New Lutron Connect Bridge and App Bring IoT to RadioRA, HomeWorks QS Lighting & Shades
Introduced at CEDIA Expo 2015, Connect Bridge is Lutron’s third IoT gateway, but first for its pro-oriented lighting controls HomeWorks QS and Radio Ra 2; adds geo-fencing, cloud-based home automation integration, user customization.
Julie Jacobson · November 18, 2015
Lighting-controls giant Lutron Electronics is no stranger to the cloud, but its richest IoT-enabling gateways and apps have been reserved for Lutron’s DIY products including Caseta lighting and Serena motorized shades.
Now Lutron has introduced an IoT solution for its flagship Radio RA2 and HomeWorks QS (HWQS) lighting controls for the pro channel. It’s called Lutron Connect, comprised of the Connect Bridge IoT gateway ($300 “retail”) and Lutron Connect app (free).
It’s not the first cloud service for RA2 and HomeWorks, but it beats the legacy version called Home Control+, which provides only limited integration among Lutron’s own lighting controls, shades and (Honeywell) thermostats. It does not enable cloud-to-cloud integration with popular products and services such as Nest thermostats.
Lutron has spent the last two years improving its SHaaS (smart home as a service) platform, but the company has applied these improvements only to its consumer line of products, namely, Caseta lighting and Serena motorized shades. Those products can connect to the Internet and to other IoT products via Lutron’s newish Smart Bridge and Smart Bridge Pro gateways.
The consumer solutions provide features that the original Home Control+ for pros does not have, for example, geo-fencing and cloud-to-cloud integration with third-party devices like Nest.
The new Lutron Connect will enable most of these functions, as well as Apple and Android widgets like clock synchronization and locked-screen access.
In fact, eventually Lutron Connect will work pretty much like the Smart Bridge products, except the new model supports Radio Ra and HomeWorks QS instead of the consumer-grade Caseta lighting and Serena shades.
But not all of the Smart Bridge features, such as IFTTT integration, will be available at launch.
“IFTTT was not prioritized for the initial release of the Connect Bridge and Connect app,” says Rich Black, director of residential business sevelopment for Lutron. “HomeWorks QS already has native conditional programming, and both HWQS and RA2 have great integration with the best third-party control systems (Savant, Control4, etc.).”
What Connect will have is many of the consumer-friendly programming features already available to consumers via Smart Bridge. HomeWorks and RA2 users will enjoy a new “HomeGlance” dashboard for mobile devices, as well as more ways to personalize their UI with images.
How the Lutron Gateways Work
Currently, HomeWorks QS and Radio Ra 2 (RA2) connect to the Internet via the HWQS Processor or RA2 Main Repeater. But these controllers have been around for so long, they don’t take advantage of some of the latest cloud-based network configuration services. Furthermore, the existing Home Control+ service is not cloud-based, per se. Instead, Lutron’s local hardware is the Web server and users “remote in” to that.
Ultimately, Lutron wants to “move to an architecture where all of this [Web services] isn’t becoming a burden to the processor,” says Black. “The cloud will be a single point of contact for programming and processing.”
The new Connect Bridge and cloud service represent the first phase of that move to the cloud, but offloading all of the current HomeWorks and RA2 services to the SHaaS platform will take some time. As such, not all of the services available through the Smart Bridge and Smart Bridge Pro will be available to the Connect Bridge at launch.
At the same time, integration with third-party controllers occurs via the local network "but as more controllers move to cloud APIs, the Connect Bridge will be used to keep RA2 and HWQS systems at the leading edge of the home automation industry" via the cloud, says Black.
Right now, the only cloud-to-cloud integration for Lutron Connect is with Nest and Honeywell IP thermostats.
Physically, the Connect Bridge connects to the HWQS processor or RA2 repeater over the home network. The bridge enables easy and secure access to Lutron’s Connect service, eliminating the need for special network configurations normally required of the integrator.
The Smart Bridge gateways communicate differently. The devices include Lutron’s proprietary Clear Connect RF technology for communicating directly with Clear Connect-enabled smart devices like Serena shades, Caseta light switches, and TouchPro thermostats.
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Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org
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