By Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / @jp2e
Nanoleaf is finally bringing its whole-home smart lighting ambitions to fruition with the launch of its first-ever smart switches — and they come with a twist designed to make them smarter than that of the competition. The smart lighting company announced the Sense Plus Smart Light Switch and Sense Plus Smart Wireless Light Switch at CES this week, both with built-in sensors designed to learn your lighting habits. (Think Nest Learning Thermostat but for lighting.) Button Switch
These Matter-enabled, Thread-powered lighting controls have built-in motion and ambient light sensors. They’re designed to work with another new product, Nanoleaf’s Nala Learning Bridge, which acts as a hub for its smart switches to learn and intelligently adapt your lighting to your household routines. While the concept is exciting, the industrial design is going to be way too techie for most homes — and I don’t know a lot of people who are going to want tiny Nanoleaf logos all over their walls.
“We want to move smart lighting toward intelligence, towards being able to make decisions for you, instead of just remote control.”
On the flip side, Nanoleaf’s stunning new Nanoleaf Skylight will be a big hit in any home. The modular ceiling fixture is comprised of square LED panels and can mimic the presence of a skylight in your roof with tunable white light up to 3,000 lumens or offer up a dynamic lighting scene using some of its 16 million colors.
The skylight is a Matter-compatible Wi-Fi ceiling panel that can sync with sound, and it’ll have the same motion and light sensors as the Sense Plus switches. It’s similar in design to the company’s signature wall panels, but it’s hardwired, so there’s no pesky cable to deal with. Skylight starter kits of two or four packs will arrive in Q3 2023. No pricing has been announced.
The company also announced a new 4D TV Screen Mirror Camera and Addressable Lightstrip Kit, starting at $100, and confirmed that its Matter-enabled, Thread-powered Essentials light bulbs and light strips will arrive in Q1. Pricing starts at $19.99. The line includes A19, BR30, and GU10 bulbs, a recessed downlight, and a full-color light strip. Existing Nanoleaf Essentials light strips and A19 bulbs will not be upgradable to Matter.
In a reversal, however, Nanoleaf CEO Gimmy Chu said the company will offer a Matter upgrade across its full line of modular light panels and light bars (Shapes, Elements, Canvas, and Lines). “We have decided to upgrade all our panels to Matter. Customers want to know everything is future-proofed,” Chu told The Verge in an interview.
Matter compatibility means the lighting products will work with Apple Home, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Samsung SmartThings out of the box as well as any other Matter-compatible product.
First announced back at CES 2020, Nanoleaf’s Sense Plus Control smart switches have taken over four years to come to fruition. The company started out using Bluetooth mesh but switched to Thread to take advantage of its low power, lower latency, and more reliable mesh, says Chu. But then they had to wait for Matter to roll out. Now that the new smart home interoperability standard is actually here, Nanoleaf is finally able to launch what is an ambitious undertaking designed to overcome the interface challenges of smart lighting.
“Smart lighting isn't really all that smart,” says Chu, citing voice and app control as somewhat clunky and cumbersome. “What [it] needs to be is lighting that knows what kind of light you need, when you need it, and does it for you. We want to move smart lighting toward intelligence, towards being able to make decisions for you, instead of just remote control.”
“We didn’t want the system to turn off the lights at the wrong time or worse, turn them on at the wrong time.”
Using infrared motion sensors and ambient light sensors built into the hardware and learning algorithms powered by Nala, Nanoleaf’s new intelligent Automations Learning Assistant, Sense Plus is designed to learn how you like your lighting at certain times of day and offer up schedules and suggested settings for you in the Nanoleaf app.
For example, if you set your home office to full brightness at 9AM every morning and your den to a warm white in the evening, Nala should recognize that and offer to create lighting automations for you that will trigger when you enter the room, giving you the correct light at the correct time of day.
“The more you interact with the switches, the higher confidence level it will have,” says Chu. However, it won’t automatically make these adjustments. Instead, it suggests the settings in the Nanoleaf app, and you can choose to enable them. “You still keep your agency. We didn’t want the system to turn off the lights at the wrong time or worse, turn them on at the wrong time,” says Chu.
This is basically the same thing as setting up automations or routines in a smart home system such as Apple Home or Amazon Alexa with motion sensors and smart lights. But Sense Plus is doing it for you based on what it thinks you want. How effective this will be, we will have to wait and see.
Chu says Sense Plus can also learn your movements throughout your home. If you define neighboring spaces in the app, it will learn when motion sensors are triggered in sequence and offer to turn on the light in the bedroom when you walk through the hall toward that room, for example. “It’s predicting your movement around the house,” says Chu.
The system works with all Nanoleaf lights and will be compatible with all Matter-enabled lights, according to Chu. With the Nanoleaf lights, however, you will be able to use dynamic lighting scenes across Nanoleaf lights and panels, so you could have your bedroom turn various shades of blue in the evening, should you fancy that.
The switches and bridge will be released in Q3 of 2023. Pricing is not set yet, but Chu says they will be “cost-effective.” “We are aiming for around $20 for the button/wireless switch and $50 for the hardwired switch,” he says.
The hardwired Sense Plus switch does not require a neutral wire and can control both regular dimmable / non-dimmable LED bulbs or Nanoleaf smart bulbs, says Chu. The wireless switch is battery powered, and both devices are Matter compatible so they can control any Matter-enabled bulb or device.
Each switch has an on / off button and a dimmer slider (a tactile wheel on the hardwired switch and an up / down button on the wireless switch). There are also two other buttons that can be set to different functions, such as cycle through preset Nanoleaf scenes or activate a circadian lighting preset, says Chu.
The learning features are optional, and you can use the Sense Plus switches as regular smart switches without a Nala Bridge. But as they are Thread switches, they will need a Thread border router. The bridge is a border router, and the plug-in device also has built-in PIR motion and ambient light sensors and a color-changing night light. Nanoleaf’s Shapes, Elements, and Lines, which are also border routers, will be upgradeable to be a Nala Bridge, too.
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