Voice control of the Lutron products is available today via an update to Amazon’s Alexa app.
Amazon’s Wi-Fi-equipped Echo, Tap, Dot and Fire connect via a home network to Lutron’s Caseta Smart Bridge, which plugs into a Wi-Fi router and sends wireless commands from Amazon’s devices to Lutron’s Caseta in-wall dimmers and plug-in lamp dimmers via proprietary Clear Connect technology. A smartphone and small Pico RF remotes can also be used for wireless control.
Other companies offering smart-home products with Alexa control include Nest, Honeywell, Insteon, Home Seer, Smart Things, Belkin WeMo, Philips Hue, Wink and EcoBee.
“Voice is another great input” that will coexist with smartphone control and control from Lutron’s tiny hand-held RF remotes, said Neil Orchowski, Lutron’s product development manager for strategic alliances.
To enable Alexa voice control of Lutron’s $72 in-wall dimmers and $72 plug-in lamp dimmers, consumers need Lutron’s $150 Smart Bridge. The Bridge and dimmers are available individually or in kits through Amazon and the brick-and-mortar and online stores of Apple, Best Buy, Home Depot and Lowe’s. The products are also available through Staples.com, Magnolia Design Centers, select Magnolia Home Theater stores, and electricians and lighting showrooms.
Consumers can also opt for Lutron’s $200 Smart Bridge Pro, which is sold exclusively by A/V installers, electricians, security installers and lighting showrooms for professional installation.
With the bridges, consumers can use Alexa’s far-field voice-control technology to issue voice commands from anywhere in a room, even when music is playing or a TV is on, to turn individual or groups of lights on and off, dim the lights, or raise brightness levels.
Amazon’s Echo (pictured), Tap, Dot and Fire TV connect via a home’s network to Lutron’s Caseta Smart Bridge, which plugs into a Wi-Fi router and sends wireless 433MHz commands from Amazon’s devices to Caseta in-wall dimmers and plug-in lamp dimmers .A smartphone and small Pico remote can also be used to control lights wirelessly.
“Alexa, turn off the table lamp” is one example of a voice command. Saying “Alexa, dim the table lamp” will reduce brightness by 25 percent. Consumers can also ask Alexa to dim or raise the lights in increments of 10 percent or 1 percent.
To name particular dimmers, users would assign names through their Lutron app, and Alexa will discover the devices and recognize their names when spoken.
The dimmers are compatible with LED lights, and the in-wall dimmers do not require a neutral wire, which is not available in homes built before 1965.
Use cases: Though Lutron’s Caseta systems can be conveniently controlled from smartphones and tiny Pico RF remotes, Lutron sees voice control as a supplemental control method that’s useful in certain circumstances. Consumers with their hands full in the kitchen could use voice control rather than touch a smartphone screen with messy hands, or people carrying groceries or kids could use voice control without reaching for a phone, said Neil Orchowski, Lutron’s product development manager for strategic alliances.
Voice control will also help the elderly age in place, he said.
To enable home-wide voice control, Orchowski envisions an Echo in a main living space supplemented by tiny Amazon Dots in other locations.
App vs. Alexa: Alexa voice control doesn’t yet deliver all of the control capabilities of Lutron’s smartphone app or Pico remotes, Orchowski noted. For now, Alexa’s Cloud-based voice-control engine doesn’t support scenes in which different types of home-control systems, such as lights and thermostats, can be controlled with a single command. Scene control, however, is available with Lutron’s app and Pico remotes. The app also controls Lutron’s Serena motorized shades, while Alexa doesn’t yet to so. And geofencing is possible with the Lutron app, enabling lights to turn on or off automatically when a consumer travels beyond a certain distance from the house.
Siri versus Alexa: Lutron’s Smart Bridge and Smart Bridge Pro are both Apple HomeKit-certified, so Lutron’s dimmers can be controlled by voice via Siri. But there are differences between Alexa and Siri voice control, not the least of which is the need to be near an Apple device to issue voice commands, Orchowski said.
Siri, however, supports voice control of scenes incorporating lighting and other types of HomeKit-certified devices.
Alexa and Siri voice control is currently unavailable with Lutron’s professionally installed HomeWorks and RadioRA lighting-control systems.