Despite the obvious benefits to making homes and offices into “smart places,” adoption of the technology is astonishingly low. One potential reason for the slow acceptance is that most people do not own their own homes and can’t tear into the walls.
Providing a potential solution to this problem is Switchmate — the Architechnologist (that’s me!) was first introduced to the team of three young Johns Hopkins engineers who founded the company at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January 2015, where they managed to make themselves known in a room full of high-powered and well-funded companies in the field.
The Switchmate product is a smart lighting solution that requires no wiring or construction: it simply snaps magnetically onto the screws of a standard light switch, allowing users to flip the switch remotely via their mobile device (even if the switchplate is plastic). The Switchmate is battery-powered, running on 2 AA batteries for between 8 and 12 months before needing to be replaced.
The Switchmate is controlled via a companion application (available for Android and iOS), which allows multiple devices to be controlled remotely. The app can also flip switches on or off at scheduled times, so users can define their lighting around their lives. Each Switchmate uses Bluetooth Low-Energy (LE) to communicate with the application, giving the Switchmate a range of up to 200 feet.
During a recent visit to San Francisco, I met with one of the Switchmate founders, Daniel Peng, and we had some quality time with the Switchmate and got some real answers about how the device might tie into the Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem.
Smart products are supposed to make our lives simpler, but their set-up alone is often needlessly complicated. And for those of us who don’t own property, those installation processes aren’t just complicated, they’re impossible. Switchmate is accessible for everyone – renters, home-owners, students, nomads – anyone that wants the convenience of a connected home without the hassle of connecting it.
— Daniel Peng, Switchmate Founder
Daniel described how the Switchmate team looked to the public when developing the system, sometimes asking for opinions from random passers-by at the entrance to Home Depot stores (a location they were often ejected from).
Above and beyond the absurdly simple installation and operation, the insights the team gathered led to the development of a Switchmate for both standard toggle switches and a rocker (or “Decora”) switch. The ingenuity of the design also allows for installation of multiple Switchmate devices on multi-gang versions of these switches by simply pulling away part of the case.
Daniel was thrilled to tell us that the Switchmate is expected to begin shipping to customers in the fourth quarter of 2015, after raising funds through an Indiegogo campaign that went live today.
This post is cross-published on the Architechnologist, a site dedicated to exploring technologies that change the way we experience the world around us.