Interface Module For Powering Wireless User Interface Through Light Switch

The present invention pertains to devices, reminiscent of user interfaces for a security system, and mechanisms for powering such devices. Some security systems are controlled through a user interface that includes a keypad and that wirelessly communicates with the safety system control. Such devices could be battery powered to allow for convenient physical placement. However, because such devices have high demands for power, the batteries require frequent replacement and/or recharging. Even when the device is positioned with an outlet nearby, a cable may have to be run from the user interface to the outlet to power the user interface, leading to an aesthetically displeasing presentation.

Wireless Touch Switch Black 1 Gang 1 way Light SwitchIn various embodiments, the systems and methods described herein provide a mechanism for powering a user interface by replacing a light switch assembly with an interface module that installs within a regular in-wall electrical switch box footprint. The interface module includes a manually operatable switch in addition to a mechanism for powering the user interface module.

In one embodiment, the invention provides an interface module for replacing a light switch assembly in an electrical switch box. The electrical switch box has an input wire coupled to a power source, an output wire coupled to a primary lighting device, and at least one threaded bore. The interface module features a housing positionable throughout the electrical switch box, a primary terminal mounted on the housing and configured to connect to the input wire, and a second terminal mounted on the housing and configured to connect with the output wire. The interface module also includes a first switch component positioned inside the housing, the primary switch component being coupled to the housing between the primary terminal and the second terminal and configured to activate and deactivate the primary lighting device when the second terminal is connected to the output wire, and a control configured to operate the first switch component. Further, the interface module includes a user interface configured to receive operating power from the power source through the first terminal when the first terminal is connected to the input wire and a wireless transmitter coupled to the user interface and configured to transmit signals indicative of inputs received through the user interface, the wireless transmitter being configured to receive operating power from the power source when the primary terminal is connected to the input wire.

Other aspects of the invention will become apparent by consideration of the detailed description and accompanying drawings.

FIG. 1 is a front view of a light switch assembly in an electrical switch box.

FIG. 2 is a front view of an interface module for replacing the light switch assembly positioned inside the electrical switch box of FIG. 1, with a user interface and a control of the interface module decoupled from the interface module.

FIG. 3 is a schematic diagram of the interface module of FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 is a side view of the interface module of FIG. 2 positioned inside the electrical switch box.

FIG. 5 is a front view of the interface module of FIG. 2 showing the user interface and the control of the interface module.

FIG. 6 is a front view of another embodiment of an interface module positioned in an electrical switch box assembly having two input and output wires, with a user interface and a control decoupled from the interface module.

FIG. 7 is a front view of another embodiment of an interface module positioned in an electrical switch box assembly having one input wire and two output wires, with a user interface and a control decoupled from the interface module.

FIG. 8 is a block diagram of the user interface modules of any of FIGS. 2-7 communicating with one or more external devices.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Before any embodiments of the invention are explained in detail, it is to be understood that the invention just isn’t limited in its application to the main points of construction and the arrangement of components set forth in the next description or illustrated in the next drawings. The invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced or of being carried out in various ways. Also, it’s to be understood that the phraseology and terminology used herein is for the aim of description and shouldn’t be thought to be limiting. The use of “including,“comprising,or “havingand variations thereof herein is supposed to encompass the items listed thereafter and equivalents thereof as well as additional items. Unless specified or limited otherwise, the terms “mounted,“connected,“supported,and “coupledand variations thereof are used broadly and encompass both direct and indirect mountings, connections, supports, and couplings. Further, “connectedand “coupledusually are not restricted to physical or mechanical connections or couplings.

FIG. 1 illustrates a light switch assembly 10 positioned within an electrical switch box 14 mounted to a wall after removal of a switch plate or outlet cover. The wall-mounted electrical switch box 14 includes a 120 V AC output wire 18 and a 120 V AC input wire 22 inside the wall and located within a periphery of the electrical switch box 14. The electrical switch box 14 also features a pair of threaded bores 34. The input wire 22 is coupled to a power source (not shown) of a residential or commercial building. The electrical switch box 14 is configured for providing power from the 120 V AC output wire 18 to a primary lighting device (not shown) located within the building.

The light switch assembly 10 includes two cylindrical bores and is coupled to the electrical switch box 14 via a pair of mounting screws threaded through the cylindrical bores of the light switch assembly 10 and the threaded bores 34 of the electrical switch box. An on-off mechanism is centrally located on the light switch assembly 10 which protrudes through an opening within the switch plate when the switch plate covers the electrical switch box 14. The light switch assembly 10 is connected to the input wire 22 and the output wire 18 via a pair of wire terminals 42, 46 using various wires and a wire nut 50. Actuation of the on-off mechanism toggles power from the input wire 22 to the output wire 18 to activate and deactivate the primary lighting device.

In the instance of FIG. 2, the light switch assembly 10 of FIG. 1 has been replaced with an interface module 62 mounted within the standard electrical switch box 14. The interface module 62 includes a primary housing 74, a first terminal 78 mounted on the primary housing 74 and connected to the input wire 22, and a second terminal 82 mounted on the first housing 74 and connected to the output wire 18. Various other wires and terminals are provided for a connection from the output wire 18 to ground. The interface module 62 includes an accessory connector 86 mounted on the primary housing 74 which protrudes outwardly from the primary housing 74 and is selectively coupleable to a user interface as discussed below. The interface module 62 further includes a pair of openings 90 coupleable to the threaded bores 34 of the electrical switch box 14 via mounting screws and configured to position the primary housing 74 inside the electrical switch box 14. As such, the interface module 62 will be installed by removing the light switch assembly 10 and replacing it with the interface module 62 within the same wall-mounted electrical switch box 14.

FIG. 3 is a schematic illustration of the circuitry of the interface module 62. The interface module 62 features a circuit 100. The components of the circuit 100 are coupled to the primary housing 74 and positioned within the first housing 74. The components of the circuit 100 are hidden behind the primary housing 74 in FIG. 2. The circuit 100 features a transformer 104, the accessory connector 86, and a primary switch component 108 (e.g., a relay, a multiway switch) coupled to the first housing 74 between the first terminal 78 and the second terminal 82, with wires connecting the varied components. The transformer 104 is configured to direct power from the ability supply (e.g., provide operating power from the ability supply) to the accessory connector 86 and/or the wireless transceiver 140. The operating power provided by the transformer 104 could also be at a voltage lower than that provided by the ability source (e.g., at a voltage lower than the 120 V provided by the input wire 22). In some constructions, the circuit 100 includes a switch-mode power supply.

FIG. 4 shows the wall mounted interface module 62 with a second housing 120 including a user interface 66. The second housing 120 is coupled to the accessory connector 86. In the instance of FIG. 4, the user interface 66 includes a keypad and a digital display mounted on the second housing 120. In other constructions, the user interface can take other forms, comparable to, for example, a touchscreen device. The second housing 120 is coupled to the accessory connector 86 by a user interface connector 124. Further, the user interface 66 is configured to receive power from the input wire 22 through the accessory connector 86, the user interface connector 124, and the respective housings 74, 120. The user interface 66 features a wireless transceiver 140 coupled to the user interface 66 and contained inside the user interface 66. The wireless transceiver 140 is configured to receive inputs from the user interface 66 and to wirelessly communicate with a remote system (as described further below). The wireless transceiver 140 receives its operating power from the ability source via the input wire 22 in the identical manner because the user interface 66. Although the example of FIG. 4 shows the wireless transceiver 140 positioned throughout the second housing 120, in some constructions, the wireless transceiver 140 is positioned within the primary housing 74 and communicates with the user interface 66 only when the user interface 66 is physically coupled to the accessory connector 86. In either case, the wireless transceiver 140 remains configured to receive power from the input wire 22. In other constructions, the wireless transceiver 140 is replaced with a wireless transmitter that is capable only of one-way communication with the remote system. Additionally, other constructions may include the user interface 66 in the primary housing 74, which can eliminate the need for the second housing 120, the accessory connector 86, and the user interface connector 124.

FIG. 5 shows a front-view of the user interface 66. The user interface 66 features a keyboard and a digital display (as discussed above) and in addition includes a switch control 70 (i.e. an on-off switch) adjacent the user interface 66. Just like the switch of the light switch assembly 10 of FIG. 1, the switch control 70 is configured to regulate the operating state of the lighting device based on the manually actuated position of the switch control 70 (e.g., manually changing the position of the switch control 70 alters the state of the primary switch component 108).

Although the instance interface module 62 illustrated in FIGS. 2-5 describes a user interface 66 that mounts on the exterior of the wall-mounted electrical switch box 14, in other configurations, the user interface 66 may be mounted adjacent the electrical switch box 14 on the wall and connected to the input wire 22 and output wire 18 via wiring inside the wall. In such a configuration, a switch plate with none operable elements may be coupled to the electrical switch box 14 to shield the electrical components. Alternatively, a regular switch control will be mounted on the exterior surface of the first housing 74 and the accessory connector can be mounted on a side surface of the first housing such that the electrical coupling between the second housing 120 and the first housing 74 is hidden throughout the interior of the wall.

FIG. 6 illustrates another example of an electrical switch box 214 mounted in a wall after removal of the switch plate, with like parts given similar numbers (i.e., increased by 200) and having similar functions. The electrical switch box 214 is positioned throughout the wall and configured to carry two light switch assemblies that will be used to operate first and second lighting devices (not shown). The electrical switch box 214 includes two pairs of threaded bores 234, 234 in addition to first and second 120 V AC input wires 222, 222and first and second 120 V AC output wires 218, 218mounted in the wall and located throughout the periphery of the electrical switch box 214. The first 120 V AC output wire 218 is connected to the primary lighting device and the second 120 V AC output wire 218is connected to the second lighting device. Further, various other wires and terminals are provided for a connection from the output wire 218 to ground. The electrical switch box 214 is configured to accommodate a first light switch assembly (not shown) and a second light switch assembly 210in a way as described above in regard to FIG. 1. In other electrical switch boxes 214, other controllable devices can be configured for control via the output wires 218, 218(e.g., ceiling fans).

Like the instance discussed above in reference to FIG. 2, the interface module 262 couples to the electrical switch box 214 via mounting screws threaded through openings 290 of the interface module 262 and into the primary pair of threaded bores 234 of the electrical switch box 214 such that the interface module 262 is positioned over an area vacated by the primary light switch assembly. The interface module 262 includes a primary housing 274, and a primary terminal 274, a second terminal 278, a 3rd terminal 250, and an accessory connector 286 mounted on the first housing 274. The first terminal 274 is connected to the first input wire 22, the second terminal 378 is connected to the first output wire 218, and the third terminal 250 is connected to the second output wire 222 The interface module 262 further includes first and second switch components (not shown) positioned within the first housing 274 with the second switch component coupled to the third terminal 250. When a second housing and a user interface (not shown) are coupled to the accessory connector 286, the first and second switch components are operable via first and second controls of the user interface to activate and deactivate the first and second lighting devices. Further, when the second housing is coupled to the accessory connector 386, the user interface and a transceiver of the user interface may draw power from the input wire 322 through the accessory connector 386.

Within the illustrated embodiment, the second light switch assembly 210may be removed and a switch plate without any operable elements could also be coupled via mounting screws to the second pair of threaded bores 234to cover the electrical components. In another construction, the interface module 262 does not have a 3rd terminal 250 and instead is configured in the same manner as the interface module 62 of FIGS. 2-5 (i.e., shouldn’t be connected to the second lighting device). In such an embodiment, a switch plate with an opening for an on-off switch of the second light switch assembly 210is provided so a user may activate and deactivate the second light switch assembly 210(which remains positioned throughout the electrical switch box 214).

FIG. 7 illustrates another embodiment of an interface module 362 with like parts given similar numbers (i.e., increased by 100 from the embodiment in FIG. 6) and having similar functions. The interface module 362 is configured to replace a light switch assembly in an electronic switch box 314 that includes a single input wire 322 connected to a power source (not shown), and first and second output wires 318, 318connected to first and second lighting devices (not shown). Various other wires and terminals are provided for a connection from the output wire 318 to ground. Like the example discussed above in reference to FIG. 6, the interface module 362 couples to the electrical switch box 314 via mounting screws threaded through openings 390 of the interface module 362 and into the first pair of threaded bores 334 of the electrical switch box 314 such that the interface module 362 is centered over the electrical switch box 314. The interface module 362 includes a primary housing 374 on that are mounted a primary terminal 378, a second terminal 382, a third terminal 350, first and second controls 370, 370 and an accessory adaptor 386. The interface module 362 further includes first and second switch components 308, 308positioned within the primary housing 374 and coupled to the primary housing 374. The primary terminal 378 is connected to the input wire 322, the second terminal is connected to the primary output wire 318, and the third terminal 350 is connected to the second output wire 318 The primary and second switch components 308, 308are configured to activate and deactivate the primary and second lighting devices upon operation of the controls 370, 370 When a second housing and a user interface (not shown) are coupled to the accessory connector 386 through a user interface connector of the second housing, the user interface and a transceiver located throughout the housing (not shown) may draw power from the input wire 322 through the accessory connector 386 and the user interface connector. In other embodiments not shown, the first and second switches 370, 370include first and second switch components that are directly toggled by operation of the primary and second switches 370, 370

As shown in FIG. 8, inputs received through a user interface 466 of an interface module 462 cause signals to be transmitted to a number of external devices 160 via a wireless transceiver 140. The shown external device 160 includes an external wireless transceiver 164 for receiving signals from the wireless transceiver 140. The wireless transceiver 140 also receives signals from the external device(s) 160 (e.g., through the external wireless transceiver 164) and displays information on the user interface 466 based on the received signals. The user interface 466, as shown, is a part of an interface module 462 which is powered by a power source and operable to regulate a primary lighting device and a second lighting device or a controllable device.

The user interface 66 could also be used as a security code input device for a building’s security system. A user may enter a security code through the keypad to enable or disable the security system, to realize entrance into a building, or to open a corresponding door. When the right security code is entered into the user interface 66, the display screen might display “Access Grantedas the corresponding door is opened.

The embodiments described above and illustrated in the figures are presented by means of example only and will not be intended as a limitation upon the concepts and principles of the current invention. As such, it will be appreciated that various changes in the weather and their configuration and arrangement are possible without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention.

Thus, the invention provides, among other things, an interface module for replacing a light switch assembly in an electrical switch box that is configured to allow operation of a control to actuate a lighting device through an output wire, and to allow a user interface and wireless transmitter to operate using the facility from an input wire of the electrical switch box. Various features and advantages of the invention are set forth in the following claims.

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