I just received a LinkedIn message from my chum Alan Rocker, who is a Perl Guru, Linux Instructor, and Amateur Epistemologist (and you don’t hear that every day).
In his message, Alan spake as follows: “This looks like something that might interest you. In some ways, it seems a ridiculously elaborate arrangement for a binary switch, but it feels as though there might be some real applications for it.”
Accompanying these words was a link to this video. This is the work of someone called Big Clive (check out his website and his YouTube channel), which immediately caught my eye since my own given name is Clive. As an aside, “Clive” is not a common name in the USA, so when I first moved here in the 1990s, whenever I attended a technical conference, I invariably found myself sporting a badge that said “Olive,” with everyone I knew taking great delight in saying, “Olive, is that you?” (Hence the fact that I now register under the name “Max The Magnificent” to avoid any chance for confusion.)
The term “Kinetic Switch” refers to a device in which the mechanical (kinetic) energy generated by pressing a switch is converted into electrical energy that is used to send a wireless signal saying the switch has been pressed.
The problem is that — believe it or not — there are a lot of fakes around. It’s possible to purchase something that purports to be a kinetic switch, but that actually turns out to contain a small battery. This defeats the whole purpose of the exercise because the last thing you want is to spend your days replacing batteries in switches.
The funny thing is that, as Big Clive says, when he purchased this device, it seemed so much smaller and cheaper than other kinetic switches that he thought it would probably just have a battery inside. As things turned out, he was pleasantly surprised.
Also, as one of the commenters noted, “Most people make an online purchase thinking ‘I’m getting something legitimate,’ but they end up with something counterfeit. Big Clive orders something online thinking ‘I’m going to get a fake product,’ and ends up getting something legitimate that exceeds expectations.”
Big Clive’s video provides a nice tear-down of the device and a detailed analysis of its circuit. Now, this is early days, and Big Clive does note some of the limitations with existing realizations, but I bet it won’t be long before kinetic switches are available with longer ranges and the ability to transmit more complex mini packets of data.
I can envisage all sorts of applications for these little scamps. Consider a regular house, for example. Excluding things like electric ovens and washing machines and suchlike, there are two main electric systems: one driving the power sockets and the other controlling the lights. In the latter case, in addition to the light fixtures themselves, there’s all of the wiring associated with the light switches, the installation of which costs in terms of time and money. Furthermore, once the initial positions of the light switches have been established, it’s a pain in the nether regions to add new switches or to change the locations of existing switches to better meet evolving requirements. By comparison, in the case of these kinetic devices, adding new switches or moving existing switches would be a doddle.
I’m wondering if there will come a day when the majority of switches in homes and offices are of the kinetic flavor. How about you? Can you think of use cases where kinetic switches would rule the roost, or environments in which they would crash and burn?