How to take dumb devices and make them a part of your smart home via Alexa or Google
To start this SwitchBot review I need to tell you about why this device has completed my smart home.
I have one of those central air conditioning units that is old. It’s not so old that I can’t program it but I tend to turn its switch off at the mains in the warmer months so it’s not using power on standby.
This means any programming I have done is forgotten. That kind of sucks as it’s not an easy thing to program.
It’s not really a big deal because while programming and scheduling it is handy, we usually want to turn it on and off at different times so we need more control.
Ideally I want to wake up in the morning and ask my Lenovo Smart Clock with Google Assistant to turn on the main heater. That’s what we call it, the ‘main heater‘. This means I wouldn’t have to freeze on the journey to the living room every morning.
Sadly, until now, it has not been possible to add it to my smart home set up but thanks to the SwitchBot Bot, I now can! [insert cheering crowds here]
The SwitchBot Bot is a small motorised switch that connects to your smart home via an affordable hub and gives you connectivity to Google Home, Amazon Alexa, IFTTT, Line Clova (Japan only) and Siri Shortcuts.
Essentially, the SwitchBot is a little robot that can physically press buttons for you. Amazing!
The SwitchBot is one of the most exciting smart home devices on the market. There is nothing that allows you to add ‘dumb’ devices to complete your smart home with such ease and efficiency.
It’s the ‘paperclip’ of smart home retrofitting. The price is more than affordable and with the hub it allows your Alexa or Google Assistant do the rest of the work. Highly recommend.
I should say my house is stupid smart. I have a smart garage door, smart abode security system, ring solar cameras tied in my alexa home automation, lifx bulbs, philips hue bulbs, Yale smart locks, google assistant, amazon alexa, smart denon HiFi home theatre amp, harmony hub and more.
With all these smart devices there has always been three things I’ve wanted to make smart but I always thought it would have to wait until I replaced them, or upgraded my house.
These are my three things but once you see how these SwitchBot Bot devices work you might have plenty you can think of (e.g. Coffee maker, Washing machine, Fan switch etc).
1: The first thing I wanted to make smart was the aforementioned air conditioning unit. The wiring seems too old for a Nest or similar so in the morning when it’s winter and freezing cold I just want to ask a smart assistant to turn on the main heater from the comfort of my bed, or couch, and now I can.
2: The second thing I wanted to make smart was my hallway light switch. I could swap out the switches in my hallway for smart light switches or replace my LED downlights with smart LED downlights but this isn’t the house for it – it’s not my forever house to invest in the wiring costs of an electrician.
3: The third thing I wanted to add to my smart home was my dishwasher. Our power company supplies us with a free hour of hydro / power use every day. The challenge is that it is only in the off-peak times when we are all at work and school so I need to do it when that hour kicks in.
So how does the SwitchBot bot solve all these issues? Surprisingly easily for a start. In fact, in about 2 minutes (after installing the iPhone app) I had a switch working to do exactly what I wanted.
Then I added a few more minutes to install and set up the option Switchbot Hub Mini. This hub allows you to easily:
- Connect devices to cloud services like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant
- Set schedules of when things turn on/off or when the Switch Bot is meant to press buttons for you
- Acts as a hub for all your SwitchBot devices. This includes a temperature / humidity device and their new SwitchBot Curtain device which can open and close traditional hanging curtains! (OK, so that is the 4th thing I’d love to automate – curtains!)
- Act as an IR blaster. Just like a harmony hub, the SwitchBot can control hundreds of devices. You can also set them in groups, schedule them or control them on demand. This is a lot cheaper than the harmony hub and seems almost as good so far (as mentioned, I do own a harmony hub). Basically, anything that is controlled with a remote control can be controlled with the SwitchBot hub. The database of devices was quite extensive. The harmony hub did a better job on the Apple TV but all other devices I own were in the device database. It has smart learning also so you can point a remote at it, push a button and the hub will automatically tell you what device it is and add it to your hub.
It’s important to note that you do not need a SwitchBot Hub Mini to control SwitchBot Bots but you will need a SwitchBot Hub Mini for connecting to smart assistants.
If you want, you can just use a SwitchBot bot with your smart phone and control it via the SwitchBot app.
The SwitchBot Bot comes in white or black. It’s not the smallest looking thing – that is important as you want it to blend in.
You don’t want a black SwitchBot on a white device to control it. That would look ugly. Trust me.
So, let me get down to the punchline of the Switch Bot.
To be honest it’s taken this long to talk through it because with these devices the outcome is simple but there are many options to fine tune it to your needs.
Let me recap the devices I’ve mentioned so you’re not confused.
SwitchBot could use some help with how they communicate to first time buyers as it’s not always obvious but that’s why I’m here to help ;).
- The SwitchBot Bot can be purchased as a standalone switch that is controlled via your smart phone and Bluetooth. It is battery powered with a long 600-day battery life (batteries can be changed).
- The SwitchBot Hub or Hub Mini (I have the mini hub) is an IR blaster that can control other devices
- It can control almost any IR device in your home including air conditioning units, TV, DVD, Fans, Robotic Vacuum Cleaners and anything with a normal infrared remote control
- It can also allow the scheduling of your IR controlled devices, including SwitchBot devices
- It connects SwitchBot devices to smart assistants including Alexa and Google home.
So, while you can buy and use the SwitchBot Bot independently, it is worth getting the Hub Mini just for the fact that it connects it to your Alexa or Google Assistant allowing it to become fully integrated with your smart home.
Back to the punchline. Sorry, I know it’s long winded but it’s not always easy to understand at first.
What does the SwitchBot Switch do?
It does 1 thing (manually push buttons) in 2 ways. It can either:
- Button Mode = Press buttons. For this you can set how long it presses the button for. It can press it for 0 seconds, 1 second, 2 seconds etc.
- Switch Mode = On / Off. This allows you to have it switch a switch on (e.g light switch) and there is a very innovative off switch feature using a ‘pull’ design.
That’s really it. You take the switch bot, remove the 3M adhesive tape, attach it to the device and that’s it. You use your phone or the Hub (which for me means either Alexa or Google) to turn it on or off.
So, back to my central air conditioning unit.
Now I wake up in the morning, or sit in the lounge in the evening and say ‘Alexa, turn or the main heater’. The little switchbot bot then physically presses the button and it turns on.
If I wanted to I could also schedule it so you can have the best of both worlds.
It’s just really awesome and yet so simple!
There is one caveat to all this awesomeness and that is that my ‘main heater’ turns on with a single press, but to turn it off you need to press and hold the button for 3 seconds. So far the SwitchBot doesn’t allow me to have a different length of time for one and different for off.
You can get around this by having a switch bot on both sides of the switch. You set one to press for 0 seconds and the other to press for 3 seconds. Just name them ‘main heater on’ and ‘main heater off’.
A simple solution considering how cheap the SwitchBot units are!
Hopefully that has been a helpful SwitchBot review.
If you have any questions just drop them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer any questions you have.
This post was last updated on 2020-11-02 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.