It's one of the smart home's most enduring pain points – now now,that Lutron have an elegant, affordable solution that looks like a strong, early contender for smart home gadget of the year.
Now available for preorder and set to ship out in June, the solution I speak or is called the Lutron Aurora, and it's a $ 40 smart dimmer dial that pairs with. What's the best part of the switch itself which locks it into the on position.
From there, just give it a tap to turn the bulbs on or off, or twist it to dim them up and down. Lutron claims you can install it in two minutes. That claim might actually be somewhat conservative – Lutron gave me a top secret demonstration of the product back at CES in January, and during that demo, snapping the thing into place took about thirty seconds.
"Lutron is pleased to join the Philips Hue's 'Friends of Hue' program offers this unique, wall-mounted smart lighting control that enjoys the Hue experience, ”said Matt Swatsky, Vice President, Residential Mid-Market Business at Lutron. "The Aurora dimmer simplifies the use of Philips Hue smart bulbs and fixtures for everyone in the home."
Translation: Even your children and in-laws will know how to use this thing.
I like almost everything about Lutron's approach here. For starters, the Aurora doubles down on one of smart lighting's top points of appeal – the smooth, flicker-free dimming – by giving you a physical point of control over the Philips Hue dimming curve . In addition, the Aurora uses Zigbee to send its signals. That means you'll need the Hue Bridge to get your router in order for it to work – but it also means that the Aurora will work if your Wi-Fi ever goes down.
As for the batteries, the Aurora runs off of a single coin battery that Lutron says will last at least three years before needing to be replaced.
The Aurora is not the first Friends of Hue accessory that simplifies smart bulb controls at the switch. Late last year, I tested out the Click smart switch from RunLessWire, previously known as the Illumra. That switch uses energy harvesting technology to power itself with every button press, so you don't have to wire it in – though you need to remove the old switch, first.
That makes the Aurora the simpler of the Two Hue scenes, as can the]another energy-harvesting Hue remote that needs no batteries. Right now, the Aurora can't trigger scenes at all.
I also like the Aurora better if it costs a little less ($ 30 seems like the magic number to me), but $ 40 still feels like a fair ask for people who want to rid themselves of a common smart lighting sticking point. We'll know more once we test it out for ourselves (stay tuned), but for now, it looks like Lutron dialed up a winner here.