Zigbee Button Controller + Dimmer Switch | Project Walt

This project will be kicked off in the next two weeks (we are awarding the manufacturer this upcoming week - first week of August).

I want to dedicate this project to my dad (Walt), who was an amazing father to me and my brother and sister, grandfather to my four girls, role model, engineer, and someone who always loved to tinker with things. Most importantly, he taught me to work hard, never quit if you believe in something, and always keep a positive attitude as it will inevitably rub off on others. I will miss you and hope that your spirit can live on through this engineering feat of a product!


Project Team
Feel free to tag any of us with questions. I’ll (Eric H) be the go-to’s for overall project management, timeline and anything other than firmware related questions, whereas Eric M is the go-to for any firmware related questions. 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 expand upon our Blue Series and bring to life the ultimate wall controller and switch combination. One that we’ve been trying to bring to market since 2020. There will be a lot of different combinations you can set this controller to from 2 buttons to 8, backlit or non-back-lit, the choice is yours.

We will also give this the ability to be paired this a separate Fan Canopy module to bring back the Fan/Light switch that was one of our most popular light switches.

So, not only can this be wall controller, it can be a light switch, but also via Zigbee Bindings, it can give you full access to controlling both your fan and lights separately!

Project Name - Walt

I chose the name Walt to dedicate this to my dad, who passed away unexpectedly in April 2023. He was an electrical engineer who was always tinkering with things and had a knack for figuring out how to get things to work properly. I thought it would be fitting to have this project named after him because this is going to be quite the engineering feat to pull off as there is a lot jam packed into this controller.

My goal is to make an incredible controller that will be put into 1,000’s of houses across North America that gives people the same joy that my dad brought me. I’m looking forward to building this one with everyone as it holds a special meaning to me (and quite frankly, I want to make my dad proud)!


Walt - Hardware Requirements
The hardware for this controller will have a modular design that will give you full customization of what you’d like your controller to function as. You can choose from either having a traditional LED Bar design similar to our current switches, or you can have a backlit design by etching into the plastic exposing the LED’s underneath.

Hardware

The default will be the two button design, but all pieces will be included in the package so you can snap off and back on a new orientation of buttons.

NOTE: Subject to change as R&D has not kicked off.

Hardware - Controller (Look / Feel)

  • Modular Paddle: the paddle should be able to work in a modular way so that the customer can pop buttons out and configure the wall controller however they want
  • RGB LED Bars: will be multipurpose (notifications, load display status, etc.)
    • LED’s should be RGB (artificial white included)
    • LED’s should also be able to be dimmed
  • Colors: the contoller paddle 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)
  • Backlit: the controller should have the ability to be backlit in case the customer etches the paddle
  • Slim Design: depth of switch should be as slim as possible so that it can fit into metal boxes.
  • Air Gap: UL requirement
  • No heat-sink tabs: remove heat sink tabs for easier installation (note: may have to sacrifice max wattage)

Hardware - Features & Capabilities

Should follow 2-1 Switch tooling and capabilities if possible.

  • ZigBee 3.0: use the latest ZigBee chipset (MG24)
  • 3-Way / 4-Way Ready: should work in multiple different settings in a 3 & 4 Way setting
    • Should work with an auxiliary switch
    • Should work with another smart switch (if wired to another smart switch, it should be able to detect this)
    • NOTE: This switch will not be able to work with a dumb/existing switch due to space constraints
  • Power Monitoring: switch should measure the power consumption
  • ZigBee Distance Estimator: should be able to estimate the signal strength of the ZigBee signal and notify via the LED bar
  • Instant On: when tapped 1x (and scenes aren’t used), switch should turn the bulb on instantly (no delay)
    • Configurable delay in 100ms increments (see tech doc)
  • CFL & LED Compatibility: minimum buzz and flickering
  • Neutral & Non-Neutral Compatibility: switch should be able to work with a neutral wire or without a neutral wire
    • Should auto-detect which setting it’s in (neutral/non-neutral, aux/dumb) and if it can’t, then there should be a manual override.
  • Auto-Detect Neutral/Non-Neutral: Switch should detect whether or not it’s connected to a neutral wire or not
  • Leading/Trailing Edge Dimming: the controller should be able to switch between leading and trailing edge for better compatibility with bulbs

Walt - Software Requirements
Will follow a lot of the 2-1 Switch firmware, but will add in more scene control features

  • On/Off or Dimmer: Switch should be able to be either an on/off or dimmer depending on what the user sets it as
  • ZigBee Scene Control: Multi-taps to activate various scenes
  • RGBW Bar Config: Bar should be able to change colors and dimmed to the customer’s favorite level
    • LED bar will also be fully addressable (thanks for the call out @suzakutk!)
    • Animations that mimic our 2-1 & Fan + the addition of weather animations
  • Auto Timer: Switch should have a timer that shuts the switch off after a certain amount of time
  • Easy Config: Switch should be able to be configured via the config / favorite button.
    • There should be infinite customization via parameters in the firmware, but also set customizations for HUB’s that do not allow parameter changes (ie: Wink)
  • Internal Relay Disable: Internal relay should be able to be disabled locally and via ZigBee
  • Minimum dim level / Maximum dim level
  • Ramp rate configuration: Ability to change how fast/slow light turns on
  • Ramp rate & instant on/off separated
  • Default Dim Level: Ability to set the default dim level
  • OTA Ready: Ability to update firmware via OTA
  • Zigbee Bindings (Individual & Group)
  • Smart Bulb Mode
  • Leading/Trailing Edge: Switch should have both leading and trailing edge algorithms for greater bulb compatibility

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.

Pre-Initial Timeline Milestones:

  • Present PRD: Completed
  • R&D Analyzation: Completed
  • Initial Timeline Released: Completed

Timeline (Estimated)

The initial timeline will be shown below once released and will be updated bi-weekly (if needed).

  1. Project Build Review
    Est Completion Date: Sept. 16, 2023
    Status: NOT STARTED

  2. Detailed Design
    Details: ID/Structure Design, PCB Layout & PCBA Making, Firmware Design & Test
    Est Completion Date: Nov. 15, 2023
    Status: NOT STARTED

  3. Project Build Review
    Est Completion Date: Nov 25, 2023
    Status: NOT STARTED

  4. Hand Sample Testing & Verification
    Est Completion Date: Nov 30, 2023
    Status: NOT STARTED

  5. Packaging Design
    Est Completion Date: Dec 14, 2023
    Status: NOT STARTED

  6. Tooling Build
    Est Completion Date: Dec 25, 2023
    Status: NOT STARTED

  7. Trial Run
    Details: Materials Purchasing & Trial Run on Production Line
    Est Completion Date: Jan 15, 2024
    Status: NOT STARTED

  8. Certification
    Details: Zigbee, FCC/IC, ETL
    Est Completion Date: Mar 15, 2024
    Status: NOT STARTED

  9. Mass Production
    Est Completion Date: April 30, 2024
    Status: NOT STARTED


Pinned Ideas & Shout-Outs
Here are the ideas from the community. We sincerely appreciate them, we love them, and we couldn’t create the products we do without them. So, thank you for your input and let’s continue to innovate together and change the home automation category for the better (NOTE: if an idea is crossed out, it’s not because it wasn’t valid, nor was it something we didn’t consider – we’ve discussed it internally or with the manufacturer and unfortunately it was not feasible).

Hardware

Software


Monthly Recap
Every month 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 the manufacturer as well.

July 29th, 2023: We’ve received multiple RFP’s back and we’ll be awarding the manufacturer the first week in August. We have one last conversation this upcoming week surrounding what country this will be made in.

August 30, 2023: Project is officially kicked off and we received the initial timeline from the manufacturer, which has the estimated production completion date as April 30th, 2024.

25 Likes

Starting a new thread as I wanted to start fresh with this project. There was a lot of baggage in that last project that I would like to leave behind.

Quick backstory as to why this one is moving forward and why I will not let it fail.

My dad suddenly passed away in April 2023 – basically 4 years after my mom died (also sort of unexpectantly as it was from a very quick acting cancer). It’s not been easy to cope with either of them and sometimes you’ll see the side-effects stemming from their losses in that I disappear from the forums for a bit or things slip through the cracks that shouldn’t, etc. I’ve had a hard time honestly with their deaths, but I’m working on it.

Anyway, this post isn’t meant to be a sob story, but rather I want something positive to come from it in that I know we’ve been working to get the button controller out for a long time with all sorts of road bumps along the way.

Well, rather than sit back and hope for some B2B company to come in and save the day or to open up pre-orders on something that has already been pre-ordered, I’m deciding to put my own money into this project to bring it to life because I believe in it and I believe in you guys, the amazing community that has carried us and believed in us all this time.

Part of the money that my dad worked his entire life for that he passed onto my brother, sister and I will be going directly to this project (as well as a couple others) so that we can bring it to life and give people the same joy and excitement (I know it’s a light switch, but man it can be exciting playing with it lol) that my dad brought me.

So, we do not have to worry about any sort of Indiegogo, pre-order, etc – this project is fully funded by myself and I’m pumped to build this with everyone!

We will also be building a Z-Wave variant that I will start a different thread on in a bit.

Let’s go!

Eric

19 Likes

I’m so stoked!!! :metal::metal::metal:

And, great tribute to your dad.

2 Likes

Omg please make this happen.

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Lol trying – least we can do is ask!

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It would be really cool if the line/load connections were interchangeable. I suspect space constraints; this isn’t going to be possible. That said one can always ask :slight_smile:

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This will definitely be a nice addition to the growing Inovelli family of products. I can appreciate Eric’s willingness to fund this to honor his engineer father, Walt.

As an engineer, I will give Eric some fatherly advice (and will probably ignored, as kids often do).

  1. You don’t have to go it alone (at least for financing).

I’m willing to provide a check today for a product that may not arrive for 2 years (keeping in the Inovelli tradition ). I am willing to do that because of the way that Inovelli handled the 2:1 debacle. Dad raised you right!

  1. Keep it Simple Sam

2a) This product boiled down is essentially a scene controller and this should be the concentration of the product’s function.

I like the hardware requirement listing, but the motion sensor seems like overkill. As an example, will you need to wave multiple times at the switch to activate a different button function?

2b) I consider the built-in dimmer as a nice to have.

I would think that most individuals who would purchase this device will already have a number of 3-way circuits that an Aux switch could be replaced with this device. I’ve already started planning for this even though it probably won’t arrive until 2025.

2c) Beware the software bloat.

As an example, with 8 buttons and 7 count scene key presses per button, this device could initiate 56 different scenes. However, my thinking is that this device is to move scene control from nerdly users like me to everyone. It’s easy to stay in the prior product grove, but this device as you have envisioned it with up to 8 buttons, is a different beast. (Don’t get me wrong, I like the envisioned customization with up to 8 buttons and plan to fully utilize the 8 button capability.) But remember, infinite customization requires infinite testing.

Now I admit that I really like this bloat concept (we all have our wants):

“We will also give this the ability to be paired with a separate Fan Canopy module to bring back the Fan/Light switch that was one of our most popular light switches.”

This would allow me to include scene control in a couple of bedrooms that do not have 3-way lighting circuits and have a remote control fan. Perfect! Now that I have said this, my guess there will be comments on needing the dimmer function included.

A desirable additional button customization of the fan/light control would be a dual button for each (oriented either horizontally or vertically) for up/down control of the fan and light and still leave up to 4 buttons for area scene control. As an example, referencing the Eric’s back lit button configurations, the Dining and Movies buttons (third from right) could be rotated 90 degrees to be used for the fan and light functions.

5 Likes

I definitely want the ability to dim the load. I’ve got LED lights all over and strongly want the ability to dim them as desired.

I intentionally “over brighten” my fixtures so I can lighten things up well when needed… But so I can also keep the light level lower when not (and keep it very low for some occasions).

I have very few locations that need on/off functionally (but I do have a few of those, too!)

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Awesome that you’re doing this to honor your father. He sounds like he was a great father and grandfather. :heart:

I’m stoked about this! Hopefully the stars align and it is released relatively quickly. :slight_smile: And, of course -like everyone I would imagine-, I’ll volunteer for any testing. :wink:

My questions/thoughts/concerns (in no particular order):

  • Dimming capability is a must. I don’t know if it’s a blessing or a curse, but I only have 1 multi-way switch in my house. Wherever I put this is certain to replace a dimmer. (I can say certain because that one 3-way switch is hardly used and not in a location where this would provide any value.)
  • I think fleshing out the modular button capabilities and other features within that realm (different button sizing, backlit vs LED bar, etc.) is most crucial for me. As I think about where I could use these, I am coming up with different scenarios. The usual scene control and notifications (have an LED bar button that may or may not control anything, but if it is red the garage is open, green if closed, etc etc.) One device to cover both of these scenarios would be awesome.
  • Finally, (as I mentioned in the previous thread,) I think having a plan for engraving at launch is a necessity. It will be much more comforting to buy these if we know we can get them engraved properly and professionally from the start.

I am thrilled that this project is progressing. I’ll be signing up for 7 of them as soon as they’re orderable (Z-Wave flavored for me, please).

I agree with everything JB says in the previous post. I, too, 100% require dimming capability in at least a few of my locations (40+ year old wiring). I’ll just add that it would be awesome if we could set which button controls the load. A couple scenarios – of course all of this is doable via automation on the hub, but if it’s local it’ll be more reliable:

  • I have a 3-story stairwell. It would be nice to have buttons “1” “2” “3” in the same location on each keypad that control the light on floor 1, 2, or 3. Right now my keypadlincs have to have the load controlled by the upper left button, so I have “1 2 3” on the first floor, “2 1 3” on the 2nd, and “3 1 2” on the 3rd, which has definitely confused some guests.
  • The ability to have separate “on/up” and “off/down” buttons for the main load. If neighboring switches in a multi-gang box are up/down paddles, emulating that on the keypad is better for ease of use.

I also want to echo a desire to use some buttons as indicators instead of (or in addition to) as controls. Having an indicator as just another member of a scene would be incredibly powerful.

Would be great on the ZigBee version if each button could support separate bindings

Yeah I had this in the PRD, but Jasco has me nervous bc it says, “patent pending” on their site for that feature. I realize that can sometimes just be a scare tactic, but until I can verify it, I kept it out. Really cool feature tho, I agree!

Lol as a father myself, I am seeing the cycle of, “in one ear, out the other” and I’ve come to appreciate some of the life lessons I should’ve listened to!

I appreciate this! I really do :slight_smile:

As the project progresses, and we’re further down the R&D path, I would feel more comfortable opening it up for pre-orders. But it’s good to know the support is there!

Oh crap, I need to revisit the listing. There shouldn’t be a motion sensor in this switch - likely a copy/paste error from the mmWave listing. You’d think I would learn my lesson by now in copy/pasting…

Yeah I agree - I think what we’re trying to do is plan to not have multiple SKU’s for different things and try to make it work with one switch if possible. I realize this is a risk, but what I’m weighing on the flip side is that multiple SKU’s are hard to keep in stock and if we can gain some economies of scale with one SKU, I can hopefully keep costs down for you guys.

But yeah definitely something we’ll have to keep in mind as we don’t want to be sacrificing basic features just to try to be everything to everyone in one switch. I think I learned my lesson on the 2-1 with the On/Off debacle.

2025? I need you on our team haha. I’m way too optimistic with my guesses and need someone like you to balance me out :rofl:

Yeah this is a good watch out. Maybe what we could do is put something a little more basic out first and then optimize the firmware over time.

Yeah agree. The good news is every manufacturer who came back with an estimate has told us that dimming is feasible. The only issue is it won’t be 600W Incandescent, 300W LED, like our current 2-1 as this requires a lot more space.

So I’m thinking more like 150W LED, but with the average LED consuming 8-12W, this shouldn’t be a problem (fingers crossed).

The good news is there are currently some examples of modular designs out there that we’ve been studying the past few months and gave to the manufacturers for review. They’ve all come back with it being feasible and also a couple provided their opinion on how to get it so that the switch will pre-program itself to know which configuration it is in based on holding down the buttons on the configuration. It’s really quite impressive and I can’t wait to share it with you guys.

:100: - I’ve been quiet in the threads about laser engraving but we’ll likely be offering that ourselves. I’ve had some good conversations with various companies about the engraving process and it’s not too difficult to purchase a machine and work on it ourselves. I think I’m just also trying to better understand what I need in terms of both etching and laser printing. More to come, but I definitely agree with you!

Oh yeah this is a good reminder, thanks for bringing it up. I had discussed this with the internal team and agree, this needs to happen. It shouldn’t be a problem (famous last words)

Maybe I missed this earlier but can you expand on this a bit? Do you mean like the top example in my concept (the top row)?

We’re still thinking through how the indicators will work. Like do you have a button activate a scene and the indicator blinks a certain color of the scene is activated or something? I’m trying to envision how these would be used and just need some brainstorming from you guys!

Oh man that would be amazing. I wonder how possible it is to have a selection of on/off or dimming when you’re setting it up? I don’t know enough about bindings, so maybe someone can jump in, but I’m trying to think through the UX on this.

If you have it as a two button switch and wanted to have two separate bindings, would you make it so that if you tap on one button it would turn the lights on/off and then if you hold the button would it dim? How would it know to dim up/down or turn the light on/off?

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Re: Indicators:

I have a slight preference for indicators that glow through a translucent button, but the style with a little strip matches your existing products better. I’d be happy with either one. But that’s not really what I was writing about – I am more focused on functionality.

The most basic functionality for an indicator is to mirror the state of the device it’s controlling: light is on, indicator is on. More detail: intensity or color etc. mirroring something more complex about the load.

But this is a scene controller. Scenes can be mutually exclusive, and the button indicators could mirror that as well: set up like radio buttons in computer GUI design, where only the last selected is lit up. Or, this is a 3-way (n-way) scenario where one of the indicators is logically linked to a remote load.

The situations above could conceivably be done entirely within the device. Insteon keypadlinc did all the above many years ago, with much less capable hardware. But then you get into situations where we want the HA controller to take over, with complex logic and knowledge spanning multiple devices. It’s important to handle that transition in complexity.

If someone turns off one of the lights that’s supposed to be on for the current scene? Or the scene is activated via some other means? That’s something that (if the implementer is picky enough) could be noticed by the HA controller and it could turn off the indicator. But – and this is critical – turning off the indicator has nothing to do with the button that also happens to control that scene. The device should not register a button press for that button just because its indicator was changed. (Keypadlinc suffers from this issue.) Similarly, a button’s indicator could be tied (again, by the HA controller) to something unrelated – see JB’s garage door example.

Finally there are the cool effects your other devices support that use all 8 LEDs – rainbow, chase, blink, etc. – that last for a defined time. But when that time is over, the LEDs need to go back to their primary purpose. Not “how they were before the effect” but “how they should be now to reflect what they’re supposed to indicate.” Maybe someone turned on that 3-way while the chase was running. So ideally the “base” state of the button is separate from those effects, and is settable (either internally in the simple cases, or from the HA controller) even while the effect is running.

Related, but maybe more Z-Wave specific. There is an Indicator command class that certain other brand’s scene controllers use allowing the host to toggle on different indicator lights. I’d love to see support for that in addition to the current way of sending notifications. Not sure if there is something similar for Zigbee.

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This might be too late for current red/blue gen but in the future if might be worth investigation having a chip that handles all of the logic and second chip that does all the radio communication (ie zigbee/zwave/other). It should make it easier to keep the red and blue series in sync since common changes would go on the first chip.

That’s how the gen2 reds worked (more or less). I would imagine it makes things more complicated since you have to put two microcontrollers in the same tiny space and the gen3 switches were super tight with board space.

Its an interesting idea though, basically make the switch modular at construction time between radios.

I might have a bit of a unique setup, so I’ll just state my intended use case. I want to use this as a wall-mounted remote/button pad, possibly in a 4 or 5 button configuration. I don’t require the use of the Load control side, as I have an open spot in 3 locations waiting for a solution. So, a simple set-up, BUT my plan is to have 3 in the same room. It’s a basement/multi-purpose room. I have open gangs at the Bar, the TV area, and another at the entrance. On the SW/setup side, a built-in solution to link these 3 together to update the state/LEDs on the other two locations would be ideal. Another option is to have different scenes available at different locations and still update/turn off LEDs on the other switches. I also use a double tap “all-off” command at the top of the stairs as an ALL-OFF command, and the button controller would also have to update after that situation. So, I guess a polling function on the SW side to make sure the 3 locations stay updated? I am using SmartThings currently, but it’s only the basement on that system, so not a huge deal to switch platforms.

Will this switch support binding off to on sync level the way the 2 in 1 does as of version 2.14?

I imagine that’s where someone would offload that calculation to their smart home hub (e.g. Home Assistant). Let it figure out the complexities and automations of changing the light, with the switch just sending out the necessary Zigbee/Z-Wave signals to trigger those automations.

Unless, now I’m realizing, you’re probably referring to locally controlling one light with two buttons?

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You bet it will :slight_smile: