Home automation has long been identified as a luxury that only the rich can afford, and this has generally been the case with Clipsal C-Bus being the only reliable option. Things changed in 2017 when Google introduced their voice recongition platform Google Home into houses across the world, bringing with it the term Smart Homes. Since then, a number of smart home platforms have been introduced such as Amazon Alexa and Apple Homekit, but these platforms are limited to not only a select number of devices, but also their functions in terms of automation. Sure, asking Google Assistance what the weather is or to play some music is great, but what about controlling the lights in your house? or integrating your lights into routines so when you wake up in the middle of the night to use the toilet, a couple of hallway lights come on at 20% brightness along with telling you the time? This is where the Australian company M-Elec have came to the party with their new range of Stitchy products; Turning your ordinary light switches into smart light switches.
What exactly is Stitchy? Stitchy is a range of products that retrofit into your existing home wiring system, effectively turning your light switches into smart controlled devices. This means that with a simple voice comman, you now have complete control of your lights including dimming percentage and even RGB colour. Think of it this way — you can turn off all your lights at once when you goto bed, set the colour and brightness of your RGB room set up, or even remotely control your lights from another postcode!
Stitchy can be controlled via compatiable apps on your phone such as Philips Hue, Google Home, Amazon Alexa and Apple Home App.
Stitchy opens up a number of scenarios that allow you to create your ultimate smart home, all without sending you broke. A common concern with smart homes is being able to use your failsafe mechanical light switches in conjunction with voice and app control. Thankfully, Stitchy allows you to use existing (and boring) on/off mechanical light switch without it effecting your smart network.
In fact, Stitchy provides feedback status of your lights regardless if you operate the switch via the switch, app or voice control. This means that if you flick your original light switch on, Google Home show that this light is on in its interface, meaning that it can now turn off the light via app or voice control as it knows the status of the light. This works for both 2 and 3-way switching as well; no matter which switch is activated Stitchy will provide feedback to your network without impacting the operation of your lights.
OK Google, How Does It Work?
M-Elec have forgone the added expense of developing their own hub or app, instead utlitising the Philip Hue brige that enables the Stitchy range of products to communicate via the Zigbee communication protocol. Zigbee is one of the multiple communication protocols that have flooded the home automation market along with Z-Wave, Bluetooth, and even your traditional 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi protocols, which all have their strengths and weaknesses.
Believe it or not, but Zigbee has been around for over a decade and is number one choice for a number of platform such as Amazon Echo Plus, Control4 and of course, Philips Hue. Zigbee is perfect for home automation as its main attraction is that it doesn’t need a lot of bandwidth to operate, meaning it draws minimal power to communicate with devices on its network while expanding the size of its network by meshing multiple devices together.
Philips Hue bridge uses the Zigbee protocol to communicate with its own brand’s lights and accessories along witho fully supporting the Stitchy range of products (They even show the correct model numbers within the Hue app). The Philips Hue bridge is connected to your home network via Ethernet and paired with the platform of your choice, in my case Google Home. This is the setup I have for my smart home, although Stitchy does also support Alexa Echo Plus 2nd Gen for use with Amazon only. This is largely as Alexa Echo Plus 2nd Gen has a built Zigbee hub, eliminating the need for Philips Hue (while also saying goodbye to Google Assistance and Siri).
What Can Stitchy Offer?
The current range of Stitchy products is quite small, yet effective. At the time of this post there are four products in the current range;
- Stitchy Switch – A small controller that is installed into behind your existing wall switch. This controller turns your standard switch into a smart switch by offering not only your traditional on/off switching mechanism, but also voice control from Alexa, HomeKit or Google home along with app control from these platforms (and also Philips Hue App). The Stitchy Switch is caple of controlling up to 200W LED loads and up to 400W incandescent.
- Stitchy Dim – My personal favourite. Similar to the Stitchy Switch, the Stitchy Dim looks indentical in appearance and functionality to the Stitchy Switch, but with the added effect of being able to dim your light from 0%, through to 100% all with the sound of your voice.
- Stitchy 1 Channel – Stitchy also offer support for LED strips with both a 1 and 5 channel controller. The Stitchy 1 Channel controller is just as easy to control as the Stitch Switch and Dimm, by a simple voice command to turn on and dim up and down your LED strip.
- Stitchy 5 Channel – And finally we have the Stitchy 5 Channel controller. This controller not only provides everything that the Stitchy 1 Channel controller can (on/off/dim), but also allows you to adjust the colour of your compatible multi-colour LED strips all via app and voice control.
What Is On The Horizon For Stitchy?
M-Elec have stated that a number of Stitchy products are in development with an estimated release date of sometime in 2020. These products include non-netural Stitchy switch, DC Fan Controllers (both wireless and switch controlled), RGB/HY controllers, reed, temperature and humidity sensors. M-Elec have also stated that they plan to expand Stitchy’s integeration into other platforms, although other information has been released. All of the these products sound fantastic and will appeal to a number of people, but personally I can’t wait for the ability to add the operation of ceiling fans to my routines for all those hot, summer nights.
My Experience With Stitchy
To put it simply, I love Stitchy — Being able to control my home’s lights without running new cables, keep the existing wiring (along with my 2 and 3 way switching circuits), buying expensive controllers, or installing multiple relays to ensure I had the fail-safe option of manually operating my switches is as amazing as it sounds. I spent hours setting up routines on Google Home so when I wake up in the morning my Google Assistance tells me the weather forecast and a witty joke, then turns on the hallway and bathroom lights to light up my path as I make my way for my morning shower. By the time I am in the bathroom, Parkway Drive is blasting out of over my Google Home Nest Mini, all with saying ‘OK Google, Good morning’.
Then when I come home at night, my Hue’s geofencing detects I am home and turns on my outside lights, along with my home’s entrance lights and dimming them to 50%. Once I am in the door and say I feel like watching some Netflix.. “OK Google, let’s watch Netflix and Chill”, Google Assistant then proceeds to tell me how good looking I am (I swear I didn’t even program it to say this), and turns on my NVIDIA Shield on and boots up Netflix in preparation for my nights activities along with my hallway and bedroom lights. From here, I let my Philip Hue Motion Sensors control my lighting zones as I enter and exit the rooms, meaning I don’t even have to say a word or lift a finger to operate my lights, my smart home takes care of it for me.
Honestly, there is nothing more satisfying than sitting on the couch, drinking a beer and binge watching
Brooklyn Nine-Nine intellegent documentaries and being able to turn off or dim my lights, saving those valuable calories for the challenging stumble to bed after a big night infront of the box.
- PERFORMANCE - 94%94%
- DESIGN - 93%93%
- COMPATIBILITY - 83%83%
- COST - 86%86%
Stitchy by M-Elec is a fantastic product that seemingly integrates your lighting circuits into your home, effectively making it a smart home. As the Stitchy range of products begins to increase, I believe we will start to see Stitchy become a househouse name.
I must highlight that installation of all Stitchy devices is to be completed by a licenced Electrician. If you have any questions regarding Stitchy, you can visit their website here.