Logitech’s new Pop Home Switch simplifies smart home control

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Logitech has a new device called the Pop Home Switch, and it’s a bit different from their usual offerings. A company known for Universal Remotes encrusted with physical keys, touchscreen displays and all manner of interaction options is instead going for single-button simplicity.

The Pop is a broad button about the size of your palm, which connects to a hub that plugs directly into an outlet via Bluetooth LE. The hub has the real smarts, with support for a whole host of top smart home gadgets, including Phillips Hue lights, LIFX connected bulbs, Lutron smart drapes and August locks, to name just a few. Using a companion app on either Android or iOS, you simply scan your Wi-Fi network for compatible devices, then tie those devices to one or more Pop for simplified control and recipe creation.

Individual Pops only offer a big, single button – but they can be programmed to do three different things, since you can press, double press and long press each to trigger a separate action. This means you could program a Pop to turn your Phillips Hue lights on or off, activate just a single room or group, and also set it to dim the brightness to set the mood. If you want more flexibility, the idea is you’d add more Pops; a Starter Pack comes with two and a hub, and additional Pops can easily be added to the same hub.

Part of why Logitech wanted to stick with a simple hardware solution was because of the growing app bloat associated with smart home control. Every time you add a new smart device from a different manufacturer, you basically have to add a new app to your collection, Logitech Senior Director of Home Control Neil Raggio pointed out in an interview. And even if you’re using smart home hub software, like HomeKit, having services tied to a phone is still an issue.

“A phone is actually very, very personal to you,” Raggio explained. “If your friends come over, or you’ve got a babysitter, the aspect of control that you’ve got set up on your phone, you can’t just give that person, since you’re not going to hand over your phone.”

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The Pop, of course, be used by anyone, and they come in four different colors to help people keep track of which one controls which actions. But given the range of devices Pop can control (Sonos, for instance, and your entire home theater setup if you’re also a Logitech Harmony Hub owner), I wondered why each switch wasn’t built with more programmable options. Why stop at three actions per device?

“You still want to be simple, you still want to be capable,” Raggio said. “And so we landed on three gestures, as something from a mental model that would be easy enough that a user would know those gestures.”

They’ve also found users tend to like one Pop per room, and the three actions was enough to satisfy the needs people had in any given room in most cases. And since the interface is so simple, Raggio is right that there’s value in limiting the options – I’ve used a Phillips Hue Tap for over a year now, and it still takes me a couple of seconds to remember what each of its four buttons does, and they only involve Hue.

But simplicity in control and eliminating the interface is something a lot of companies are striving for, and no sphere of tech needs simplification more than the smart home. Just getting set up can be a mess, and trying to have stuff act reliably in concert is another challenge altogether. The app for Logitech’s Pop addresses the typical difficulty of programming with easy, drag and drop recipe creation and a text-heavy UI that speaks volumes without overwhelming users.

Setting up Pop was far simpler than setting up any Logitech Harmony device, and that’s by design, since the company is looking to branch out to more mainstream users with this product, instead of its core fan base of home theater junkies.

Logitech’s single button interface is an alternative to Amazon Alexa’s conversational, voice-based approach to taking some of the confusion out of smartphone interaction. There’s not reason not to use the two in tandem, in fact, and that could fill in gaps for users who aren’t entirely comfortable with one or the other approach.

Both the Pop Home Switch Starter Pack and the Pop standalone add-on units are set to go on sale in the U.S. this month. The starter pack, which includes two Pops and a hub, retails for $99.99, and additional Pops are $39.99 per unit.

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