Switchmate is a new home automation company whose first product, known as the Snap, is a lighting controller that’s claimed to snap into place over an existing switch, and to instantly turn it into a “smart” lighting device that can be controlled via a Blutooth enabled smartphone. And by allowing you to transform any light switch in your home into smart light in seconds, without rewiring or other hassles found with most home automation switches, Switchmate claims to be making smart lighting simple.
How Does Switchmate Claim to Work?
One of the unique challenges faced by almost all new home automation companies is to take complex technology and implement it in a way that’s effective, yet simple enough that the common consumer can benefit from it. With this said, while home automation has been around for quite some time, it hasn’t been until the last couple years that companies have started focusing on making their technology accessible to the average consumer.
Switchmate is one such company. This Palo Alto-based startup has created Snap, which is a lighting controller that uses rare earth magnets to snap into place over an existing light switch (e.g. standard toggle, rocker/decora, and multi-gang switches), and Blutooth 4.0 technology to communicate with iPhones and Android smartphones, as well as through any internet-connected device via the optional WiFi hub.
Ultimately, the company claims that this allows any homeowner to turn their lighting on and off with the press of a button, even when they’re not home, while allowing the original switch to retain its functionality. In addition, the Switchmate Snap can be set to turn on and off at certain times in order to provide added security when you’re away from home.
And unlike most other home automation switches, since the Switchmate Snap attaches using magnets, it can be moved to different areas of your home, depending on your needs. In fact, the company claims that the Snap can be taken with you when you’re traveling for lighting automation on the go.
Is Switchmate Easy to Use?
In order to begin using the Switchmate Snap, the company claims that you just need to snap it into place over an existing light switch using magnets or the included adhesive, pair it with your phone, and begin controlling. Once in place, the Switchmate is claimed to have a Blutooth range of about 70m (230ft), and to last 8-12 months before needing to be recharged using the micro USB port.
Once you’re up and running, the company claims you can manually control lighting via your smartphone, or you can set a proximity function to automatically turn on your lights as you approach your home.
Switchmate Pricing & Refund Policy
According to Industry Edge, crowdfunding for Switchmate is set to begin in early 2015. Because of this, as of the date of this writing, no prices are posted.
Can Switchmate Provide You with Easy Home Lighting Automation?
Since the Switchmate Snap likely won’t be released until well into 2015, and as a result doesn’t currently have any online user reviews, we contacted Nick Picklo at Picklo Digital Homes for some insight into the product. Here’s what we found out:
Cost vs. Capabilities
Unless you plan on controlling your Switchmate Snap only via Blutooth, then you’ll be required to purchase a central hub (similar to Revolv), which will not only further increase your cost, but will require you to be more technically savvy as well.
In addition, although we don’t yet know the price of the Switchmate Snap or its full range of capabilities, we have to wonder if more than one Snap can be controlled via smartphone, and if so, if there’s a maximum number of units that can be controlled at one time. Also, will the Switchmate app give users the ability to create an event (e.g. kitchen, living room, and porch lights come on at the same time)?
The Reach of Blutooth
Have you ever been talking with someone via Blutooth while driving, arrived at your destination, stepped just a few feet from your car, and had your call drop? If so, you probably quickly understood that the reach of a Blutooth connection depends on a variety of environmental factors. Because of this, only under the best of circumstances could you expect your Switchmate Snap to pick up your phone’s Blutooth signal from 230 feet away.
Form vs. Function
According to Mr. Picklo, while the primary goal of automation is to form a seamless integration between you and your home, a close second is aesthetics. In other words, things shouldn’t just function properly; they should look good (or in many instances, be completely invisible) while doing it.
In the instance of Switchmate, while it may look slightly better than a standard light switch, it could be considered bulky and a “wall wart” that sticks out like a sore thumb.
However, the reality is that most beginning users will likely be more concerned with function than with looks, and the Switchmate Snap seems to be a solid way of introducing consumers to home automation, and helping them experience all of its benefits before moving onto something more technically demanding.
By offering a plug-and-play automation product that simply installs over an existing light switch, without the need for an electrician, the Switchmate Snap appears to target an ever-growing base of beginning home automation customers. But with a release date at some point during 2015, and a wide variety of automation companies vying for this same market segment, we’ll be interested to see what comes out between now and then.