In terms of automation, one of the biggest requirements for the masses is simplicity. People as a whole don’t want to be sitting on Google, trying to troubleshoot “Why does my smart light not pair with my phone” or be forced into buying up big to make a couple of lights clever. Let’s be honest though, there are the type of users that want the simple, polished results from their gear, and there are other groups that I would refer to as power users that love to tinker and make things their own. Stitchy, from Australian lighting company, M-Elec, caters for just about everyone.
To learn more about M-Elec and Stichy visit their website: M-Elec
***I am in the process of editing a Youtube Video of my experiences and will place it here***
The simple answer to the most common question: “Does it need a hub?” The simple answer is yes, these units run on the Zigbee protocol and require something to control them on that protocol. I purchased a Philips Hue Bridge for the two Stitchy Dim modules that I had to try as I have a well established Google Home (Nest for you up to date people) set of smart speakers throughout my house. The next choice would be an Amazon Alexa Plus, that simplifies things due to the smart speaker itself having the ability to recognise Stichy as it has Zigbee built in. There are plenty of budget Zigbee hubs available online that will also have a crack at the task but the Philips or the Amazon are the two most recognised and tested products for the task.
You can find more out about these two systems below:
Once I had the Hue Bridge sorted, I had the two Dim modules installed on a two gang light switch that gives me a bank of four downlights in my lounge room and another bank of two over the eating area between the kitchen and lounge room, Collectively, let’s call them the “Living Room”. Please ensure that you have a licensed electrician carry out this work, it’s very easy to do but requires the certification and skill of a trained individual to carry out the task. From my experience it took less than ten minutes and I was left to play with the modules with the switch back up on the wall and absolutely no sign that anything had changed as it’s all neatly tucked in behind the switch!
Now, just to touch on, One of the best things about Stitchy is that you can retain your current switches. For new builds and renovations this may not be such an issue but there are plenty of users that will be more than happy to hear this as they are happy with whats there, or don’t wish to spend the extra money on a product that forces you to alter whats there, especially if it is something that is smart but aesthetically doesn’t work – like a heritage home, the last thing you would want to do is put something ultra new into an ultra old home.
Now that everything was installed I downloaded the Philips Hue app on my Google Pixel 3XL and went through the paces to get it setup.
The Hue app is fantastic, and to be honest there is no bias here because I really don’t get into Philips gear normally. I opened it up, the first screen prompts you to search for a bridge, and finds it really easily. I signed up for my Hue account and within 5 minutes I had searched for the two Stitchy modules, paired them and was controlling two banks of lights like I was the king – It’s that easy.
Once everything was happy in M-Elec Stitchy / Philips Hue land, I wanted to finish the task by registering my Hue account in the Google Home app so that I could use voice control to two modules. Due to Philips being such a large company, the Hue App/account was recognised as soon as I opened the Home app and I was given the option to “Add Philips Hue to Home”. One prompt later and I was able to allocate the two Stitchy Dims a room and just tell Google what I wanted -Dead set, that easy.
Some side notes on what was in the house and how we can use the unit to prevent flickering of lights when dimming was also something I found really clever and well thought out. On the Dim module there is a button that allows you to set a load limit. To explain this further, some dimmable LED downlights can be really moody when it comes down to load reduction. For example brand A’s Dimmer might mix in well with brand B’s Downlight and we might see it get down to say 5% brightness with no issues. On the other hand brand A’s Dimmer controlling brand C’s downlight might see it get down to 30% and start to flicker, it’s hard to test this with so many lights and dimmers on the market. To combat this M-Elec have placed the load limit button on the unit so that you can work out where a light is happy on the Stitchy dimmer and keep everything running smoothly – A brilliant idea! Another common question and a feature that every company should take note of; I am always asked “This smart stuff is great but what if I just want to use the switch?” You can, Stitchy operates with the switch mechanism on the wall in mind, you can control it via the app or use voice commands but also use the switch regardless of it’s position. For example, If the switch itself is off but the lights are on as I have switched them on in the app, and then off again in the app, If I switch the mechanism on the wall it will still power the lights on. The second query is always “What if the internet is down?” Well, due to the answer above, due to that switch operating independently, you can just use it like a regular light switch again until everything is back on board. That said, if you are at home you should still be able to use your device from the application that controls it as Zigbee doesn’t require the internet for direct connection, it will only not function remotely as it would require an internet connection to do so.
My experience here is based on Philips Hue, Google Home and Android, But I did manage to use the same system with an Apple iPhone and Amazon Alexa and the experience was just as good, if not better due to the Alexa App. It’s a far more polished, native experience and offers users a much nicer graphical user interface to operate Stitchy from. With that said, there is nothing wrong with the google home side of things, but it’s sort of like ordering an UberX ( Google ) and then ordering an UberLUX ( Alexa ).
Let’s not forget that Stitchy is a friendly little fellow and can speak to Google, Amazon and Apple Home as well. It is quite rare that you will find something capable of this as there is always one of the bigger companies with their finger in the pie more than the others with smart stuff, but not here, what ever you throw at it, M-Elec have thought it out and solved any issues before they arise.
If you are looking for a well priced smart lighting/ smart home solution I would highly recommend Stichy by M-Elec. It is super clever, super easy and really well put together to make life for not only the installer but the end user really simple. In terms of what way to go with the controller ( or hub so to speak ) my personal preference would be the Amazon as it is just that little bit nicer than the others. Out of all of the stuff in my crazy little smart home ( I have so many different devices running on different protocols and applications ) but this is my favourite. Stitchy just hovers there with all of the other smart stuff and does what it needs to do without any issues, it is more than happy to blend in with the rest, but it stands out as the most sorted, polished and well priced system in my smart ecosystem.
I will be throwing updates up when I get new Stitchy products to try at home or with customers through my work and am working on setting the modules up on some third party apps and using firmware on the Hue to unlock some extra featues. Until then, If you need any more information or pricing on Stitchy, flick me an e-mail and I can chat with you about what would be best for your home and application.