Producers are insistent that mild switches and smartphones ought to converge, and who can blame them? Star Trek-like touchscreens in each room might flip the standard swap right into a do-everything imaginative and prescient of the longer term.
Alas, just like the Wink Relay earlier than it, Brightswitch will not be the product that may get us there.
The idea is simple. A base unit, an outsized machine very like any trendy dimmer swap, connects to your present swap wiring. This base then connects by means of a customized connector on the entrance to a low-end Android machine, clad totally in white plastic, that sits on prime of it. As soon as hooked up, it has the distinct look of a chunky sensible cellphone that’s been glued to the wall.
Attending to that time isn’t simple. The Brightswitch requires wall energy (white wires), a floor, and connection to your load and line wiring (black wires). In a uncommon flip, the Brightswitch really works with three-pole configurations, however meaning much more wiring is critical. That’s problematic as a result of, assuming you may have typical home wiring, the industrially-styled Brightswitch is designed to attach by way of push-in backstabs, which have to be tightened down with a screw on the facet.
There are two backstabs per screw (for a complete of eight on the again of the bottom), and in case your electrical field has three white wires, say, you’ll must do some further work; in my case, that meant trimming and stripping a chunk of scrap wire and attaching it to the opposite three white wires with a wire nut. As is typical with most switches, a separate floor wire can also be required, however this connects by means of an exterior screw. I spent a strong 10 minutes making an attempt to wedge my floor wire into the recessed channel through which that screw is situated, and one other 10 getting all the opposite wires correctly seated. My greatest recommendation: Rely closely on needle-nose pliers.
Brightswitch’s daunting set up handbook notes that you would be able to, in idea, use the screw terminals to attach wires as an alternative of the backstabs. I tried this by loosening a type of screws, solely to have that screw fall out into my hand. The issue: The nut to which that screw related additionally fell out, however inside the sealed base mechanism. And not using a nut on the opposite facet, there was not something for the screw to connect to, and no solution to connect wires utilizing both the screws or the backstabs, successfully bricking the bottom altogether.
Fortuitously, I had two switches to work with, and I prevented that mistake with the second, lastly wedging all this further wiring plus the Brightswitch base again into the junction field. I used to be nearly amazed when it powered up after turning the circuit breaker again on following a strong half hour of effort.
After which what?
The Brightswitch doesn’t have its personal app, nevertheless it does in idea hook up with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Z-Wave. You’ll arrange Wi-Fi from the beginning (the machine is ineffective with out it), after which you’ll obtain updates and (in case you have a number of Brightswitches) use them collectively as an intercom. The touchscreen is designed with a big dimmer bar on the left (or simply faucet the highest or backside icons to show a non-dimming mild on or off), and 4 shortcuts on the proper facet of the panel. What do you utilize these shortcuts for? All types of issues, in accordance with Brightswitch, as a result of the unit can run “nearly any cellphone, messaging or streaming music app utilizing included microphone, speaker, and digicam.”
Two of the 4 app shortcuts are locked to Safety and Intercom options. The consumer can select the opposite two apps to look on this shortcut checklist. Brightswitch gives two by default, preinstalled: Google Play Music and Google Calendar, the latter of which is a very curious app to have in your mild swap. Not ? You may add your personal apps by way of the usual Google Play retailer. Dig into the settings, open the Google Play shortcut, and also you’re kicked out into a typical Android interface. Right here you need to use the Brightswitch like every Android pill, together with downloading third-party apps.
I put in YouTube on the factor and, after about 10 minutes of downloads and updates, was in a position to watch a Simpsons clip on my mild swap: The longer term has arrived, folks. To return to the Brightswitch interface, you simply faucet the icon that seems within the lifeless middle of the display screen, the place it overlays no matter it’s you’re doing.
If you wish to use the Brightswitch as a music participant—not a horrible concept—you’ll want to attach it to an exterior Bluetooth speaker, as the inner speaker isn’t enough for tunes. The pairing course of took me three tries, however ultimately I received issues related and dealing. You’ll must stream your music by way of an app over Wi-Fi, in fact, as a result of you may’t load music recordsdata straight onto the machine, nevertheless it all labored properly sufficient.
One other characteristic of the Brightswitch is the Safety system, a widget that’s designed to allow you to use the machine as a full-on alarm system, full with movement detection and picture recording when the sensor journeys. This couldn’t be extra difficult to configure or use, however at the very least it does work, for essentially the most half. Punch in a code and you might be given 60 seconds to depart. If the sensor detects movement after that, it sends you a textual content message that the alarm has been tripped together with an image of the room, all whereas blaring the creepiest siren I’ve ever heard. In my testing, although, the operate was very erratic, generally with the alarm erupting in a sealed-shut, empty room, generally with the hooked up so murky and darkish as to be ineffective (see screenshot).
Should you’re nonetheless not daunted by this commentary, you may attempt getting Brightswitch to work with a Z-Wave hub, similar to Wink or SmartThings, so you need to use the Wink/SmartThings app to manage the Brightswitch. (You may as well configure Brightswitch to manage Z-Wave mild bulbs elsewhere in the home, which technically makes it each a hub and a node on a Z-Wave community.) I by no means received this to work in any respect. Brightswitch referred me to its longwinded user guide, which was actually no assist. As properly, a printed addendum within the field notes (amongst a number of different bugs) that “When controlling Brightswitch with a Wink hub you could discover erratic conduct. We’re engaged on this downside.” In the end, I made a decision to concede this battle to the gizmo.
If I depart you with one factor, it’s that it’s unattainable to overstate how convoluted all of that is – to not point out extremely gradual and punctuated with freezes and crashes. It’s so unintuitive that I anticipate anybody who’s not drawn to the machine for its geek novelty worth will shortly develop into annoyed to the purpose of anger.
To place it one other approach: I’m already eradicating it from my wall.
Correction: This story was up to date shortly after publication to appropriate its byline.