Category: iPad switch access

Label used to describe switch access to Apple’s iPad tablet computer.

iControl for iPad switching

Image of iControl used for switching of low voltage devices e.g. toys from an iPad

iControl for iPad Switching is the second of the two new devices launched by Pretorian Technologies. Read this blog post for a review of the iClick mains controller.

In comparison, iControl is designed for switching low voltage battery powered devices such as toys. Whereas, iClick is designed to control mains powered (110-240 volts) electrical appliances such as an electric kettle.

Both iControl and iClick bring switching capability in-the-real-world to an iPad user; that’s the interesting and new feature.

Unboxing the iControl

Open the box and you find:

  1. The iControl unit
  2. USB charging cable
  3. 2 cables with a standard 3.5mm jack plug on each end
  4. Set-up and Operating instructions

The top face of the iControl unit has a very simple layout. You see the on/off button, the battery charge indicator and two outputs where the connecting cables are plugged. On the front edge is the serial number that’s used during the paring with the iClick app on the iPad.

Image of the iClick app used with iControl available in the Apple App Store
iClick app used with iControl

You are now ready to charge the iClick. Take the USB charging cable and insert the small plug into the ‘charging port’ on the right edge. Plug the other end into a powered USB port on, say your PC. The green LED will flash indicating the battery is being charge and will go out when fully charged.

iControl needs the free iClick app to be installed on an iPad: visit the Apple App Store and search for iClick by Pretorian Technologies. Install it on your iPad as you would any other app. (Note: iClick only works on the iPad generation 3 onwards. It is not available for the iPhone.)

Set-up is exactly the same as I’ve described previously in the posting about the iClick mains controller. In summary: pair the iControl with the iClick app within the apps settings, if you want to customise the buttons, set the type of switch control then press the iPad on-screen buttons. All very simple.

Switch modes

Understanding how toys operate is helpful:

Timed: once activated many toys will operate for a short period of time without any further action by the user. Typically the toy will sing a song, recite a nursery rhyme or dance. It may last for 10 seconds or up to a minute.

  • Toys on Excitim’s website in the ‘Talking, singing and dancing’ section work in timed mode.
  • Select the ‘Direct’ switch setting in the iClick app for these types of toys.

Direct: once activated these toys work whilst the switch is continuously pressed (this is also called momentary switch mode) When pressure on the switch is released the toy stops working.

But, the iClick app can also tell the toy to remain on even though pressure on the switch may have been released. It can do this using the ‘Latched’ and ‘timed’ settings.

  • These toys on Excitim’s website work in Direct mode: bubble machine and domino train as well as others.
  • Select the ‘Direct’ switch setting in the iClick app for these types of toys.
  • Alternatively, select ‘Latched’ or ‘Timed’ settings in the app for continuous play without the need to keep pressing the switch.

If that sounds complicated feel free to contact us with your questions and I’ll be happy to help out.

iClick Quick set-up

Image of customised buttons in the iClick app to help visual recognition and associate with action, toy and switch
Customised iClick buttons

Follow these instructions for a quick set-up of the iControl and iClick app

  1. Make sure the unit is fully charged. Re-charge it if necessary.
  2. Turn on the iControl by pressing the green power switch on the face of the unit.
  3. Plug one or both jack plug leads into the sockets on the front of the iClick.
  4. Connect the plug into the socket on the adapted toys (assuming it’s a toy you want to control)
  5. Open the iClick app and make sure it is paired with the iPad.
  6. Customise the on-screen buttons for added interest but also for purposes of visual recognition and association with ‘action / toy / switch’.
  7. Select ‘Direct’ switch mode to tell the toys to operate (appropriately ‘Latched’ or ‘Timed’ depending on the toy.
  8. Tap the on-screen buttons to make the toys work.

Watch the video

Watch the video of iControl switching a bubble machine and a fire engine – scroll to the bottom of the page.

Sleep Mode

iControl has two in-built ‘sleep’ functions designed to help save battery power.

  1. If it is not used for over one hour the unit goes into low power mode and ‘sleeps’. Pressing the ‘Power’ button turns it back on again and it will automatically re-connect with the iPad within a few seconds.
  2. When iClick is not likely to be used for some time it is advisable to put the device to ‘sleep’ manually. Press and hold the ‘Power’ button for a few seconds until the LED goes out. Pressing the ‘Power’ button again re-powers the iControl.

Considered observations

1. Simple switch control of toys through the iPad is now possible and it works very well.

2. The penetration of the iPad and apps into education and the home is so widespread that iControl will be seen as a logical addition. I predict it will be used to help animate story-telling and create sensory stimulation.

Final thoughts

At Excitim we specialise is producing switch adapted toys which means the iControl device fits in completely with what we do. We have added it to our catalogue and it can be found on the website in the iPad Accessories and Switches section. Take a look.

We also intend to explore whether the technology used in iControl can be integrated directly into toys. We’ll be talking with Dave at Pretorian Technologies about this next time we get together.

Music and Lights

The music and lights demo I set-up at the ASSERT conference and exhibition caused lots of interest and questions around how it worked together.

Twiligh Turtle Tunes featuring integrated Bluetooth speaker.
Twilight Turtle Tunes sensory light and sound toy

Just to recap, the kit consisted of a Twilight Turtle Tunes, my iPad (could also have been an iPhone or iPod Touch) and an iSwitch. Together these formed the basis of the music and lights show with optional switch control.

The iSwitch was not essential but I used it to show how switch access on the iPad could be used. Judging by the surprise people showed when they pressed the iSwitch most seemed unaware of switch access on the iPad. (Take a look at this earlier blog about ‘Using and iSwitch with the iPad’)

iSwitch for switch access to iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch
iSwitch for switch access to iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch

Twilight Turtle Tunes is a colour changing nightlight that also includes a Bluetooth speaker. As it’s Bluetooth then the iPad connects to it through the ‘Settings > Bluetooth’ menu.

Once a connection has been made the Turtle will automatically reconnect next time you use it – provided Bluetooth is ‘on’ on the iPad.


Making the Bluetooth connection

  • Switch on the Twilight Turtle Tunes and activate the Bluetooth connection by pressing the on/off button twice – the turtle will start to flash.
  • Open the iPad Setting app and go to Bluetooth and switch ‘on’. That makes the iPad look for all Bluetooth devices within range.
  • Look for ‘Cloud B’ and touch to connect it to the iPad.

Music and Lights

Cloud B Twilight Turtle projects colour changing lights
Cloud B Twilight Turtle projects colour changing lights

Open the music app and select whatever you would like to hear. Touch on the ‘play’ and you will hear it through the Twilight Turtle Tunes rather than the iPad speaker. The other feature of the Turtle Tunes is the the colour changing light show it projects from blue through green and yellow. That’s how I set-up the music and lights show.

Although I used this set-up to play music don’t imagine that’s all it can play. Essentially what you now have is a connected speaker and I’ve used it to play nursery rhymes, recorded stories even the sound track or sound effects of games, apps etc.

There are also two apps from Cloud B – the company that makes the Twilight Turtle Tunes – that play relaxing soundscapes. (a free version or a paid-for one which costs £1.49 in the App Store.) Both apps include a timer so you can adjust how long the soundscape plays at bedtime.

Switch access with the iSwitch

The iSwitch can be connected to the iPad through the same Bluetooth menu and then set to send the ‘Play/Pause’ command to the iPad.

(Have a read of ‘Using an iSwitch with the iPad’ blog post to find out about setting it up.)

The iSwitch comes into its own when the user can’t cope with the touch interface on the iPad but can cope with switches and understands the concept of ‘cause and effect’.

So, now we have a music and lights show combined with switch access; it’s so easy to set-up.

Have fun setting up your own music and lights show. Smile

Using an iSwitch with the iPad

The iSwitch gives users switch access to Apple’s iOS on the iPad (all models) iPhone (3GS onwards) and iPod Touch (3rd generation onwards). It’s produced by Pretorian Technologies Ltd and it’s their newest switch access kit for iOS. It sits alongside the APPlicator, Smoothie switches and their other assistive technology kit for iOS and PC access.

What’s in the box?

Link to the iSwitch on the Special-Needs-Toys website
iSwitch box contents: iSwitch, USB lead and Operating Instructions

The iSwitch – mines red but they also come in blue, green and yellow.

A USB charging lead.

Set-up and Operating instructions.

Let’s get going. The first thing to do is charge the iSwitch. The instruction leaflet tells you how; but simply, connect the small USB plug into the socket on the front of the iSwitch and then the larger plug into a USB socket on your computer. Turn the iSwitch over and you should see a small green light shining just above the red box; that tells you it’s charging. A full charge will likely take up to 2 hours. When it’s charged the green light goes out.

Whilst the iSwitch is charging it’s a good idea to read the instructions.

iSwitch front panel showing two switch sockets and USB charging port
iSwitch front panel showing two switch sockets and USB charging port


The first thing to notice about the iSwitch is that it has an integrated big button (75 mm diameter) switch. And, it also has the possibility to connect two more external switches through the two sockets on the front panel – see picture.

Looking left to right there’s the first external switch socket, the small USB charging socket and the second switch socket. All three switches can be set to do any of 24 commands that iOS understands. The instruction leaflet lists all of the iOS commands and for convenience the same list is on the bottom of the iSwitch as well as the buttons used to set it up.

iSwitch Control Panel

iSwitch underside showing Channel and Mode buttons and iOS commands
iSwitch underside showing Channel and Mode buttons and iOS commands

Setting up the iSwitch with an iOS command is really simple. This is what the ‘control panel’ on the base of the iSwitch looks like – see picture on the left.

Notice the two red push-buttons: the one on the left selects the ‘channel’ i.e. external switch 1, the integrated switch or external switch 2. The red button on the right sets the ‘mode’. (note: I called this the iOS command earlier.) Above are the led windows for external switch 1 or 2.

The battery charging light is at the top in the middle.

In-between the two red buttons is the red window where you’ll see the ‘mode’ you’ve set the iSwitch to send when the integrated switch or either of the two external switches are pressed.

All of the ‘mode’ commands are listed from ‘0 – zero’ to ‘U’ with an outline of what the mode command does.

On the left you can see a label that reads ‘Pretorian-59 IE32’ This is the device number the iPad sees in the Bluetooth menu. Each iSwitch has a different number along the lines of ‘Pretorian 59 ****.

Making a Bluetooth Connection

  • Go to the Bluetooth menu on your iPad (Settings then Bluetooth). Make sure Bluetooth is turned on; if not slide the iOS slider to the right.
  • Turn on the iSwitch by pressing either ‘channel or ’mode’ switch once.
  • After a few seconds the iSwitch should appear as a ‘discoverable’ device listed as something like ‘Pretorian-59 ABCD. Tap on the name and the pairing process will begin.
  • The iSwitch is ready to use when you see ‘Connected’ in the Bluetooth device list.

Which iOS Command?

Here I’m going to assume your planning to use the iSwitch with an app on the iPad. The first thing you will need to know is which iOS command(s) the app is expecting to receive. Unfortunately there’s not an international standard covering which iOS command is used to ‘scan’ or ‘select’ actions within apps. Generally, you’ll need to check each app before using it.

But here’s a general rule-of-thumb that will work most of the time:

For European apps: use ‘Space’ (mode 5) to scan within an app and ‘Enter’ (mode 6) to select an action in the app.

For North American apps: use ‘~1’ (mode 7) to scan within an app and ‘~3’ (Mode 8) to select an action in the app.

Setting the iOS command

  1. Press the ‘Channel’ button to select external switch 1, 2 or the integrated switch.
  2. Press the ‘Mode’ button to select the iOS command you need. For example, setting ‘Enter’ would mean you need to press the mode button until number ‘6’ appears in the red window.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 to set up the other switches if being used.

These steps are described in more detail in the Operating Instructions but essentially it comes down to selecting first the ‘channel’ and then assigning it an iOS command using the ‘mode’ button. Very simple and quick to set or re-set if needed.

Check this video as well: from Communicate AT in Australia.

Accessing Music Playlists and the Camera

The iSwitch can also be set to play music playlists and take pictures using the camera. The commands needed to control the music player are:

To play a music playlist

  • Mode ‘E’ for play / pause
  • Mode ‘F’ to skip a track forward
  • Mode ‘G’ to skip a track backwards
  • Mode ‘H’ to increase the volume
  • Mode ‘J’ to decrease the volume

As a minimum you’ll need mode ‘E’ on one of the switches. Setting up a second and third switch gives you more options.

To take pictures or shoot video

  • Mode ‘H’ normally used to increase music volume it also works as the shutter control in the camera app.


The iSwitch is a great iOS access device for switch control of apps. It’s simple to set-up and easy to use. I like the idea of the integrated switch and being able to connect two additional switches (if you need up to four switches then think about the APPlicator.) Recommended.