“Alexa, turn on the lights.”

Consumers like the idea that a simple voice command like this can make their home a place of simplicity and leisure, where essentially having a conversation with your walls, or the human-like personal assistant living inside them such as Amazon's Alexa, accomplishes small tasks like turning on the lights, changing the temperature, or checking the weather.

While a number of voice-activated smart home systems, like the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomeKit, have proved to be popular with consumers, a new kind of smart control system has been slowing making its way onto the connected home radar.


The introduction of hands-free gesture control systems this year presents a different option for homeowners. Chicago-based FIBARO offers the FIBARO SWIPE, a wireless gesture control pad that preforms tasks and controls smart home devices with the wave of a hand. The device recognizes six gestures—up, down, left, right, circle to the left, and circle to the right, or can be programmed with more complex sequences. The gestures can be programmed to control specific smart home devices around the house.

The control pad is designed to be integrated with the home, and so can either be installed behind the walls (and will still activate through wall paper or artwork) or disguised as a picture frame. The frame is wireless and powered by four AA batteries or a micro USB, and is currently only compatible with Z-Wave hubs, including SmartThings, Homeseer, Vera and VeraLite, and FIBARO’s own Home Center 2. The wireless gesture pad retails for $149.

Watch this video to see the FIBARO SWIPE in action.

“We developed SWIPE to offer an entirely new way of interacting with technology in the home,” said Rich Bira, managing director of FIBARO USA. “Smart home consumers no longer have to worry about having their smartphone beside them at home to control their devices and ‘scenes’ — SWIPE will deliver a no-touch, friction-less access point to control them all.”

A similar product, Bixi, is also making its way into the homes of tech-savvy consumers. It’s the first portable hand-gesture recognition device from France-based technology startup Bluemint Labs. It connects to phones, tablets and connected smart home devices through Bluetooth and recognizes gestures for contact-less use with a detection range of up to 12 inches. Say your hands are dirty from cooking but you need to scroll down to see the rest of a recipe, Bixi will recognize the hand gestures to preform the action for you. The versatile hub is compatible with both iOS and Android devices and IoT devices. The company is currently funding the device on Kickstarter, where it raised $25,000 within an hour of launch.

“We’ve created Bixi to remove the disruption of having to physically interact with a touch screen, removing the need to touch or even be in front of your device,” says Vijayaraghavan Narayanan, founder and CEO of Bixi.

At the start of 2016, San Francisco-based Elliptic Labs released their EASY IoT software, which uses ultrasonic presence-detection (think sound waves, like what is used in a radar machine) to wake up devices and enable touch-less gesture capabilities. It can be embedded by manufactures in devices such as smart thermostats, kitchen appliances, lighting controls, and security systems. Manufactures can assign meaning to specific gestures on the application and the location where the gesture is performed.

“Ultrasound is such a versatile yet robust technology that creating solutions for home use, as we are demoing today, is just the beginning,” said Laila Danielsen, CEO of Elliptic Labs in a news release earlier this year.

Will gesture-controlled smart home control systems usurp those that are voice activated? Tell us what you think.