Recently, I posted about Logitech and their Pop Switch connected button implementation. I want to walk that back just a little. My complaint had to do with the required hub, not for the ‘button-ness’ of the product. Buttons I like a lot and I think that they are one of the best things about having a smart home.
The reason that buttons are such a big deal is their simplicity. You press it and something happens. That’s it. Press and done. Too many of the current smart home systems overlook this simplicity. They want you to use their app to control their hub to turn on your lights. That means pulling your phone out of your pocket, unlocking it, tapping on the app, waiting for the app to open and scan the current system status, then finding the thing you want to control and only then controlling it. Buttons are even simpler than voice control because there is no trigger word and you don’t have to remember what you called that one switch in that one place. You know the one. No, the other one. Yeah. You’ve got it.
Don’t get me wrong (because I often am), the app has its place because buttons have their drawback: they are physical devices that are (usually) attached to a single place. If you aren’t near that place and want to control something, then the app can fill in. However, if you are in that physical place, then go button! In fact, this is the reason that connected light switches are the popular way to go: if you are near them, then they work the same way that switches have been working for decades. What buttons add is the ability to place them where you want them without hiring an electrician and ripping up your walls to run wire.
A Few of My Favorite Buttons
If the above has intrigued you about the wonder of connected buttons, then let me give you a few things to explore. First up is the IFTTT “Do” button. This is not a physical button, but a phone app. It creates an icon on your smartphone’s home screen that is a virtual button. By doing this, it cuts out a few of the steps that I detailed above: now you only have to pull your phone out of your pocket, unlock it and press the button. No opening the app and waiting and finding and then pressing. IFTTT makes this happen by having the virtual button call out to your account on their service, find the linked device associated with the Do button your pressed and then send the command back to your home. As a result, you need to link whatever you want to control through their system.
Next up is any of a variety of Z-Wave remotes. I have the Aeon Labs Minimote which I keep in my pocket (and I’m happy to see you. Always.) But you can also get an in-wall keypad or, with some of their replacement switches, you can assign secondary commands to their buttons. For me, having the Minimote means that I can turn off all of the lights that my daughter left on with the press of one button. I can turn on or off the overhead light in my bedroom from my bed instead of only from the door to the room.
with the push of a button (you had to know I was going to get that in here somewhere). They are fairly similar, though with some minor differences in the services with which they will work. At a glance, it appears that the Pebble is more of a keyfob button and the Flic is designed to be taped to a wall.
Finally, there are a bunch of roll-your-own options. With a Raspberry Pi, there are at least two options. The first offers more of a full control center for your home. The other offers a keypad. Or you can get your self an Amazon Dash and order your groceries every time you turn your lights on or off.
The best part is that none of these needs an additional hub (okay, maybe the Raspberry Pi options but at least all of the communication is local to the network).