It’s a tale as old as…the smart bulb. Your house has traditional light switches that control the outlets in a room, but you have smart bulbs in the lamps or fixtures that use those outlets. Once someone flips the switch off, those bulbs don’t seem so smart. Not to mention that guests and other household members may find controlling the smart bulbs a little tricky!
We’ve seen lots of creative “solutions” to this problem: sticky notes, plastic thingies that block or prevent the switch from operating, … even unsightly electrical tape.
Enter Lutron, the maker of the original wall dimmer. The Lutron Aurora Smart Bulb Dimmer attaches to a light switch to control Philips Hue bulbs. Aurora is a battery-operated Zigbee controller designed to fit over a traditional toggle switch [note: not a Decora paddle].
It looks and works like a standard dimmer knob. Add it to your Hue hub as a “Friends of Hue” device, then pair it to control one or more Hue lights in your home. Installation is equally simple: Place it over your toggle switch in the ON position, use the included screwdriver to fasten it to the switch (locking the switch in place), and snap on the knob. In minutes, you have a functional dimmer that will toggle and dim your Hue bulbs.
We have just one word to describe this product: ingenious. Lutron has dabbled in smart bulb controllers before with its short-lived Connected Bulb Remote. Sporting a Pico Remote form factor, it paired with some Zigbee bulbs to provide remote control of some bulbs. It was a good product, and you could even trick Hue into thinking it was a Hue Dimmer (and much better one at that). But with Zigbee’s confusing and inconsistent implementation, and a relatively immature smart bulb market, it didn’t take off as Lutron had hoped.
Aurora solves nearly all the problems that fated product faced. It’s designed specifically to work with one brand: Philips Hue. Sure, it’s Zigbee-based, so it may pair with other bulbs or systems, but that’s not Lutron’s primary message to consumers. Also, it takes the room switch out of the equation, and you already have a place on the wall to mount it (over the original switch). Finally, with its sleek form factor, it looks and works like a familiar wall dimmer.
This is an incredibly useful and versatile device. While designed to obfuscate a wall switch, you could probably use a 3M Command Strip or some similar adhesive to stick the controller…anywhere. And it can pair with other Zigbee Light Link and Zigbee 3.0 devices. Surely someone will figure out some clever uses via other Zigbee-based hubs and systems!
When, Where, How
Lutron plans to start selling the Aurora Smart Bulb Dimmer in June through Philips Hue, Amazon, and a number of brick-and-mortar retailers, including Apple. Amazon shows a price of $50. The only bad news: it’s only available in white. This is a common practice (and, in our opinion, mistake) for many new smart home products. If your home has Light Almond, Ivory, or some other common switch and plate color, this may not work for your decor. Lutron says they’re “open to customer feedback and market needs. More colors may become available in the future.”
Let’s give them some community feedback: Please make the Aurora Dimmer available in Light Almond, Ivory, and Black, like most of your other consumer products!