What to try when your new smart device isn’t working

I figured since the how to connect that 2.4gHz device on a dual 2.4/5gHz piece gets a large percentage of the daily traffic around here I’d post some tips and tricks for getting your smart plug, light, etc to work that are beyond that.

MIUO 2 Pack Smart Plug

The biggest reason for failure to connect a smart plug or a light to your network is that you’re on 5gHz and these things generally only work with 2.4gHz, so check out our article on how to force your phone to connect to the 2.4.

Assuming that’s not the problem, here are the things I’ve run across.

Wireless Isolation

Wireless Isolation, WiFi isolation, AP isolation, Client Isolation, Station Isolation, or just plain WiFi antisocial behavior, is a security precaution many routers use to prevent someone from snooping on you.

The actual mechanics of it are if 10 devices are connected to WiFi X, none of them can see anything except the gateway and the internet. Nobody can talk directly to each other.

Your smart device app usually works in the following way with WiFi devices – you start them blinking (usually long press on power, or turning the power on and off 3x,) and you’ll notice if you’re observant that there’s a new WiFi showing up usually called something like Smart98234.

Your phone/tablet/whatever connects to that, sends over the WiFi configuration information for your network, you and your Smart Plug/Bulb/Hose re-join your network, and then your phone attempts to discover the other device on the network.

If isolation is on it cannot. This is a setting in your router. You can disable it for the duration of setting up the device and then re-enable it if you want.

If you’re unable to do this, your best bet is to grab a cheap-o WRT54G or some such and set up a 2.4gHz only network with the same name as your fancy network, join your device there, disable that, turn your network back on, you should be good as all commands go to the cloud and not directly to the smart WiFi device.

These can be had for about $10.88

WiFi network override

This is when you’re being steered or bumped to a new network. You’ll need to watch before your plug fails what WiFi you’re actually connected to. I’ve only seen this happen a couple of times in the many years I’ve been playing with smart accessories, but here’s what you need to look for:

When you’re connecting a device you should be on say Network X. When you’re connecting to a device you should be on that device’s faux control network (usually only long enough to send the configuration information.)

When you fail out, check the network you’re on. You should be on Network X again. If you’re on anything else your phone got steered to another network. This can happen if you’ve got a WiFi optimizer that chooses preferred WiFis, if your WiFi takes a couple of connection attempts (router needs new firmware, phone needs new firmware,) or if you’ve got another WiFi broadcasting with the same name and you’re flopping to it (range extenders, A/B setups, demons.)

Urgency

Smart devices can smell just how much you need them to work right now. You must convince yourself it doesn’t matter. It’s just a $9 plug and cannot defeat you in the long run.

Poor signal

This is universally the number one issue it’s not. You’re almost never going to run into a situation with it being poor signal. That said, do the configuration in the same room as your router and you can rule this out for when you have to talk to someone with tech support.

Guest networks

Avoid if possible. They behave oddly on some routers.

No password networks

Almost all smart bulbs and outlets require a password protected network. This is because they’re essentially a little linux firmware with an open telnet port and can be used for great evil.

Your WiFi password has a space

I’ve got a phrase as my password. It includes spaces. More than once I’ve had poorly written software fail on it. So much so that I had to create a network exclusively without a space in the password.

Without screwing up your entire network, create a guest network on your WiFi and have a lame non-space password.

It feeds on frustration

Some smart plugs feed on frustration and will not work until you’re ready to destroy them. Be ready at the start.

You’re being steered to the 5gHz network

Google’s the biggest offender on this that I’m aware of with their WiFi products, but they, and several other manufacturers are making it nearly impossible to connect a 2.4gHz device using badly written apps.

Maybe that’s a good thing.

Google’s WiFi has been reported to kindly suggest to your phone to get the hell off of the 2.4gHz and get on the 5gHz even if you force it. In these cases the $10 router listed above can get you connected.

Your setup is too good

Mentioned above, you may be being forced to the 5 no matter what you do. In these cases you might just have to walk. You’ll probably want WiFi Analyzer and Speedtest.net. The first to tell when you’ve dropped to the 2.4gHz network and the second to pull a crapload of data while you’re walking from your router.

So walk away, run some speedtests, when you find where you drop to 2.4gHz mark it. Place your smart plug/light/frog somewhere between you and the router. Try and set it up from here and not get run over by oncoming traffic.

None of that works?

Post what you’re setting up, what you’re using to set it up, and what your router is. Posting “it simply doesn’t work,” and never dropping by to provide any information means you simply aren’t going to get it working.

Update your firmware

No kidding, WiFi router firmware update has been the issue on two large hair-pulling device issues I’ve run across in the past. If you can update your WiFi router’s firmware, probably no reason to not do it.

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Google+ | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts