SwitchBox Control (remote engine heater)

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by DesertNomad, Aug 18, 2020.

  1. DesertNomad

    DesertNomad Pattern Altitude

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    In preparation for the winter, I plugged in my Switchbox Control today in my office. I have been paying $25 every three months for the UltraSIM and it is not responding. It didn't work well last winter as it took 20min to never to respond to SMS messages to turn on/off.

    Does anyone have an alternative solution? My hangar is a 25 minute drive away and I want something reliable. I am ready to throw my Switchbox away.
     
  2. GSDpilot

    GSDpilot Filing Flight Plan

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    Not sure if you have WiFi in your hanger, but I used an Amazon Smart plug (cost $24). I plug an extension cord into the plug, and then to the heater on the plane. I just turn the plug on through the Alexa app. Haven't had any issues, but you need Wifi or a hotspot in your hanger for it to work.
     
  3. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    I did a number of things. While I ended up with a GSM Auto device, what I started with was a cute device of my own invention:

    1 - Intermatic seven day programmable timer.
    2 - One mechanical line voltage thermostat.
    3 - One hacked up appliance extension cord.

    I ran the power from the wall into the timer which I set to come on from 2AM-10AM on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings.
    I cut the extension cord in half and connected it to the terminals of the thermostat. I plugged the thermostat into the timer and the Tannis into the thermostat. I set the thermostat at its lowest setting (I think about 45 degrees).

    Now the thing came up on mornings it was cold on the days I would likely fly.
     
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  4. DesertNomad

    DesertNomad Pattern Altitude

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    I don't have WiFi at the hangar and would prefer something that didn't come on at cold temperatures, but rather by command only.
     
  5. bradg33

    bradg33 Pattern Altitude

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    There's a much, much better solution coming very shortly from a good friend of mine (I have no interest in the company, other than him being a friend). It's called Switcheon, it's a much better product (I've demoed it) than the Switchbox. I've got a Switchbox, and it's getting tossed in favor of one of these very shortly.

    Website and link to the YouTube demo is below, should be shipping very soon (if not already). I've seen and tested the final product. The build quality is fantastic, the app is well built and it works perfect.

    https://switcheon.com/

     
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  6. murphey

    murphey Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    I never paid $25/mo, when it was TMobile, I could pay the $25 and it would last 3 months or so. You may want to check on service. I discovered that TMobile killed the service in the area around the hangar and never told me, because the SIM was assigned to Philip's company, even tho I was paying. Was forced to go AT&T, but this time the SIM is in my name, so I get the notices. Which reminds me, I need to go check on it.

    Another possible fail point - the emergency battery. I discovered when I disconnected the power in the hangar, got a message that the battery was on...then got another message that the battery was low. Had to drive out to the airport to plug it in.

    Will be very interesed in your friend's product.
     
  7. DesertNomad

    DesertNomad Pattern Altitude

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    Last edited: Aug 18, 2020
  8. bradg33

    bradg33 Pattern Altitude

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    People still use browsers other than Chrome? :)
     
  9. Rcmutz

    Rcmutz Line Up and Wait

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    Try this...I’ve had one for the last couple of years and works great. They even send me a reminder to by the 20 text per month plan when my subscription is about to run out. No additional charge if you go over slightly. Not bad for $25 per year.

    https://5gstore.com/product/8351_3g_sms_switch.html
     
  10. AA5Bman

    AA5Bman Line Up and Wait

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    Here’s what I want: a generator with a remote (cell, not WiFi-based) start. Been a while since I looked last, but I wasn’t able to find one last time I looked. I think I’m going to lose my electrical when the airport expands, and this is the best idea I can come up with.
     
  11. GMascelli

    GMascelli En-Route

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    I don’t have Wi-Fi in my hangar and my switchbox works perfect.

    Thanks for the reminder to pay on my switchbox T Mobile prepay card. I pay $10 every three months and if there is money left they roll it into the next three months.
     
  12. DesertNomad

    DesertNomad Pattern Altitude

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    Mine sometimes (50-60%) just never responds. I sent an SMS to the box 12 hours ago and still waiting for it to respond. It's fairly useless like this.
     
  13. bkspero

    bkspero Line Up and Wait

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    If you have a nearby wifi hotspot you may have internet access in your hangar without realizing it. I don't have private wifi at the hangar either, but I am an Xfinity cable customer at home and there is an Xfinity hotspot in range (there are also Optimum and one other wifi hotspots in the area as well). I use a small travel router to capture the Xfinity signal and establish a local wifi network in the hangar (cost about $30 on sale). To that I connect a wifi switch as an earlier poster recommended, and it controls power to the heaters.

    It also allows me to connect a wifi security camera that is motion activated and sends short video clips to the cloud when triggered.
     
  14. Sinistar

    Sinistar En-Route

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    Verizon 4G hotspot adds $10/month to our cell bill which allows:

    Wifi outdoor outlet with live current and voltage to be sure the tannins is drawing the 410watts of power it always does. Turn on via app the night before.

    A pair of Blink XT cameras for crude security and verify doors closed.

    Rear hangar garage door opener also on wifi.

    Non 4G tablets pick up this wifi when we arrive to download latest wx, etc.

    If we do a trip we grab the hotspot so we can pull wx at remote airports and on some occasions when flying lower.

    Going on 3rd year. I believe @Martin Pauly has a similar setup and can write it up better than I ever will.
     
  15. murphey

    murphey Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    I just swapped out the sim card (old one expired and the phone number went away) but....in order to activate and get the new number, I need the IMEI code of the unit. AT&T gave me a dummy IMEI to get the new number but warned me I may need to get the real IMEI and update my account. Anyone have any suggestions? Is it possible to hook up a computer to the switchbox and find the IMEI? Right now the unit and phone number is active - I get a dial tone but no way of knowing if it "picks up" and text messaging doesn't seem to work. It's 60 miles RT so I want to have all the details & possibilities before I head out there.
     
  16. Shepherd

    Shepherd En-Route

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    Merican ingenuity.
    I salute you!
     
  17. kyleb

    kyleb Final Approach

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    I have what appears to be the same switch "Switchbox" uses, but I bought mine off of Ebay. Like the OP, I've seen occasions where it didn't respond to commands. A reset fixed it. I (kind of) pass the airport on my commute. So if I think I *might* fly on a cold Saturday morning, I reset the switch on Friday and it works fine on Saturday. But that's a silly workaround. It should work 100% of the time.
     
  18. JoeSelch

    JoeSelch Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    Looks great.
    Right up until examining the Android app's privacy policy (use my data to further your business in any way you want and for as long as you want!)
    and app permissions (why on earth would this app need camera access?).
     
  19. bradg33

    bradg33 Pattern Altitude

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    I can't speak to the privacy policy, but I'm pretty sure the App uses the camera to take a picture of the QR code on the device's screen in order to sync the app to the box.
     
  20. bkspero

    bkspero Line Up and Wait

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    I agree. Have a similar issue with a wifi router that I use to bridge between a public Xfinity wifi hotspot and wifi devices in my hangar. My solution is to run the router's power through an old school mechanical electrical timer that cycles the power for a few minutes in the middle of the night. So it gets a daily reset without me having to go the the hangar.
     
  21. kyleb

    kyleb Final Approach

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    Damn fine idea. Track me down at Oshkosh and I'm buying you a beer.
     
  22. DGlaeser

    DGlaeser Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I have a T-Mobile pay as you go plan - $3/month (cheapest deal I could find). The biggest pain is you have to put the SIM in a phone to activate the account (support was not able to do it any other way). Once it was activated, I've never had it fail. I put money on the account once in a while when I think of it, but have it hooked to a credit card if I forget.
     
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  23. kyleb

    kyleb Final Approach

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    I have the same $3/month plan through T-mobile. My experience was that you had to go to a T-mobile owned store, not a franchise store or a retailer like Wal-mart or similar to get that $3/month plan. My only problem with it has been remembering to top it off.
     
  24. GMascelli

    GMascelli En-Route

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    I ended up putting a reminder on my phone calendar, especially through the summer months.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2020
  25. JoeSelch

    JoeSelch Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    Ah. Good point, thank you.
    I wonder if there's another way to do that "syncing," like typing in a really long code.
    No matter; this probably isn't the solution for me, although I am in market.
     
  26. Lon Stratton

    Lon Stratton Pre-Flight

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    I had a similar problem earlier this year. I emailed them, they asked for the phone number to the unit and it was working in about 20 minutes. I test it often just to make sure it's working and so far, it's been working.
     
  27. bkspero

    bkspero Line Up and Wait

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    Some day I hope to take you up on that offer<G>.
     
  28. Scott L

    Scott L Filing Flight Plan

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    I just installed one of these in my hanger. Easy to set up and operate. I had spotty reception with my Switchbox but this unit doesn’t have the same issue in my location.
     
  29. Martin Pauly

    Martin Pauly Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    I, too, just got a Switcheon for the upcoming cold season, and my first impression is excellent. Previously, I used the SwitchBox which was a good concept but had reliability issues in real life - requiring many more drives to the airport to fix a problem than I wanted to tolerate. The last two winters I used Wizen smart plugs, and that was very reliable as long as kept paying $$$ for a WIFI hotspot in my hangar. Switcheon embraces the Internet-Of-Things concept which creates a very affordable connection. No SIM card worries, no text messages. It just works.

    - Martin
     
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  30. idahoflier

    idahoflier Cleared for Takeoff

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    Installed a Switcheon in the hangar yesterday. Currently 65.9° in the hangar so won't need to use it for a while...
     
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  31. Sean Mollet

    Sean Mollet Filing Flight Plan

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    (I'm the creator of SwitcheOn)

    My initial privacy policy came from an online generator. I unchecked just about everything, since we don't have any ads and don't sell data. But, after your comment and a friend noticing a few other things in there, I went ahead and redid it using a better framework and aligned it better to how we actually operate.

    The reality is that SwitcheOn was designed from the beginning to be privacy protecting. Other than a shipping address, which is obviously necessary to actually get one, you don't have to fill in anything at all. The app works perfectly fine without any accounts, passwords or anything else. On download, it generates a random key that it stores on your phone. When you scan a box, your phone's key and the boxes key are registered together. That registration allows you to control that box. That's it. There is a spot to fill in information, like a name and email, so we can email you before the service expires to remind you to renew. But, you don't have to fill that in if you don't want. Bring me $50 worth of ale or scotch whiskey at a fly-in and I'll renew the account without even so much as a credit card number.
     
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  32. MacFly

    MacFly Line Up and Wait

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    I just ordered a Switcheon the other day. I note that a shipping label was created within an hour or so of creating the order. Should be arriving Tuesday. This is Minnesota, so winter can arrive any time now.
     
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  33. JoeSelch

    JoeSelch Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    Sean, you beat me here!

    I was going to post about how quick and accommodating you were to my non-Google Android ways.
    Now this, thank you.

    For the peanut gallery - I ordered a SwitcheOn following my first interaction with Sean.
    Quick to ship, I should receive it today and will follow up with impressions.
     
  34. Einstein376

    Einstein376 Pre-Flight

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    I replaced a Switchbox with a SwitcheOn. The Switchbox had work well enough for a couple of years using text commands as their app never worked for me. The end of the 2G service from T-Mobile along with several times last winter of not having the unit actually work - made the move to the SwitcheOn an easy decision.

    It installed and was up and running in a few minutes. The app functions great and I could not be happier with this solution from a follow Beech owner.

    Jim
     
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  35. murphey

    murphey Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    The app never worked for me, either. Unfortunately, last year when my Tmobile version ended, I ordered the ATT version. App is still useless.
     
  36. Sean Mollet

    Sean Mollet Filing Flight Plan

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    Nice plane. Gives me a bad case of turbo envy.
     
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  37. MacFly

    MacFly Line Up and Wait

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    The Switcheon I ordered came yesterday. I had no idea whether or not the local cellphone infrastructure would support IoT, but I assumed it would since there were no warnings or disclaimers about coverage and how to check it.

    At home, I have great signal strength and the Switcheon works perfectly. At the airport, in my metal hangar, a little less so. It appears to be functional at the 1 bar I get and will probably work fine, but I’m wondering if I can replace the antenna with one I can route outside the hangar where I get a solid two, maybe three bars.

    This thing is a very well-designed and well thought-out unit. I’m very pleased with the purchase, but I’d be a little more comfortable in my application if I could boost my signal strength a little bit.
     
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  38. Sean Mollet

    Sean Mollet Filing Flight Plan

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    Thanks for the nice words.

    Cell phones lie. SwitcheOn doesn't. If it shows 1 bar, that means 10-25% of optimal signal. It should work perfectly fine on 1 bar. Check the app occasionally and look for it to be shown as "offline". If it does go offline sometimes, external antennas work great.

    For an external antenna:
    At least 4.25" tall
    50 Ohm impedance (almost all of them are)
    SMA connector

    If your hangar is metal, get a magnetic mount without a ground plane. Metal hangars make great ground-plane.
    Non metal hangar, get an antenna with an internal ground-plane.
     
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  39. MacFly

    MacFly Line Up and Wait

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    I've been screwing around with this thing all afternoon while doing the usual hangar-noodling, de-bugging, waxing, and plexiglass-cleaning. It's been turning lights on and off in the hangar without fail.

    I think the Switcheon is very cool. I had a friend offer to indefinitely "loan" me his Hangar Bot (he flies a seaplane and it gets hangared all winter). That's a very elaborate unit, far more than I need, and the cell subscription costs makes Switcheon a much better deal. Nice job, Sean.
     
  40. JoeSelch

    JoeSelch Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    I'm a special snowflake with a funky phone config. And Sean at SwitcheOn went well out of his way to help me get up and running.
    It's not in the hangar yet; but, it's working flawlessly at the house.