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Electromechanical Switch Design Considerations In Smart Home IoT Applications

Smart Home technology, also often referred to as Home Automation, provides homeowners security, comfort, convenience, and energy efficiency by allowing them to control smart devices, often by a smart home app on their smartphone or other networked devices.

Panasonic Electromechanical Switch Options

New Smart Home Device Technologies Call New Attention To Switch Functionality Requirements

A part of the Internet of Things (IoT), Smart Home systems and devices often operate together, sharing usage data among themselves and automating actions based on the homeowners' preferences.  Home Automation helps people improve efficiency.  For example, instead of leaving the air conditioning on all day, a Smart Home system can learn behaviors and make sure a house is cooled down by a certain time.  Many new SMART devices are being developed such as robot cleaning systems, security cameras, thermostats, light bulbs, TVs, locks, healthcare monitors, motion sensors, plugs and voice assistance devices.  With the current trend of IoT, these Smart Home related products are encouraged to increase the number of new functions. Thus, the need for the right Electromechanical Switch design choice is increasing in this market.  As an Electromechanical Switch manufacturer, Panasonic has a wide variety of Tactile and Detector Switches options to meet the demands of new Smart Home device design applications.

The global Smart Home market is expected to grow from $76.6 billion USD in 2018 to 151.4 billion USD by 2024, at a CAGR of 12.02%. The North American region is expected to grow by 18%.  Increasing implementation of SMART speakers, home appliances, lighting control systems, home healthcare products, smart furniture, smart kitchens, and HVAC control solutions are driving the growth of the Smart Home market.

Tactile and Detector Switch Design Preferences In IoT Smart Home Applications

Panasonic Tactile Switch

Smart Home device designers typically prefer small profile Tactile Switches with a water-proof and dustproof IP67 Rating. Other key features that are desired when selecting the right Tactile Switch for the job include high operating force and deep stroke types.

Panasonic Tactile Switches are made from five individual components which consist of a cover, a rubber push plate, film, a movable and stationary contact, and a mounting base. The design, die making and manufacturing are all done in-house which makes Panasonic a unique player in the market.  All Panasonic Tactile Switches function as momentary Push ON Switches which allows a small current to pass through when the metal dome collapses. This process employs Tactile click feedback to the user. Panasonic Switch models include various click feeling and travel distances.

Detector Switches are used to detect internal mechanical movements or human manual operations and convert those to electronic signals. In some applications, Detector Switches have been used to replace Encoders as a lower-cost solution. Detector Switches use a mechanical sliding spring design to ensure consistent signal output. They also have features that can include long travel, thin profile, compact size, lightweight, highly flexible actuation angles and surface mount or J-bent terminal mounting options. Smart Home devices generally need small and thin Switches, preferably with long strokes and bidirectional operation as well.

Switch Design Impacts User Experience In Smart Home Device Applications

A Smart Speaker is a type of wireless speaker and voice command device with an integrated virtual assistant that offers interactive actions and hands-free activation with the help of one "hot word".  Some Smart Speakers can also use Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other wireless protocol standards to extend usage beyond audio playback to control Home Automation devices. In speaker devices, Tactile Switches can be used as a power button, volume control and mode selection buttons. In smart plug devices, Tactile Switches can be used for power ON/OFF and Wi-fi connection buttons. Both Smart Speakers and Smart Plugs typically look for small profile Switches with limited mounting areas that contribute to miniaturization of PCB and design flexibility. 

In thermostat controls, Switches are used for mode selection such as temperature setting and fan speed. In solar meters, surface mount, middle and long stroke Tactile Switches are used for the main power ON/OFF function and for specific mode selections. In smart locks, small size, surface mount and sealed Switches are preferable features. Detector Switches with bidirectional operation are also used to contribute to design flexibility for lower power consumption and allow for saving more electricity.  In smart refrigerators, waterproof and dew condensation-proof Tactile Switches are used to control the temperature and for Wi-Fi connection.  Durability at low-temperature conditions is another key feature. Some other Smart Home devices are shopping buttons and smoke alarm systems.

Tactile Switches have been used in robot vacuum cleaners as the main ON/OFF Power Switch, to change direction and as a control button for settings. In smart lighting applications, Switches are used on the remote control to set the ON/OFF timer and brightness control.  Many smart meters use a display screen to show power consumption and automatic meter-reading which is controlled using Tactile Switches for the power, reset and wireless connection button. Detector Switches can also be used for opening and closing detection.  Since smart meters are installed outside, highly reliable sealed Switches are preferable. A memory manager is used to save data using a USB device, SD Cards, and smartphone wirelessly. Small, low profile Switches are used in memory managers to power ON and OFF, reset the device and as a Wi-Fi connection button. Smart air cleaner systems can monitor and control air quality with a smartphone.  Middle and long-stroke type Switches with high operating force and operational life can be used as a mode selection button. An air conditioner controller adopts infrared communication of the unit and controls temperature remotely with a smartphone. Thin profile Switches are used to control power and as a wi-Fi connection button.

Other examples of smart home device applications include a remote-controlled garage, remote-controlled scent diffuser, smart security camera, coffee machine, pet feeder, and inside monitor camera.  Switches may be used to control the ON/OFF button, mode selection button, and wi-fi connection button in these applications.

Panasonic is a premier manufacturer of a wide variety of Tactile and Detector Switches suitable for Smart Home / Home Automation applications.  Click here to browse the many Switch types available.

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