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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.


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 NaranSands – 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 USASands – 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.

FlipFlicSands – 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.


AugustSands – 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
Julie Jacobson:

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson


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