Leviton Launches Mass-Market Home-Automation Platform, Starting with Wi-Fi Lighting
Leviton launches ‘Decora Smart’ Wi-Fi lighting products, plus app and SHaaS (smart home as a service) platform to kick off new DIY initiative that could compete with Lutron's Caseta IoT ecosystem.
Privately held Leviton Manufacturing, a giant in lighting and electrical products, just launched its first Wi-Fi-enabled smart lighting products, including three in-wall and two plug-in switches/dimmers under the Decora Smart brand.
The 110-year-old company tells CE Pro the line is just the beginning of a complete Wi-Fi ecosystem for mass-market home automation, which includes a new DIY-friendly app called My Leviton, as well as a brand new SHaaS (smart home as a service) platform for integration and remote access.
At this time, however, the new ecosystem includes just the five lighting products under the “Decora Smart with Wi-Fi Technology” banner. Then again, that’s how competitor Lutron Electronics launched its successful Caseta/Smart Bridge line of connected DIY products.
Unlike Caseta (and other non-Wi-Fi devices), Leviton’s dimmers and switches don’t require a hub for automation. They communicate to Leviton’s cloud services through an existing home network (plus they have on-board intelligence like clocks that work even when the network is down).
For added functionality, though, they can be voice-controlled out-of-the-box via Amazon Alexa and (soon) other smart-home hubs.
Meanwhile, Leviton is lining up partners for its new products and platform, just as Lutron has done.
Integration with other smart devices and hubs is “on the roadmap,” says Leviton marketing director Greg Rhoades in an interview with CE Pro.
“There will be organic expansion and partnership expansions,” he says. “We want to go way beyond lighting control and voice control. … We want to provide options with best-of-breed providers.”
Apple Homekit Lighting Coming Soon
In a month or two, Leviton will launch a separate Apple Homekit version of the Wi-Fi products for integration with the Apple Home app. Hard-core iOS fans will want to stay in the Apple family, says Rhoades, who is “very confident in this [Homekit] solution in the long term.”
He thinks Apple Home has one of the easiest set-up processes for home automation, enabling the user to enroll products by simply taking pictures of them. The app even auto-generates recommended configurations for scenes such as goodnight.
“They’ve done a really good job curating the ecosystem to bring the Apple experience to the home,” Rhoades suggests. “That’s why it’s so important to have a dedicated product that is super-easy for the user.”
He adds that Leviton makes clear on its packaging which Wi-Fi products work only with the My Leviton app and ecosystem, and which work with Homekit.
What’s Special About Leviton’s Solution
These days, Wi-Fi-enabled switches and plug-ins are fairly prevalent from mass marketers like Belkin Wemo and TP-Link ($35 and up), higher-end players like iDevices ($99), and more niche developers like Plum, which incorporates extra intelligence into its powerful LightPad ($99).
Before developing the new products, Leviton took a good hard look at the marketplace, says Leviton marketing director Greg Rhoades: “We asked, ‘What is not being done in this space?’”
In fact, Leviton does stand out in this increasingly crowded space, not least because the company is a 110-year-old leader in the lighting category.
Leviton is already a leading provider of Z-Wave light switches, dimmers and accessories. The company also makes ZigBee devices, mostly for commercial controls. Recently Leviton launched Bluetooth (BLE) switches, dimmers and fan controls, as well.
Besides their feature sets – we’ll get to those – here’s what makes Leviton’s new product line stand out from much of the competition.
1. Lighting history. After 110 years in the lighting, infrastructure and controls business, Leviton knows a thing or two about the category.
2. Automation history. In 2012, Leviton acquired Home Automation Inc. (HAI), a smart-home pioneer with more than three decades in the business, so Leviton knows a thing or two about the category.With HAI, Leviton is a leading supplier and innovator in professionally installed security systems, energy management, multiroom audio, access controls and other popular subsystems.
While its existing smart devices such as thermostats don’t employ Wi-Fi, there’s no reason why the company couldn’t develop versions with Decora Smart Wi-Fi (or Homekit). In fact, IP thermostats most likely will be the next product for the new ecosystem.
3. Decora. You know Decora™ switches – the design standard for light switches, outlets and faceplates? That’s a Leviton trademark. Besides incorporating the design into its light switches, Leviton uses the Decora look-and-feel in its numerous other product lines including electrical outlets, Ethernet and coax jacks, dumb faceplates, home-automation keypads, audio controls and more.
“We took the de facto standard for lighting [aesthetics] – Decora – and made it smart,” Rhoades explains. “It can harmonize with other Leviton Decora devices in the home, all blending seamlessly.”
Leviton makes Decora products in scores of different colors and finishes.
4. Warranty. Leviton offers a category-leading five-year warranty on its lighting products, which is about five times more generous than everyone else’s.
5. Worldwide network of installers. Leviton has a very large following of professional installers – both line-voltage electrical contractors and low-voltage integrators – that can provide automation services around the products, which is something you won’t get with DIY offerings from Belkin Wemo and others. The products are available at reduced prices from a number of wholesale distributors.
While the Wi-Fi products and My Leviton app are meant for the mass market, including DIY, the products no doubt will be embraced by Leviton’s home-automation and electrical-contracting dealers – just as we have seen with Lutron’s Caseta ecosystem (gateway/hub required).
“What’s really cool for us,” says Rhoades, “is that it lets individual consumers toe their own way into the automation world, and then provides broader opportunities for pros to build and tailor automation systems for a larger audience.”
Decora Smart with Wi-Fi: Features, Advantages
As mentioned above, Leviton’s new Wi-Fi-enabled devices don’t require a home-automation hub, as they simply use the home’s existing network for integration and remote access. This is the case with most Wi-Fi devices.
The following products in the Decora Smart Wi-Fi product family are now available for sale in all channels, including DIY and pro.
DW1KD Decora Smart with Wi-Fi Technology 1000W Dimmer
DW6HD Decora Smart with Wi-Fi Technology 600W Dimmer
DW15S Decora Smart with Wi-Fi Technology 15 Amp Switch
DW3HL Decora Smart with Wi-Fi Technology Plug-In Dimmer
DW15A Decora Smart with Wi-Fi Technology Plug-In Outlet
More product details in press release.
Unlike many smart switches, though, Leviton builds in some extra intelligence, such as a clock for controlling devices on a schedule, even if the network goes down.
Here are some other useful features of the product and the Leviton ecosystem:
1. Low prices. Retail pricing on the new products are high competitive, ranging from $40 for a plug-in switch to $50 for a 1000W in-wall dimmer.
2. No service fees. There is no charge for the My Leviton app, and no recurring fees for remote access. Of course, that could change if Leviton builds out the ecosystem.
3. Support for multiple load types. Decora Smart dimmers and switches support LED, CFL and incandescent bulbs and have also been “engineered for compatibility with sensitive low-wattage LED bulbs.”
4. Advanced settings. In addition to creating and controlling scenes, users can use the app to adjust fade rates, brightness levels, bulb types and the behavior of the LEDs embedded in the switches.
5. Off means off. Most dimmers don’t actually turn bulbs “off” when the off button is pressed and the room goes to dark. They just go imperceptibly dim. In the case of Leviton’s products, “off means off.” Leviton actually kills the connection to the load.
6. Comprehensive lighting line. As Rhoades explains, none of the other providers of Wi-Fi-based lighting controls offers the breadth of products as Leviton. For example, some companies offer switches but not dimmers, or plug-in devices but not switches, and vice versa. Most don’t offer solutions for multi-pole lighting (e.g., three-way switches) or support for multiple load types like Leviton does.
If you consider “multi-way capability, advanced technology for low wattage bulbs, plus multiple color options and wallplates to the offering … this is the most complete and advanced IoT lighting control on the market,” says Richard Westfall, VP and GM of Leviton Energy Management, Controls & Automation.
That may very well be the case.
Decora Smart Press Release - next page
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. Email Julie at email@example.com
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