Have you ever thought to yourself, “I wish there was a robot that could just flip that switch for me”? Well, it looks like you’re not the only one, as the aptly named company SwitchBot has not only created such a robot but expanded on it extensively.
The SwitchBot (which retails at £24 from Amazon and many other major retailers) is a battery-powered mechanical switch/button-presser. Easy to set up, the Bot synchronises with your devices via an app (available on both Android and iOS) using Bluetooth. As installations go it doesn’t get any more user friendly than this. For me, after installing the app, the SwitchBot was already listed and connected as one of my Bluetooth devices and ready to go.
Setting up the Bot
First thing: download the app. Once the app is installed on your Android or iOS device you can create a widget on your Home screen that activates the Bot (as shown in the video). It does have the functionality to be activated via a customised voice command too (via cloud services) but this requires a Hub to be purchased separately – I’ll get onto that later.
The Bot comes with 2 x rectangle double sided sticky pads and 2 x square sticky pads with plastic loops which hook onto the arm of the Bot (designed to turn on/off light switches.) Setup of the physical device itself is easy; all you need to do is apply the sticky pads to the bottom of the Bot and stick this to the desired area next to the switch/ button. My advice would be to test the Bot without the sticky pads first, just to make sure you stick it to the right spot(!)
Using the Bot
How you use the Bot is entirely up to you. As we are surrounded by an array of switches and buttons (lights, TVs, computers… garage doors to name but a few), the possibilities are endless. If there’s a button that needs pressing, the Bot can press it (…unless it’s a button that should never be pressed – big red ones spring to mind!)
After setting up your Bot (app downloaded and Bot stuck to its symbiont button or switch) you can start to have fun with it. You can name the button or switch (e.g. Big Red Button #1), password protect it, add a schedule, check a log of when it has been activated and even check the CR2 battery levels (which would need replacing once depleted – no recharge capability yet.)
As for voice commands, the Bot can also be accessed by third-party cloud services such as Google Assistant, Alexa, IFTTT and Siri shortcuts. This requires a rainbow lighted SwitchBot Hub Mini, purchased separately (available at £40 from Amazon and other major retailers.) Once synced to your choice of cloud service, you can then use voice commands to activate the Bot. The Hub itself can manage all your SwitchBot devices and
has the functionality to learn infrared signals such as those from your TV remote or robot vacuum cleaner, which makes the purchase even more tempting.
The Pros & Cons
Let’s start with the cons. If I were being pernickety, the sticky tape is a bit of an issue. It works fine initially, but I can imagine over time it would lose its stickiness. Presently, there are no alternatives (unless you have a 3D printer to make the Bot a little cradle.) That being said, you can always replace the tape if/ when it dries out.
The Hub (needed to access cloud services) has a good basic functionality that would justify its purchase, however for infrared devices (such as turning on and off your television, changing channels etc.) there are better alternatives implemented by market leaders such as Broadlink.
As for the pros; firstly, the setup is incredibly quick and user friendly, but the major coup is its price point. It is inexpensive and doesn’t require you to rewire your entire house, or purchase a range of other devices and gadgets, in order for you to automate your home. It’s also ideal if you live in temporary accommodation and need a quick automaton solution that’s easy to implement and remove.
One Bot to rule them all, and in the darkness… turn the light on!
Frankly, there is nothing on the market that we have found that does what the SwitchBot does. It is in a league of its own. Yes, there are other devices and services that can activate or deactivate a whole other range of devices using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth; but without the SwitchBot no matter how loud you yell at Alexa, she’s not going to grow a hand and be able to flip that light switch for you. Better use the Bot.