Opinion: 5 reasons I won’t give up on smart switches
Last week, my colleague Benjamin Lucks wrote an op-ed on smart switches and the ability of companies to complicate simple everyday gestures in the name of the so-called connected home. While I understand his point of view, I disagree with some of his criticisms, and here are five reasons why.
Smart switches do not limit the simple use of switches
First, the fact that smart switches limit the original use of the switches we have at home is wrong. Smart switches also offer manual control. So you can control the lights with just a touch, but you can also do it using voice, motion or remotely via your mobile phone. Plus, they work with Wi-Fi and non-Wi-Fi connected lights.
Therefore, smart switches can be used on the wall like standard switches!
By the way, even smart bulbs can be controlled manually, what you need is a remote control for that. But yes, to control Philips Hue smart bulbs by voice, for example, the switches must be switched to “on” mode all the time. However, even here, that doesn’t mean you can’t just “turn off and on again” the switch to turn on the lights in a room.
Another relevant difference between smart lights and smart switches is that while the latter allows you to group lights together, the former requires individual configuration. This allows software updates or outages to occur in isolation, even grouped together via a companion app or smart assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri.
From decoration to home security
Smart switches allow you to adjust the brightness, intensity and color of the lights. Depending on the environment, you can use warmer colors, in other cooler rooms. Additionally, the unconnected light bulb market offers a wide variety of types, sizes, and shapes that can be used in conjunction with smart switches while still providing automation.
Beyond decorative use, especially for those living in a home, setting smart light switches to turn on and off randomly, making it look like someone is at home, can be a good tactic for vacations or business trips.
In fact, as well as offering a bit more peace of mind, the ability to use remote smart switches ensures that you can access your home’s lights if you forgot to have a bulb on. And that brings us to the third reason why smart switches are awesome.
Encouragement for a more conscious use of energy
A few weeks ago we published a guide on how to save energy in a smart home in which we quoted some studies that show how automated tasks can generate savings on the electricity bill. More than that, reducing power consumption also reduces carbon dioxide emissions to the environment, as I explain in this article on the use of smart plugs in smart TVs.
However, it’s obvious that simply installing a smart switch in your home won’t automatically lower your electric bill at the end of the month or give you the title of most devoted tree. For this, you will need to configure the smart devices available in your home and maintain software updates!
When it comes to savings, I’m not just talking about controlling lights remotely from your mobile phone, but setting schedules to turn lights on and off, for example. My electric bill would go up dramatically during the winter as I was using plant grow lights all night. This has changed with the use of smart plugs by setting a period for which lamps stay on, and the same can be done using smart switches.
But more than saving on the electricity bill, using smart devices has made me more aware of how I use energy. It’s 2022 and we have a lot more options than five years ago, and a lot less than we will have in the next five years.
Our needs are diverse around the world
Accessibility is another major benefit of using smart switches. As well as being used in conjunction with smart hubs like the Amazon Echo and Google Nest via voice commands, these devices also offer models with ambient light or motion sensors for automatic adjustment and actuation.
Imagine living in a house with a disabled person and having to leave part of the house on all night in case there is an overnight trip to the bathroom. It happens every day in my mother’s house. My uncle is disabled and requires certain lights to be left on all night. Today, for less than $60 a smart light switch with a motion sensor not only offers savings, but more security since my mother can tell when my uncle got up because the lights went on.
If you step outside your bubble, you can realize that a connected home goes beyond a simple voice command: “Alexa, turn off the lights in the living room!”
More security options
Finally, just like your bank’s app or even WhatsApp or Telegram, many smart switch models today offer two-factor authentication as another layer of security. So the chances of someone taking over your lights are very unlikely.
And let’s face it: how many times has your smart TV been hacked or your favorite messaging app? And I can even bet that the risk of possible security vulnerabilities didn’t make you stop using them, did it?
Now, of course, the fact that we can control our lamps remotely is only possible because we are connected to the Cloud. So, just as you should read the terms of service for Google Photos or iCloud, it’s important to research which services are used by the manufacturer of your smart switch or any other smart device you have at home.
In any case, local regulations, such as the GDPR in Europe, contain various provisions relating to vulnerability, and organizations must comply with them. So, instead of walking away from technology, I invite you to be part of its evolution, because only then can we improve the ecosystem of smart devices.
Finally, of course, smart switches can make life more complex, but that’s the price of evolution! After all, you’re not reading this article on a piece of paper, are you?