Hands On With Switchmate, The Box That Lets You Control Any Existing Lightswitch With Your Phone

I’ve been into the concept behind Switchmate from the instant I heard about it. A little box that snaps right onto my existing lightswitches and lets me control said switch from my phone? Excellent. No rewiring required? Even better!

But how well does it actually work? Switchmate co-founder Rob Romano stopped by our office to give us a bit of hands-on time.

Turns out: at least in pre-production prototype form, it works exactly as promised.

The hardware I saw wasn’t completely final — but it was a late-stage prototype (one of just a handful in the world), so it’s pretty close to what will actually ship come December.

Even in its prototype form, it looked polished enough that I’d gladly stick it on my wall. It didn’t feel perfectly sturdy when we popped it off the wall and I held it in my hands; it had a bit of wiggle to it, like it’d been disassembled and pieced back together one too many times. But that’s to be expected of a prototype, and is something they’re working on for the final shipping model.

The company pitches the install process as simple, and it really is almost laughably easy. Pair the device with your phone with a tap or two in their app. Walk up to a switch, make sure it’s toggled the right way, and place the Switchmate over it. Aaaand you’re done. Magnets hold it in place (clamping too the lightswitch’s existing screws), and a servo inside physically flips the switch.

According to Rob, Switchmate’s internal rechargeable battery should last about a year with 10 switches per day. I couldn’t test the one-year lifespan claim in a day, of course, but it seems reasonable.

All in all, I’m now comfortable saying that the hardware side of the Switchmate matches the concept I immediately loved. Could things change in the jump from prototype to release? Sure. But Switchmate is backed by PCH’s hardware incubator, Highway1. Their involvement knocks out a lot of the surprise hurdles that tend to pop up in the late stages of crowdfunded stuff like this, and adds to my confidence in this project considerably.

The concept of a “smart home” is something that we’ve been hearing about for decades — but it always seems to be pitched as one big thing, where new homes are built from the ground up with smarts at their core. For most people, and most homes, that’s simply unattainable. In reality, homes will go “smart” one small step at a time; a Nest here, a Dropcam there. Switchmate fits into that reality quite well.

Switchmate is at the tail end of a 30 day Indiegogo campaign, in which they’ve already surpassed their initial $50,000 goal by about 3x.