The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing without reliable switch technology

By Mike Bolduc | March 04, 2019

C&K smart home assistant

There are billions of connected devices in our modern world, rapidly moving us into an era of increased sophistication and automation. Small devices (“nodes”) sense and control our world, creating huge amounts of data every second of every day. These devices are now found in our homes, offices, factories and hospitals, and in our smart city infrastructure. This market hardly existed a decade ago, and is already worth hundreds of billions of dollars annually. With annual growth rates (CAGR) in some sectors approaching 24%, the market value will double in a few years and, if anything, growth is accelerating.

Much of the technology focus in this area is on improved wireless communications, broadening sensor technology and energy efficiency, including devices that are completely battery-free. However, without the availability of suitable switch technology the IoT would not exist in the way we know it today.

Fundamentally, the IoT is concerned with sensing, communication and control, and brings together a wide range of technology enablers into this unprecedented network of machine-to-machine (M2M) communication. C&K is heavily involved in all hardware aspects of the IoT, with devices that support the infrastructure of communications/networking and cloud/data storage. The IoT is spawning a huge number of applications (some new and some not-so-new) and giving rise to entirely new business models and revenue streams. Switches are fundamental to providing user interfaces, control, tamper protection and more in applications encompassing factories (Industry 4.0), smart grid, smart homes, smart cities, medical solutions and transportation/logistics.

In our homes, IoT-connected devices automate more functions every day, and control security through cameras and remote door locks. Energy costs are on the rise, and the IoT increasingly controls lighting and heating/cooling to ensure that it is used efficiently with maximum convenience. In our cities, more devices are being deployed to control congestion, with smart parking meters and billing devices for toll roads. The IoT is even involved in our healthcare-enabling fitness trackers, home health monitoring and fully automatic drug delivery. This staggering range of devices and applications all have one thing in common; they rely on one or more switches to be able to function.

As one of the world’s leading switch suppliers, C&K develops and makes switches for all types of smart IoT (and other) applications. With its huge standard product range, C&K offers over 55,000 standard switches and 8.5 million switch combinations, many of which are suitable for the challenging needs of IoT applications. IoT nodes are generally small, allowing them to be placed exactly where needed. This leads to space constraints, meaning that switches need to be equally small, yet robust. Even at this small size, switches are fundamental to programming, configuring and using IoT devices, and a failure of the switch means failure of the node. C&K switches are rigorously tested and offer cycle counts of 500,000 and above – ideal for many years of service.

Given the highly portable nature of many IoT devices, switches used in them are likely to be used outdoors and will be subject to moisture and contact corrosion. For these applications, C&K switches are available with gold plating to mitigate corrosion and provide ingress protection up to IP67 to keep the moisture out.

The sound and feel of a switch as it operates (the “haptics”) are incredibly important in delivering a high-quality product that is easy and intuitive to use. This is a particular area of expertise within C&K; not only does it tune the haptics of its standard products for common applications, but it has a dedicated lab to customize haptics for any specific application.

In high-volume, cost-sensitive markets such as the IoT, product cost is always a factor. Despite their ruggedness, reliability, flexibility and configurability, C&K switches are always competitively priced.

C&K products include tactile, pushbutton, snap-acting, toggle, rocker, detect, DIP, keyswitch, navigation, rotary, slide, switchlock, thumbwheel, smart card readers, high-rel connectors and custom assemblies – and many of these can be customized to suit your particular application.


Mike Bolduc
Global Segment Manager