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Lutron RF Could Disrupt Z-Wave in Low-Cost Home Automation

Lutron’s new Smart Bridge Pro brings apps, Internet connectivity to low-cost ClearConnect dimmers, thermostats, motorized shades, new GE smart bulbs.

VIDEO: The Lutron home automation app is “the usual.” What is special is the growing Caseta ecosystem which is definitely something to watch!

Last year, Lutron introduced an entry-level line of ClearConnect wireless home automation products. Now that line has an IP bridge and apps to go with it.

The new Smart Bridge Pro ($200), introduced last week at ISC West 2014, allows users to operate their Caséta Wireless dimmers ($60 includes dimmer and Pico handheld remote), Serena motorized shades, Honeywell thermostat and future automation devices without the need for a third-party home control system. At ISC, Lutron had the system working with a GE smart bulb (launching later this year) that has the Lutron ClearConnect radio built in.

Previously, the only automation system compatible with the inexpensive Caséta line was the Staples Connect DIY system, which has a compatible ClearConnect radio built in.

imageBy way of Lutron’s Smart Bridge Pro, an app can control smart bulbs and other devices embedded with its ClearConnect radio.

In addition to app-enabling the growing line of affordable ClearConnect smart home products, the new bridge allows third-party home-control systems to integrate with the devices via an open API.

As demonstrated at ISC, already has incorporated the new solution into its cloud-based home automation service, which powers security systems from 2Gig by Linear, Interlogix, DSC and newcomer Qolsys.

Can Caséta Displace Z-Wave?

First, let’s clear up some confusion about “ClearConnect.”

Lutron uses that moniker for several RF product lines, but each line is distinct and not interoperable. As Lutron tells it, “ClearConnect” stands for reliable and robust RF, not any particular product line.

Unfortunately, when the company announces a new ClearConnect product, we are forced to ask: Which flavor?

So for purposes of this story, let’s call the new affordable ClearConnect ecosystem “Caséta” and the step-up version “Ra” for the Radio Ra2 ecosystem that uses that particular protocol.

RELATED: Staples Launches Connect Home Automation; Teams with Lutron for Lighting, Shades

Ra has had an IP bridge for several years, and already supports that ecosystem in its large portfolio of smart-home devices.

But the lighting controls, thermostats and motorized shades in the Ra line can cost three times as much as their Caséta counterparts, which can be prohibitive for the price-sensitive security industry.

A ‘Game Changer’

The incorporation of Caséta into the family opens wide the opportunity for Lutron peripherals in the home security market. Lutron has been courting that market for about three years, but with dimmers that start at about $150 each (plus required peripherals) – a price point that is palatable in the custom home integration arena, but not in the broader home security trade.

Home security dealers who do do home automation, overwhelmingly install affordable devices based on the dominant Z-Wave wireless protocol.

Z-Wave dimmers, also preferred by electricians and do-it-yourselfers, start at about $40 retail—on par with Caséta Wireless. (If a Caseta Wireless kit includes one dimmer and one handheld controller for $60 total, then the dimmer itself would probably carry a retail price of about $45.) And guess what? The Z-Wave camp really doesn’t have a DIY-friendly, affordable line of motorized window coverings like Lutron’s Serena shades in the Caséta line.

“It’s going to be a game changer for us,” says Lutron product manager Jeremy Kleinberg, who had this to say to security-only dealers: “This is sort of a no-excuse way to get into it.”

With the historically pricey Lutron control products achieving parity with their Z-Wave counterparts, Lutron could put a dent in the Z-Wave market, especially if the new GE bulbs have legs.

We wonder: Will Revolv and other RF-happy home automation systems incorporate the Caseta radio into their hubs?

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Lutron RF Could Disrupt Z-Wave in Low-Cost Home Automation

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Article Topics

News · Product News · Videos · Home Automation and Control · Control Systems · Lighting · Security · Energy Management · Z-Wave · Lutron · Isc 2014 · Ge · Smart Bulb · Z-wave · All topics

About the Author

Julie Jacobson, Co-Founder, EH Publishing / Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson. [More by Julie Jacobson]

10 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Derek Goldstein  on  04/07  at  01:25 PM

Not only will revolv integrate this line, but all other smart players in the low cost home automation space will as well.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  04/07  at  01:28 PM

Derek, the big question is whether Revolv and others will integrate through the Lutron IP hub or if they’ll build Lutron radios into their already radio-heavy hubs.

Posted by Timothy Bell  on  04/08  at  11:36 AM

Being that IP infrastructures are already in place in most homes, and IP control protocols are so simple in most Lutron platforms, they would be smart to go that route. No additional radios, just a bit of programming.

Posted by makeitadouble  on  04/10  at  11:03 AM

Julie, Since Lutron is already in stores like homedepot and lowes, it only makes sense to have a lower line to compete.  Plus the 24/7 tech. support is the best in the industry.

Posted by Tim  on  04/10  at  02:49 PM

Lutron’s products don’t employ mesh networking from my understanding and Z-Wave already is a huge snowball rolling down the hill, growing larger. 

Is Lutron going to release their own version of each device in the current Z-Wave lineup, doubtful.  No locks, no smoke detectors, nope.  But they offer DIY shades, yet end-users hate battery-powered HA solutions (some don’t know it yet).  Lutron will really just be creating competition against their own higher priced control systems.

So how exactly will it disrupt Z-Wave sales?  A rising tide lifts all boats, the HA market has a high water mark we haven’t reached.  What solutions like this WILL do is just add to the growing number of people unsatisfied with HA.  Z-Wave seems like the only option giving people a way out of the pit of proprietary tech.

Posted by Derek Goldstein  on  04/12  at  12:34 PM

I think companies will just integrate via IP.  Does Lutron even allow other manufacturers to use their wireless radios?

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  04/12  at  03:20 PM

Derek, here I am speculating that they will be opening the low-cost RF radios to third parties. Already Staples has it, Honeywell thermostat has it. I am guessing we’ll see more, hence the potential disruption. Lutron is powerful at retail and among electrical contractors, lighting specialists and CE pros.

Posted by Greg  on  04/14  at  08:28 AM

Low cost HA interest will increase if it is available at the box stores, but the feature set of the Caseta series is minimal. I would want to have scenes in my house. With the future bridge, it looks like you could do this but i can’t see myself pulling out my cell phone to chose scenes ( I would use the phone to change scenes if I was sitting down for a movie). If they came out with a compatible controller keypad (multiple buttons for scenes), I might bite.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  04/14  at  08:43 AM

Greg, I’m guessing that’s on the horizon. In any case, you can use the three-button Pico remote today (wall-mountable).

Posted by Zito  on  07/13  at  05:57 PM

I think the approach is spot on.  You get a company with superior experience and reputation to allow other companies like and Wink to integrate at a low cost.  Then these other companies that are awesome at thermostats and door locks have low cost integration units as well.  Each company makes what their good at and then the 3rd party software guys make it seamless.  Gives me a job and I’m not stuck with any one company.

Further the saturation in the realm of zwave’s RF makes the Lutron RF version an interesting read.

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