NXP and Cherry team up to make an energy-harvesting wireless light switch

Last week, at CES 2013 NXP Semiconductors and Cherry — yes, the same Cherry that makes switches for mechanical keyboards — showed off a light switch. It might not seem like something that could stand up against huge OLED televisions or Android-based mobile gaming platforms, but after surveying the best of CES, you might change your mind about just how impressive this switch is. After all, this switch is wireless, battery-less, energy-harvesting, and parting of the “Internet of Things,” making it one of the most high-tech — and on trend — gadgets at the show.

The light switch, which looks like any other and includes a dimmer, is simply a combination of Cherry’s energy-harvesting switch and a radio. That radio communicates with a receiver that is placed inside the base of an LED light bulb (in most cases a standard E27 base). This means that the switch isn’t designed to work with any old LED bulb, unless the receiver, NXP’s ultra-low-power JN5168 microcontroller, is moved to a fixture or some other component behind the bulb. The JN5168 is designed to support JenNet-IP, ZigBee, and RF4CE networking stacks so it can work with multiple home automation scenarios, not just lighting.

The wireless isn’t the interesting component here, it’s Cherry’s energy-harvesting switch. The device, which Cherry seems to have actually named the “Energy Harvesting RF Switch,” manages to grab from 0.2 to 0.5mW from the switch activation. The force required to push the switch is 8 newtons or about 1.8 pounds-force (or, more technically, 8kg·m/s²) — basically you don’t need to pound this switch or rock it back-and-forth for a minute to generate a sufficient amount of power.