Since their inception, robot vacuum cleaners have only had one goal, trying to find a way to remove the need for us to use our hands when cleaning up home. Originally, the vacuum cleaner could only vacuum, which meant it was able to remove dust, but that was all, and most of the time it was even inferior to us doing it ourselves. But after the emergence of dust collecting base stations, we started to experience “hand freedom” brought on by vacuum cleaners.
 
Since then, the vacuum cleaner has been like the equivalent of an old Nokia 3310 mobile phone, not just a screen… but countless buttons (I did love playing Snake II though). People always believed as long as there were enough letters and numbers on a keyboard, these kind of phones would always be user-friendly. The same goes for a vacuum cleaner, people always believed as long as the base station had enough functions, it would always be useful. From then on, charging, dust collection, adding water, draining, washing mops, drying mops, adding cleaning solution, UV lamps, electrolytic water… It all came around. Just throw a function onto your base station, and it’s done!
 
Is this really the way? What we ended up seeing is the base station of these robot vacuums placed in the living room getting bigger and bigger, even making us feel very out of place with our home. But the promise of “hands free” was still stuck with that good ol’ H20 (water), as it had to always be manually added and removed. And trust me, when pouring dirty water, one can really ‘feel’ the stench.
 
Just as the iPhone was to button mobile phones, using a single touch screen to replace many small physical buttons, SwitchBot planned to use a Dual Station design with SwitchBot S10 to achieve automatic water supply and drainage, replacing the all-in-one base station with a brand new path.

Why is it so difficult for integrated base stations to achieve automatic water supply and drainage?

It’s generally due to the fact that integrated robovac base stations cannot handle the relationship between water and electricity. As such, if the base station is divided according to a modular approach, the functions that need electricity would be: charging, dust collection, drying, and washing the base station. With the functions that need water being: washing your mop, adding water, and pouring out sewage.

 
So the question is, where in our home can we provide both electricity and water simultaneously?

The kitchen and bathroom have both water and electricity, but there's not a lot of space...

I don’t know if you’re thinking the same as I do…
 
If there is a place that can provide both water and electricity at the same time, it must be the kitchen and bathroom at home.
 
But when we bring a larger, integrated robovac base station to the kitchen, and bathroom, or even plan to install it with DIY water pipe fittings, what worries us is not “water” and “electricity”, but rather space issues.
 
Kitchens and bathrooms are often relatively small and are very hindering for large base stations. Even if we did install it here, imagine the scene of us walking inside a kitchen, someone’s trying to cook, and all hell breaks loose. Even going to the bathroom in the middle of the night may be a somewhat painful adventure.

With living rooms, there's no water...

This is also the result of compromise among all robovac manufacturers on the market now. The integrated base station of larger vacuums is generally placed in the living room, which not only solves the space problem but also solves the power supply problem.
 
But what about water? Well, the majority of said brands have put a clean and dirty water tank in the base station. Since we cannot directly connect to a water pipe for water supply and drainage, it means that we generally have to change the water ourselves. But I mean, come on… Is it reasonable to change water every time? Pouring sewage away every two to three days at a time. Sounds kinda stinky (literally).

Our Dual Station concept: solving space, water, and power problems all in one go.

We here at SwitchBot always believed that the best kind of any smart home experience is to be fully automatic. And that’s what this whole Dual Station design is about. There is no need to take out garbage, change water, or pour out sewage, and we don’t need to manage anything, the robot vacuum does all the cleaning on its own.
 

In order to achieve full automation whilst supplying and draining water and solving power problems, we tried many different solutions. In the beginning, we wanted to obtain water from the air around us, and then use filtered clean water from sewage to mop the floor. However, if the humidity in your living environment is too low, you’ll still need to change water… Meh, not such a good idea.

So, the plan repeatedly moved horizontally from “A” to “B”.
 
Why does the base station have to be integrated?
What will happen if there is water in the kitchen, which base station will handle the water separately?
If there is electricity and space in the living room, which base station will be responsible for electricity separately?
 
Since it is difficult for our home to start over and renovate to adapt to robot vacuum cleaners found in the market, why not let the robot vacuums adapt to our home instead?
 
A compact water-based station can be placed in a small area close to water- like kitchens and bathrooms. With the dust collection base station placed in a spacious area with access to power, like your living room. This way, not only does it cleverly solve the 3 problems we mentioned earlier, but it can also help supply water, and drain it too.

Dual Stations also bring new challenges. What if the bathroom has no power? How do we locate the Water Station then?

Although a dual base station solution is promising, it’s not as simple as it seems. We’ve taken apart and re-integrated the functions of a robot vacuum cleaner’s base station, but new issues have emerged.

What if there are no extra outlets in the kitchen or bathroom to power the Water Station?

As you can see, separating water and electricity is more complicated than one might think. We tried to delegate all water-related tasks to the Water Station, but we still encountered problems
with electricity.
 
 
While kitchens and bathrooms do have power sources, they often come with many restrictions. There may be no available outlets due to other household appliances being plugged in, or the distance between the base station and the power outlet might be too long.
 
 
Given that we’ve restructured functionality, the power consumption of the Water Station is now significantly lower. We’ve identified the possibility of powering it directly with a different power source. Therefore, we experimented with making the main vacuum cleaner unit act as its so-called charger. Each time the main unit needs to handle water tasks, it provides the necessary power. This approach effectively resolves the water and electricity challenge once again.

How does S10 accurately locate its Water Station?

This is another new challenge. If water-based stations have no electricity, how can S10 find it? We have to mention our precision navigation technology here. Large range navigation relies on high-precision maps generated by LiDAR, and close range precise docking relies on infrared.
 
If we had to give an analogy, it would be like smart cars nowadays. A map generated by LiDAR is used to intelligently plan your route. After arriving at the destination, with the assistance of various sensors, your vehicle (S10 in this case) can be accurately parked. And that’s pretty much how it works!
This was the starting point of S10‘s Dual Station design. To cope with difficult to transform home environments. We solved these three challenges through a separate design approach and achieved direct connection to water pipes for water supply and drainage, achieving the ultimate hands-free experience. Just as the iPhone is to smartphones, we believe our Dual Station design for robot vacuums will be something that shakes the industry up, maybe for good.