Control & Automation

Making Dumb Things Smart: 8 Very Interesting Non-Invasive Problem Solvers at CES 2017

CES 2017: Devices that automate your dumb shades, tiny robots that press buttons, motors that turn knobs … and other non-invasive solutions for making dumb things smart.

Making Dumb Things Smart: 8 Very Interesting Non-Invasive Problem Solvers at CES 2017
Non-invasive robotic problem-solvers at CES 2017: Inirv smart stove knob; Microbot Push from Naran; Z-Wave-enabled Guardian water shut-off from Elexa/Dome.

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At CES 2015, I was pretty impressed with SwitchMate, a device that sits on top of an existing light switch and toggles it on and off. The unit literally presses the paddles (or slides the toggle) on dumb switches, allowing users to make dumb lights smart, without having to rewire an existing switch.

I liked this idea of making dumb things smart, without having to pull stuff apart. I learned only recently that there’s a term for this category of products: non-invasive.

We’ll see plenty of interesting non-invasive products at CES 2017 – not SwitchMate, but similar fixes like Nortek's Z-Wave-enabled GoControl WA00Z-1 (below).

It’s not pretty, but it works.

We’ve seen some non-invasive solutions for motorizing door locks. Both August and Poly-Control (Danalock) make products that replace existing deadbolt knobs, torqueing that sticky-outy bit of metal called the tail piece. More invasive solutions require the wholesale replacement of a door lock, which is much more challenging than it may seem.

Here are some other non-invasive solutions appearing at CES 2017.


Prota MicroBots from Naran - Sands - 51214

Prota’s MicroBot Push ($42) “wireless robotic button pusher” sits on top of any type of button … and pushes. The Bluetooth-enabled device can be configured to press, press-and-hold, and double-press. Out of the box, they can be controlled and scheduled via smart phone, or they can be integrated into a whole-house system using Prota’s own home automation hub and Prota OS platform.

MicroBot Push

Coming in 2017: the MicroBot Twist. It’s a clever way to mechanize a knob without an excessive amount of torque. The Twist doesn’t sit directly on top of a knob. Rather, it is placed next to the knob and moves it with friction. The existing knob is covered with a cap that provides the friction.

Prota suggests using it to motorize door locks, HVAC equipment or volume controls on an amp.

There’s a tinier solution than MicroBots -- Switch Bot from Wonder Tech Labs just launched on Indiegogo, but they’re not at CES.


Autoslide USA - Sands - 40354

Autoslide makes a motorized system that moves a sliding door. A flange is affixed to the top of the door, and a wheel inside the Autoslide motor housing grabs the track to open and close the door. A kit retails for $430.

The hilarious Autoslide-video is a must-watch!


Inirv Labs - Sands - 50827

The Bluetooth-enabled Inirv React from Inirv Labs installs like the non-invasive motorized door locks … but it replaces a stove knob instead of a deadbolt. A companion smoke and gas detector can automatically trigger the knob to turn off in dangerous situations, and there’s a motion sensor that detects prolonged periods of absence. Inirv is coming soon to Kickstarter.

Inirv replaces a dumb stove knob

Dome ElexaLVCC - 20900 (Z-Wave Pavilion), Sands - 41241 (Z-Wave Experience)

From Elexa Consumer Products comes the Guardian water-shutoff valve, a Wi-Fi-based IoT device that requires no home automation hub. (The company also makes a Z-Wave version as part of its Dome home automation line, which includes a Z-Wave mouse trap.)

The motorized unit bolts to the water main, sitting on top of the valve and torqueing it off in the event of a water event. 

Dome Guardian physically moves the the lever on a dumb water valve.

FlipFlic - Sands - 51865

FlipFlic has a lot of cool things going for it. The product affixes to dumb blinds, moving the slats up and down on command or automatically based on temperature and ambient light. The product, which replaces existing tilt mechanisms, is available for both vertical and horizontal blinds. An optional solar panel can be used to power the device.

FlipFlic replaces the tilt bar on dumb shades.

NOT AT CES: ShutterEaze provides a motorized mechanism for moving plantation shutters. Slide, now on Kickstarter, moves dumb curtains.


SwitchFlip - Sands - 51852

It took me a while to understand SwitchFlip, but once I got it … pretty cool. You know how you have switched outlets in any given room? Well, what if you can’t use that outlet? In fact, the lamp you want to control with the light switch is plugged into a non-switched outlet.

Take a SwitchFlip transmitter and plug it into the switched outlet. Take the receiving unit and plug it into the outlet you want to be switched. Plug the lamp (or whatever) into the receiver unit and – voila – it becomes the “switched” outlet.

SwitchFlip is now on Indiegogo


Nortek GoControl - Sands - 41317 

Nortek's GoControl WA00Z-1 is a Z-Wave button controller that sits on top of an existing dumb switch to lock it into the on position. When using smart bulbs, it's important that the physical switch is always on so it can be controlled via devices this this ... or apps or other home-control products.

 

August - Sands - Zeno Ballroom 4708

As opposed to other motorized door locks, August's does not require the wholesale replacement of a lock. Instead, the unit replaces just the interior deadbolt, torquing the tail piece.

August door lock: About as non-invasive as it gets

Check out more CES 2017 news from CE Pro


  About the Author

Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at [email protected]

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Comments

Posted by Steve Hoge on January 8, 2017

Got a chuckle from these comments - these CI pros are getting that “deer in the headlights” look as they realize that their standard business model has been based on primitive early-adopter technology, obfuscated user interfaces and a dwindling “last-gen” clientele cohort. 

The new world of streamlined UIs, apps and open, non-proprietary APIs and networking standards is contracting their market back to the traditional high-end just-throw-money-at-it customers who want it to work without fuss or muss and at any cost.  And who don’t resent their service provider inserting that monthly RRS needle in their arm!

Luckily, the rest of us DIYers - many of whom are Digital Natives - now have even more sophisticated tools and devices and unprecedentedly low price points with which to construct our smart-home systems.  Yes, there’s still some pain and suffering configuring and maintaining these systems and inevitably some technological dead-ends that we’ll have to backtrack from, but overall the home automation landscape these days is looking ever more tractable for the end-user/consumer/integrator.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on January 6, 2017

Thanks for your comments, Chris and Joshuaad, we have found that most CE PRos want to understand the smart-home landscape around them, regardless of their immediate impact on their businesses. This is why we report about happenings in DIY, trends in home automation protocols, competition in the mass market, etc. In any case, some of these clever products could be very useful to CE Pros.

Posted by Joshuaad on January 6, 2017

“I liked this idea of making dumb things smart, without having to pull stuff apart. I learned only recently that there’s a term for this category of products: non-invasive.”... Did you just say you liked DIY stuff, regardless of how clunky it looks, because they don’t require a Pro to install and set up? Is this called CE Pro?

Posted by Chris Erca on January 5, 2017

You like this? It seems like homeowner specials. No CI comapny needed! We all know where it is going but let’s not promote it. What else was at the show that is geared more toward our industry. This is what your readers are interested in.

Posted by Chris Erca on January 5, 2017

You like this? It seems like homeowner specials. No CI comapny needed! We all know where it is going but let’s not promote it. What else was at the show that is geared more toward our industry. This is what your readers are interested in.

Posted by Joshuaad on January 6, 2017

“I liked this idea of making dumb things smart, without having to pull stuff apart. I learned only recently that there’s a term for this category of products: non-invasive.”... Did you just say you liked DIY stuff, regardless of how clunky it looks, because they don’t require a Pro to install and set up? Is this called CE Pro?

Posted by Julie Jacobson on January 6, 2017

Thanks for your comments, Chris and Joshuaad, we have found that most CE PRos want to understand the smart-home landscape around them, regardless of their immediate impact on their businesses. This is why we report about happenings in DIY, trends in home automation protocols, competition in the mass market, etc. In any case, some of these clever products could be very useful to CE Pros.

Posted by Steve Hoge on January 8, 2017

Got a chuckle from these comments - these CI pros are getting that “deer in the headlights” look as they realize that their standard business model has been based on primitive early-adopter technology, obfuscated user interfaces and a dwindling “last-gen” clientele cohort. 

The new world of streamlined UIs, apps and open, non-proprietary APIs and networking standards is contracting their market back to the traditional high-end just-throw-money-at-it customers who want it to work without fuss or muss and at any cost.  And who don’t resent their service provider inserting that monthly RRS needle in their arm!

Luckily, the rest of us DIYers - many of whom are Digital Natives - now have even more sophisticated tools and devices and unprecedentedly low price points with which to construct our smart-home systems.  Yes, there’s still some pain and suffering configuring and maintaining these systems and inevitably some technological dead-ends that we’ll have to backtrack from, but overall the home automation landscape these days is looking ever more tractable for the end-user/consumer/integrator.