Switcheroo: Control Any Device From Your Mobile
Meet the Switcheroo, developed by Amal Graafstra the founder of Dangerous Things. It is a small circuit board that once installed can control almost any device from your phone. Utilizing Bluetooth low energy (BLE) and either open or secure options as they put it “Anyone can control that toy, but only you can unlock your door.”
Amal, who you may remember as the man renowned for bringing sterile easily install-able NFC implants to the public, took a few moments of his time to discuss this latest gadget with us.
XDA: “You are launching the Switcheroo via a kickstarter campaign, how long will it run and what can we expect the reward to receive a Switcheroo to be?”
Amal: “We’ve got working prototypes and we’re working on refining the firmware and feature set. We plan on launching on February 15th and the campaign will run for just 30 days, ending on March 15th. We plan on sorting out the final firmware features before the start of the campaign and full API documentation published before the end of it. The planned perk for a single board will be $35-$39 USD – we are still sorting out final costs for a couple of components. We will also have some interesting perks at the higher levels, but you’ll have to wait to see those.”
XDA: “Do you have a planned shipping date for the kickstarter rewards and for the Switcheroo? And when can we expect it to become commercially available?”
Amal: “We are tentatively planning to ship in May. We are working out final details with our contract manufacturer to ensure quick manufacturing, test, and programming the boards. In the full length Kickstarter video, we even went out on site and filmed our CM’s factory floor and call out specifically who they are. We like transparency and see no reason to keep that part of “how the sausage is made” under wraps. They’re great guys, based in the USA, and have excellent quality standards… we’re proud to be working with them.”
XDA: “One of the things that will be very important to our readers is the application. Will it be released for both Android and iOS, do you have a release date and could we see a screenshot?”
Amal: “We are working on both an Android and iOS app for sure. The original approach with Switcheroo was to focus on makers and electronics hobbyists, and the idea was to create a series of open source example apps, hosted on GitHub, which people could use as springboards for integrating Switcheroo features into their own apps. As people began responding to our pre-launch efforts, it became clear that an “official” Switcheroo application for both platforms would be a very good idea. Even so, we still plan to keep that application fully open source so others can learn from it and help develop it further.
At the moment, all of our screen shots are not really relevant because they were geared for simple example apps. However we may still end the campaign with only a simple example app ready by our ship date. The attached screenshot is hardly representative of a professionally done UI – I tossed it together for my own prototype testing. The first version of the shipping app will hopefully be much more refined.”
XDA: “You have already released guides to home automation and electronic door locks as well as showing a “coming Soon” message on Switcheroo’s website for event based actions and car ignition instructables. Do you have planned release dates for these and are you releasing any more goodies in the build up to the kickstarter launch?”
Amal: “Because the phone contains plenty of sensors, a lot of magic will happen because of the power of the phone itself. For example, we have put elements like proximity activation, link loss activation/deactivation, and “knock” pattern detection on the app development roadmap. Enabling the phone to be as intelligent as possible will only make the Switcheroo better. For example, walk up to your door, knock on your phone while it’s still in your pocket, the door unlocks – magic!
The “coming soon” for event based actions and vehicle integration are on the way. We have the event based actions project done – it’s really simple actually… but the car project is much more complex because of the way cars are. We’re trying to sort out the best way to create an instructable that will work for the majority of vehicles out there and frame it in a way that someone could extrapolate, for example, how to apply the instructable steps which will detail my own project with my own car, to their motorcycle instead. No date is planned yet, however my personal goal is to get it sorted before the campaign ends.
We are also planning a user forum where people can share their own projects. We will encourage people to use the Instructables platform to document their Switcheroo projects and post links to those instructables on the forum – though we don’t have any kind of official affiliation with Instructables, it’s just a nice platform.”
XDA: “The skill level for the two instructables you have released so far are fairly basic, was that always a goal for you, to make the product available to as many people as possible?”
Amal: “Exactly. There are people spending a bunch of money, time, wasted space, and wasted power on building these bulky Arduino based projects that basically do the same thing as Switcheroo, but in the end you can’t embed that brick of hardware into anything because it’s too large, and you can’t really power it nicely either because it’s not designed to be power efficient. The Switcheroo’s design was meant to be very small, as power efficient as possible, and enable very simple integrations with existing devices – though you could build your own projects from scratch with it too. The opto-isolator based outputs are really key to making it ultra low power yet simple and safe to connect up to other devices. I felt it was such an interesting use for optos that I put the circuit diagram symbol for them into the Switcheroo logo. Speaking of Ardruino, we are planning to release some future instructables and code that detail how to use an Arduino or Raspberry Pi to talk to the Switcheroo. There’s no reason those excellent platforms have to sit on the sidelines.”
XDA: “Security wise this might seem risky to some people, allowing a device to unlock your door, what features are in place to ensure security?”
Amal: “We leverage Bluetooth Low Energy which has been proven to have security issues with TK key exchanges. We are exploring methods to combat those issues including OOB key exchanges as well as challenge/response features in the firmware which would render a key compromise a non-threat, but those features will not be enabled in this first release. The firmware for Switcheroo will be updatable via OTA so as new features are worked out, we will push those to a public server where they can be grabbed and pushed to the Switcheroo. Including OTA firmware update capability will also be part of the example app source.”
XDA: “You are known for making NFC implants available to the masses, the guide discussing them has received over 10,000 views here on XDA, will the event based action section of the app include nfc support?”
Amal: “We’ve been considering ideas for integrating NFC with Switcheroo, and I think using NFC tag to activate the Switcheroo is a great concept. It would be fairly easy to implement. The only question is how and which NFC security features would be part of that process. Would we use the xNT’s password authentication system to verify tag authenticity? Would we store the 4-8 byte Switcheroo access code in the last one or two pages of the xNT’s memory and protect that with a password? It’s pretty interesting to start thinking about.”
XDA: “You are releasing an open API, do you have a message you’d like to give to potential developers out there?”
Amal: “The Switcheroo was made for you – the tinkerers, developers, and makers of the world. Your creativity and ingenuity are what has been making life wonderful for everyone since the beginning of time. I humbly submit the Switcheroo to this vibrant community and can’t wait to see what you do with it.”
With the launch coming up soon we look forward to seeing how this develops and any potential applications that haven’t been considered yet.
Would you have a use for a Switcheroo? Leave a comment below!