You have decided to buy a smart switch to make your appliances smart. Well, that is a great start! But how do you decide which is the right device? Let us try to give you an unbiased view on how you should go about buying one. We are in India and hence our view is from this geographical region.
A switch is to a wall what a watch is to a hand. They
are not just functional but they are part of the design makeup. So aesthetics is a massive part of the decision making process and one that should not be overlooked in today’s world of beautiful interiors. No other material provides the same level of finish as a well designed Glass panel however, care needs to be taken to make sure this is a toughened glass panel for that additional safety.
Your starting point will be to buy a device that suits the needs of the room. So what is it that you want to control? Geyser, AC, fan, lights etc. How many of each do you need to control? Once you have that down, then it’s just a case of identifying the module that satisfies your needs. In India more often than not, we have more switches than we will ever use, so this might be a good time to reduce the unwanted ones.
Installation / Retrofittable
As this isn't a phone that you can just power up and start using, you will need to consider where in the wall this is to be installed and what is in it already. It will be good if the devices you buy can fit into the standard metal console boxes available in the market. The switch should ideally fit into the usual 3”x3”, 5”x3” or 9”x3” metal console boxes that are used to fit any of the modern switches.
Built in Wifi Chip or Hub
The smart device needs to connect to the internet and it is not really smart if it needs a wire. It will need to connect to your home router either through the normal wireless signal or it will connect to a special hub which will then connect to the home router. The problem with connecting to a special hub, is that this switch might not be the only smart device that you will buy. So if you buy about 5 different devices from 5 different vendors and each want you to buy a special hub this can prove to be exorbitant. Given that most homes nowadays already have wi-fi, a smart move would be to buy devices that come with a built-in wifi chip.
For a smart device that is controllable from anywhere, it is important that the cloud technology that underpins it is fast, reliable and safe. The device should be available at any time and respond quickly to commands from the app. This requires a robust cloud infrastructure, built to scale and handle millions of devices.
Crucial and one of the most underrated control parts to a smart switch, this technology has been around for a long time and is still one of the most useful ways to control a switch. A well-designed remote and switch can work from upto about 25 feet apart which will be more than enough for a large room. An easy to learn option for the elderly and extremely useful for the disabled.
This is important so the switch can be controlled from anywhere in the world. The app however, must be well-designed, intuitive to use and require minimal effort when pairing the device to the mobile app user account.
Integration with Smart Home Platforms
It is important that the switch integrates with other smart home platforms such as Alexa, Google Home & Apple Homekit. Each of these platforms provide their own app and way to control the devices which means users don’t have to depend on the specific mobile app to be able to control their switch.
Integration with Alexa, Google Home and Apple Homekit also means that these switches can be controlled by voice through those platforms. Voice is the future and as more and more voice controlled devices become available, it is only a matter of time before this becomes second nature to users.
A simple market study with a comparison on the features provided, reliability, warranty should give you a good indication of whether the value derived is worth the cost paid.
In the past, two controls and extra wiring were required to make manual switches two-way so as to control them from two different places. This two-way function becomes quite irrelevant given that smart switches have mobile app, remote, and voice control.
Hum or Hum Free Fans
Some switches use technology that might produce a slight hum of the fan and some that eliminate the humming noise. This might not be an issue but something the more sensitive of us or the ones with larger fans might need to take into account.