Auxiliary Switch | Project Golden Rule (Non-LED Version)

TLDR: This was initially concepted as an auxiliary switch with a matching LED bar, but it turned out to be too difficult to pull off from both a price-point and also feasibility standpoint (and we now know why most aux switches do not have an LED).

To read more about the initial project, feel free to check this link out: Auxiliary Switch | Project Golden Rule

Ultimately, we decided to put a design poll out to the community and went with the winner, which can be found here: Basic Aux Switch (Non-LED) Design Poll


Project Team
Feel free to tag any of us with questions. Courtney & Darwyn are the go-to’s for overall project management and timeline questions, Eric M is the go-to for any firmware related questions and I’m (Eric H) the go-to for anything else. Either way, we’re all here to help!


Introduction
As per our tradition of working with you amazing people, here’s what this thread allows us to do as a community.

  1. Allows us to keep everyone updated on the project status (either good or bad)
  2. Allows you to participate and help us develop amazing products together
  3. Enjoy each other’s company and have fun talking home automation

How this initial post will be laid out is in five sections:

  1. Project Overview
  2. Initial Hardware & Software Requirements (edited to remain up-to-date)
  3. Timeline (edited to remain up-to-date)
  4. Pinned Ideas & Shout-outs (edited to remain up-to-date)
  5. Weekly Recap

Housekeeping

  • DATES & FUNCTIONS ARE NOT SET IN STONE: Just a reminder that all dates and functions are sometimes fluid. We have to make choices based on feasibility, opportunity costs, and overall timeline. I will be as transparent as possible on these decisions, but just a heads up, they may not always be exciting.
  • NO IDEA IS A BAD IDEA: Ok, some are, but honestly throw out anything that you can think of. If we use your idea, we’ll credit you and send you a free device, so take that shot!
  • VERSION 1 VS VERSION 2: Some ideas may be fantastic, but may not make the cut for the first version of the product. Once the product is locked in from a function standpoint, we’ll keep a tally of V2 ideas and then once the product is produced, we’ll move the ideas over to a suggestions/wishlist section.

Ok, let’s get this party started!


Project Overview
The purpose of this project is to give people an auxiliary switch that matches their main, smart switch. Currently, customers have to purchase GE, Honeywell, or HomeSeer aux switches if they want dimming at both ends of their multi-way setup.

In addition, we need a switch that spans across our Z-Wave and ZigBee options from a unification standpoint. Not only that, but one that looks like either an On/Off or Dimmer. Quite the challenge!

Project Name - Golden Rule

Everyone knows the, “Golden Rule”, which is to treat others the way you’d like to be treated. The same concept applies here in that whatever you do at the auxiliary switch is how the smart switch will act. In addition, there’s a funny SNL skit (NSFW) about the Golden Rule and 3-Way’s (wiring of course), so we thought we’d play a little double entendre.


Golden Rule - Hardware Requirements
We will be using our current switch design minus the LED bar. The config button will remain to allow for consistency across our switches and can also be used to trigger favorite scenes.

Hardware

3D Rendering can be viewed here: 3D Rendering of Inovelli Aux Switch

Hardware - Dimmer Switch (Look / Feel)

  • Responsive Paddle: rests in a neutral state (tap up = on // tap down = off & hold up = dim up // hold down = dim down)
  • Config / Favorite Button: button should be used to activate a scene from the main smart switch
    • Should be able to be tapped (for scene control)
  • Colors: dimmer switch will be offered in white (matching Lutron Claro wallplates), but the paddle should be able to be replaced to change colors (almond, brown, red, black, grey, etc)
  • Slim Design: depth of switch should be as slim as possible so that it can fit into metal boxes.
  • Air Gap: Not a UL requirement, but recommended to match the rest of the switches and save on tooling costs
  • Heat-sink tabs: None

Hardware - Features & Capabilities

  • Should be able to mimic the smart switch (ie: if connected to an on/off switch, the aux switch will be an aux switch. If connected to a fan switch, the aux switch will act as a fan switch, etc)
  • It should work in neutral and non-neutral settings

Golden Rule - Software Requirements
There will be no software requirements as it is just a momentary switch.


Timeline
Ah, everyone’s favorite part. When is this flippin thing going to be released? Great question – here’s the high-level of what happens leading up to the first release of the timeline:

  1. We present a PRD (Project Request Document) that has all of the above info in it (see above section for the pdf)
  2. R&D (manufacturer) analyzes the PRD and we go back and forth until we can align on 90% of the product
  3. Initial Timeline is released and remaining 10% of product features are added/cut along the way

Again, just want to throw this out there – I don’t have a crystal ball so I can’t predict things that come up along the way. Trust me when I say we’re trying our best to get things launched on time.

In addition, we are using a separate manufacturer for this project so there may be a learning curve. Nothing wrong with our current manufacturer, just this new one is more specialized in ZigBee.

Pre-Initial Timeline Milestones:

  • Present PRD: Finished (July 8th, 2021)
  • R&D Analyzation: Finished (Aug 19th, 2021)
  • Initial Timeline Released: Finished (Aug 19th, 2021)

Timeline (Estimated)

The initial timeline will be shown below and will be updated bi-weekly (if needed). We’ll update once this project officially launches.

  • Plastic structure tooling cycle - August 20, 2021 - October 10, 2021
  • Metal structure tooling cycle - August 23, 2021 - September 15, 2021
  • PCBA prototype production – September 05, 2021
  • Prototype production and testing (3D printing structure) – September 15, 2021

Weekly Recap
Every Wednesday evening or Thursday morning, we have a meeting with our manufacturer to go over the various projects (status, issues, timeline, etc) and below I’ll provide a recap as well as edit the sections above so we can all keep track. If you have any specific questions you’d like me to ask, feel free to tag me and let me know so I can ask them as well. The weekly cadence for updates will be Thursday mornings (or afternoons depending on when we have the meeting).

August 20, 2021 - Officially kicked off this project as an alternative to the LED bar style we originally wanted. While not as flashy, we are able to bring an affordable aux switch to the market rather than outsourcing our switch to the competition. Initial 3D Rendering can be viewed here: 3D Rendering of Inovelli Aux Switch

October 22, 2021 - Prototype came today along with the 2-1 switch and it looks awesome! I was worried how it would look without the LED bar, but I think it turned out great.


NOTE: In the top picture the left is the aux switch, right is the 2-1 switch

5 Likes

Shouldn’t the plastic tooling wait in case the config button won’t be functional and you need to proceed with option 1 with no config button?

Or does proceeding with plastic tooling mean the engineers have already confirmed that you will be able to have a functional config button and we will be getting option 4?

Or, are we at risk of having option 3, which almost nobody voted for, if the engineers come back with a no go and plastic tooling had already started?

Yeah, this is a good call-out.

The good news is they seem very confident that this is possible and have assured me that in theory this will work based on the logic we’re using, but of course, this is all theory.

What we opted to do if for some reason it doesn’t work, is to just modify the paddle to meet option #1’s specs and just leave the metal plating (and everything else outside the paddle) the same.

The manufacturer has opted to eat the costs of re-tooling the plastic part if it goes south.

If a user wanted the look of the LED bar for use in multigang sets, could they buy a color change paddle for a Red Dimmer or Red On/Off and just use that? Obviously the LED would never be on, but it would otherwise match (for users that don’t leave the LED’s on constantly).

Also, is the airgap functional? If I pulled the air gap switch before changing a bulb, for instance, is that going to create a safety issue where I thought I was cutting power, but I’m not actually doing so?

That’s an interesting question – I think in theory this would be possible as it’s sharing the same tooling, but let me check!

Great question as well – let me check with @Darwyn_Inovelli!

Project Update: Prototypes came yesterday and they look awesome!


5 Likes

I’m confused as to the purpose of an aux switch: does another red-series dimmer at the end of a multi-way setup not allow dimming control if it is z-wave-associated with the slave red-series dimmer? If you can use multiple dimmers, then would the reason to choose an aux be primarily cost savings? Sorry if this is a silly question: I currently have invested only in the on/off red series switches, and am looking to expand into the dimmers, but I want to have all my ducks in a row because I have several multi-way configurations.

Cost is one factor. Another is if the other multi-way switches don’t have a neutral in the box, then you can’t install a dimmer in those boxes (no load connected).

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Latency issues. At least in all my testing there is a noticeable delay in the association based interactions. Enough that they don’t feel like a hard-wired switch and my family isn’t a fan.

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Is this going to work with both Blue series and Red series switches? Or only the new blue series?

Should be Black, Red and Blue.

I’m excited to hear that!

I just installed a second red dimmer for one of my 3-way lights, using z-wave associations on groups 3 and 4, and so far I’m not very satisfied with the latency, especially on dimming. The aux switch worked better, but didn’t have scene or notification support. I’ll probably continue to tinker with it, but may swap back to the aux switch.

It sounds like once this and the blue 2-in-1 switch are released, I’ll have two more options: Red dimmer + inovelli aux for low-latency dimming, multi-tap scene control, but no notifications, or getting a pair of blue switches with hardwired communication for low-latency dimming, scene control, and notifications. Is that right? Any idea of a rough ETA?

Will the existing z-wave dimmers need a firmware update for scene support via this aux switch? Is that likely to be delayed given the general … recalcitrance? grumpiness? unhelpfulness? … of your z-wave manufacturer who is holding your source code hostage?

Other people will make different decisions, but I’ve decided that Inovelli is awesome and I want to buy the best products you have, and I don’t particularly care if it’s an “efficient” use of my money.

I do not believe the red series will support scenes from any of the aux switches (inovelli or other brand) due to the design of dimmer. It should work like a normal momentary switch like it does today.

That would definitely be a bummer. I was hoping that the “golden rule” promise of total parity of physical actions could apply to the red series as well.

So then the only way I could get low latency dimming (faster than a z-wave association) and scene control on both ends of a 3-way would be to get a pair of blue series zigbee dimmer switches, which will be able to communicate over the traveler wire? @Eric_Inovelli can you confirm this?

Yeah, I can confirm this. Unfortunately, we’ve tried everything we can with making the Red Series compatible with multi-taps of the aux switches currently in market (same principle would apply to our own aux switch) but the problem comes down to the fact that there isn’t enough space left on the Z-Wave chip in the 500 Series.

It’s a mixture of space and, I hate to say it, engineering ability (or possibly time idk) of our Z-Wave manufacturer. They have given up trying at this point.

We hope to add it to 700 Series and hopefully we can take what we learn from our Blue Series manufacturer and let our Red Series manufacturer copy the logic.

You’d be able to use a Blue Series smart switch + an aux switch if all you want is to mimic the scene control from both ends.

In other words, the problem with the Red Series switches not detecting multi-taps isn’t the aux switch, but rather the Red Series itself can’t detect the multi-taps due to space and/or engineering skills of our Z-Wave manufacturer. The Blue Series switches will be able to detect these multi-taps from any aux switch (ie: Golden Rule or GE/HomeSeer).

Our Blue Series should also be able to be tied together (ie: 2x smart switches) and detect these over the traveler, but we haven’t tested this yet. It was an ask on our end and written into the project.

Hopefully this makes sense?

2 Likes

Just to give a perspective, I switch my whole house light switch to Inovelli Red dimmer(18)+6 Jasco AUX switch. (2 switch used for fan have not been replaced yet).

I have Hue light everywhere also in this setup. Regarding the AUX switch, what I find annoying is the dimmer function… Where you might press up, but you can’t know the dimmer level until you let go and wait a second for the light to change. On the dimmer, you have led progress on the switch so you can look at that, but not on the AUX switch. I find that annoying. I don’t know how we could improve on it… Create a new series of scene link to the AUX switch ? So you can do all the programming on the server hubitat side if it long press, send interval of 10% increment to the light.

I don’t know what would be best, but just though I present with a situation what would be nice with a better experience (or better AUX switch in dev)

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That’s actually the proper way of addressing a Zigbee bulb with a Zwave switch. It sounds as if you are trying to dim the Hue bulbs directly via wired switch control, which isn’t correct. The bulbs should be fully powered continuously and if Zigbee bulbs, dimmed via scenes. So the sub-optimal performance you’re seeing may be a result of not using the bulbs as designed.

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Switch are in smart bulb mode. I do control dimming of the light with the mirror app. The issue is not with the main switch, which like I said I can see the LED level when dimming on the switch itself, so when I release the paddle, the light go to an expected light level. The problem is with the remote AUX switch, that it doesn’t generate the scene events like the local switch does, so I couldn’t do different action for the AUX switch control. So I can’t override the behavior of long pressing up or down to do something different than the dimmer changing locally.

The best solution would be for the Switch to send the light level during the progress of dimming up and down. So Hubitat could be triggered by those and send it to the hue light and have an actual real time visual change update of the light output level while dimming.

I wasn’t looking at a fix with the current light setup here, just saying one of my issues / experience which might give idea for dev to implement something hardware before it is constructed.

Zwave does have this via associations. Start dimming, stop dimming, and final value are all sent/coordinated. If you set ramp rates the same, you get a near-perfect dim.

Between different tech it’s almost impossible to get it to work cleanly.