From scrappy startups to mega giants like Philips and GE, it seems like everyone wants to build a smart lightbulb. After all, who wouldn’t want to be able to flip off that light they left on downstairs from the comfort of their bed?
Smart lightbulbs have one massive, glaring fault though: as soon as someone hits the light switch — as people tend to do — they’re worthless.
Switchmate, a company competing in the TechCrunch Hardware Battlefield at CES this year, wants to solve the problem from the other end: at the switch.
Requiring no tools or rewiring, the Switchmate magnetically snaps into place right over your existing light switch. Pop it on and you’re instantly controlling your lights from your phone, and in a way that doesn’t interfere with standard, phone-free operation.
Want the light back on but your phone is out of reach? Just tap the face of the switch. Bam, lights.
Or any other appliance, really. As long as it can be turned on/off by a lightswitch, the Switchmate can toggle it. It doesn’t care what’s on the far end of that switch, be it a light or a blender.
As Switchmate wanted their devices to work without requiring any sort of rewiring, it’s battery-powered rather than hardwired. On the downside, batteries drain over time — but on the upside, the company says the battery should last 8-12 months and is completely rechargeable, so it’s not something you have to worry about too much.
On its own, the Switchmate can be operated from your iOS/Android phone over Bluetooth LE at a range of about 200 feet. Add Switchmate’s hub into the mix, however, and the switches pick up WiFi connectivity — now you can control them from just about anywhere on the planet.
Want the lights on as soon as you arrive home? It’ll do that. Want them to turn on and off based on a preset schedule, to hopefully fool any thiefs who might be eyeing your place? It’ll do that too.
I absolutely love this idea. I’ve wanted to start rigging up my house with smarter lighting for ages, but almost all of the light bulb-based solutions I’d seen so far seemed like the wrong approach. This seems right.
Alas, the company isn’t quite ready to share pricing details, so that oh-so-important bit is still up in the air. They do note, however, that pre-orders should start in February. For more details, you can find their site here.