SmartBug's "Swarm Intelligence" Smart Switch Packs a Lot of Features Into Your Existing Wall Boxes

Built around the Espressif ESP32, the SmartBug offers a range of features from remote appliance control to environmental sensing.

Italian startup SmartBug has launched a crowdfunding campaign to produce its eponymous drop-in smart wall switch and smart home sensor device — a gadget it claims benefits from "swarm intelligence."

"SmartBug is a single device, but it is also a collection of devices that can automate complex and engaging scenarios," explains SmartBug's Maria D'Olica. "With a set of SmartBugs, you can regulate the temperature, operate your AC, create an alarm system, monitor your power usage and much more. Its artificial intelligence learns from your behaviors and discreetly supports you as you go about your day."

The ESP32-powered SmartBug aims to be a one-stop smart home gadget for switching, sensing, and more. (📹: SmartBug)

The SmartBug itself is a small smart switch, designed for installation into standard wall sockets. Rather than a physical switch, it uses a capacitive sensor to support tap, double-tap, and long-press interactions — giving the single switch a number of control capabilities.

Inside is more than a simple touch-sensitive switch, however: The Espressif ESP32-based SmartBug also includes temperature and humidity sensors, a microphone, and a voltage and current meter, along with Wi-Fi for internet connection and inter-node mesh connectivity plus Bluetooth Low Energy for connection to external hardware. An infrared transmitter is also included, along with a user-controllable RGB LED and buzzer for feedback.

"SmartBug is an open platform," D'Olica promises. "The idea of making the technology behind SmartBug an open platform for developers was to give the device maximum flexibility. Therefore, if the app doesn’t have a particular plugin that the user needs and the user is or knows a developer, they can improve the possibilities unleashed by the device by creating the plugin wanted."

"Plugins are what gives SmartBug endless possibilities and - since it’s an open platform — enable third party developers to create abilities which extend the application. This will truly make the device limitless and will easily support new features that can automate your entire household."

Not all of these plugins, however, will be free. Instead, the company is looking to sell "plugin packs." The earliest of backers are promised a "Platinum Plugin Pack" with 12 of the buyers' choice of plugins from the company's current roster; those late to the party or buying at retail will receive a "Free Starter Pack" with just five plugins.

The SmartBug is now funding on Kickstarter, with physical rewards starting at €39 (around $46) for a single SmartBug and plugin pack. Hardware is expected to ship in October this year, if the company hits its target.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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