearly labeled tabs at the top of the screen give you easy access to all of the different things you can do with the plugs (beyond the obvious energy monitoring, broken down into voltage and current draw history, with an exact monetary tally of how much your connected devices are costing you).

Panamax’s $119.95 MD2-ZB SmartPlug takes up only one plug on your outlet of choice and gives you two outlets worth of noise filtration, surge protection, and individual control in return.
The network management tab, for example, allows you to set up network pings, which test your internet connection and allow you to reboot devices (with configurable delays) if for some reason the pinged IP address doesn’t answer (which means that either your network or your internet connection needs a kick in the pants). You can also enter backup ping addresses, so for example, if Google doesn’t reply, you can give Yahoo or any other address a shout-out before your attached devices reboot themselves. Since you use an email address (yours or your client’s) in the creation of a mybluebolt.com account, it’s also really easy to set up email notifications for things like failed pings and reboots, as well as firmware updates. You simply click a little check box.

I decided to set up the MD2-ZB, the more advanced of the two SmartPlugs available for the system at the moment, in my kitchen (mostly because my home theater system is already covered by an IP-connected SurgeX Axess Elite power management system), to cover the power hungry toaster and Keurig coffee machine that always seem to be getting left on when they’re not needed. The mybluebolt.com portal (especially the newly updated mobile version) makes it really easy to see when they’re on and turn them off remotely if I’m away from home and forget to poke the button on the top of the SmartPlug. But better than that, the system has allowed me to set up scheduled conservation events with a few clicks of the mouse. So now the Keurig turns on at six o’clock every morning and is ready for my wife to brew her first cup, and shuts itself down at 11am, by which point I’ve probably had my last cup of Joe. The toaster, meanwhile, only ever gets used on weekends, so now it turns on first thing Saturday and Sunday morning and goes to sleep just after eleven on each day. And if for some reason we need one of those devices at other times, it takes a mere poke to turn the outlets back on.

Mind you, I’m sure you can find much better uses for the MD2-ZB than that–like rebooting home automation controllers or pesky cable boxes remotely instead of making a truck roll when a frustrated client calls. But the beauty of the system is that it’s so simple and so affordable that even using it for simple toaster control doesn’t seem like overkill.

707.763.1010
www.mybluebolt.com

Kudos
The BlueBOLT Gateway and SmartPlug platform is as easy to set up and configure as it is robust and powerful.

Concerns
While mobile web browser access to mybluebolt.com is nicely laid out and easy to control, it restricts energy monitoring. A dedicated and more fully featured iOS/Android app would be nice.

Product Specs
BB-ZB1
• Dimensions: 4.0x5.3x1.3” (hwd)
• Ports: 1 RJ-45
• Power input: 5VDC (power supply provided)
• Power consumption: 1W
MD2-ZB
• Dimensions: 5.25x3.25x1.625” (hwd)
• Number of outlets: 2 (individually controlled and monitored)
SP-1000
• Dimensions: 4x2.75x1.25” (hwd)
• Number of outlets: 2 (jointly controlled and monitored)