Lighting-controls giant Lutron Electronics is famous for its proprietary ClearConnect wireless home automation technology. But the company is expanding its smart-home reach into standards-based control with the new ZigBee Connected Bulb Remote Control ($30).
Introduced in time for CES 2016, the four-button keypad sits on the tabletop or mounts into a Decora-style wallplate, just like Lutron’s Pico remotes for ClearConnect.
Rather than having to pull out a smart phone to control smart bulbs, users can simply press a button on a nearby remote. But the device currently controls only Cree Connected LED bulbs and GE Link LED bulbs. And the GE bulbs require a Wink home automation hub in the mix.
The Lutron remote can be used to group light bulbs so that one button-press can turn on a whole bank of lights (up to 30) … and then dim and brighten them at once. Multiple remotes (up to seven) can be paired with a single bulb.
The interesting thing about the remote is the process of pairing, which is accomplished through near-field communications. Users hold the remote four inches from each bulb to enroll them into the device.
Details are fuzzy on the device, and due to the holidays Lutron officials weren’t available to answer such questions as: Does this move harken a deeper involvement in standards-based home technology for Lutron? What about Z-Wave?
We also don’t know quite the capabilities of the remote. For example, Lutron says it is compatible with Wink, so can it trigger a Wink-based home automation scene? Doubtful. And what about other IoT hubs like SmartThings? And for that matter, what about other ZigBee bulbs such as those from Osram (Lightify)?
A Philips Hue Connection? What about the ZigBee-based Philips Hue? Earlier this year — right when Lutron first announced its new ZigBee remote — Philips also launched a four-button dimmer switch that looks and operates (including pairing) just like Lutron’s. Does Lutron make the remote for Philips? Strangely, just as the Lutron remote was announced last week, Philips suddenly dropped “support” for once-compatible third-party ZigBee bulbs including … Cree and GE. Now it seems Philips has reversed its initial decision and is adding back the support.
Philips attributes the move to the “confusing differences in setup and resetting,” of the third-party bulbs and notes that they kept the new dimmer switch from working properly.
In any case, now that we know Lutron is cool with ZigBee, I wonder if it will incorporate the technology into its Internet gateways, including the Smart Bridge for Caseta consumer devices and the new Lutron Connect Bridge for pro-installed Radio Ra and HomeWorks QS.
Until the new year, this is all we could get from Lutron:
The connected bulb remote was developed specifically for wirelessly controllable bulbs and provides customers with more control options that will simplify daily life. As the leader in lighting control, Lutron is committed to providing control options for popular load types and is always looking for ways to enhance the customer experience inside and outside the home. Providing an alternative for controlling connected bulbs outside of an app is especially helpful this time of year when guests of all ages, who may or may not be tech savvy, are using the lights in your home.
Lutron to Launch Energi TriPak IoT Hub for Energy-Saving Automation
In other Lutron automation news, the company will be introducing in January the new Energi TriPak Hub, an IoT gateway for its Energi line of occupancy-controlled lighting.
The Energi ecosystem originally comprised a wireless occupancy/vacancy sensor, wireless light switch and Pico remote, all communicating with Lutron’s Clear Connect 433 MHz protocol. Lutron recently added PowPak fixture controllers and occupancy/daylight sensor to transform any light fixture to a smart luminaire.
The kit was designed as a low-cost solution for meeting energy codes and standards in commercial buildings: Lights turn off when a space is vacant.
The new Wi-Fi bridge extends that control into the cloud, so lights can be operated and managed remotely.
Lutron is hosting a launch meeting for reps, Jan. 6-8 in its Coopersburg, Pa., offices.
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