Just before Christmas, I bought a Tado (http://www.tado.com/de-en/) smart thermostat online. Here’s what happened…

Firstly, the despatch date got pushed back – from early January to mid February. The email notifications were worded a little awkwardly, and I did start to wonder if Tado even existed. Eventually, they dispatched the item, and Parcelforce cocked up the delivery – for some bizarre reason, they’d changed the delivery address, failed to deliver, and not left a “while you were out” note; this required a bit of chasing around. Tado are based in Germany, and use DHL; they don’t give you a tracking number in the despatch email, so that requires a help desk interaction; DHL can’t track Parcelforce deliveries. Not really Tado’s fault, but frustrating nonetheless.

The Tado packaging is rather well put together – but there are a lot of different bits and pieces. There are the Tado box, the Tado internet gateway, and the temperature sensor; there are USB charging plugs, and USB cables, and a network cable; various screws, wall plugs and other a screw driver.

I installed the Tado smart thermostat this weekend; the process is guided by a web application, which can check whether you’ve set everything up correctly, and it was pretty straightforward, even though my boiler and thermostat weren’t in Tado’s list of known devices.

So, now I’ve got it up and running, I’m very impressed. There’s a web application which allows you to control the heating and set up your preferences – what time you want to go to “sleep” mode, the preferred temperatures, the devices that can connect to your Tado. There’s a smart phone app which monitors your location, and automatically switches off the heating when you’re out of the house, and provides basic reports. When I left home, I could see that the heating switched itself off; when I got back home, the heating was on as Tado had sensed I was on my way home.

It’s not perfect – it would be nice to have more control from the mobile app (it’s pretty much read-only). As a programmer, I’d love Tado to be open to hackers – they’ve gone to great lengths to lock down their toys, and that means I can’t use the Tado information to do other things, like program my X10 home automation system to use the Tado location information to switch off the hot water when I’m away.

I live on a boat, and my central heating is fueled by diesel – my heating costs are higher than a regular gas central heating system, and Tado doesn’t really allow me to put that information in, so the “cost” and “savings” statistics they provide are not very accurate; as they use a secret, proprietary algorithm to calculate savings, I’m not entirely sure I believe them anyway..

A more pragmatic concern with this lack of openness is that my heating is now tightly coupled to Tado’s commercial success – if they go bust, the Tado gadget stops working.