I’ve been thinking about lighting a lot thanks to the launch of Noon last week. Smart lighting in the home can offer more convenient control, health benefits and ambient information all with a voice command or a touch. Lighting is also becoming a source of infrastructure whether it’s sensors, speakers, alarms or even cameras.
But no one solution can provide everything in one bulb or switch. Alex Ruan, a general manager at Sengled, which puts cameras, speakers and more into light bulbs, says he hopes consumers buy a new bulb for each function as their life demands it. This requires a lot more thought about light bulbs — something most consumers don’t think about unless they’re converting to LED or a bulb has burned out.
So far it seems that the result of connectivity and digitization in lighting won’t be in easier, cleaner lighting experiences, but a chance to paralyze the consumer with endless choices about what to cram into a light bulb or switch. This is the environment that Noon has launched in.
Noon is a startup that has been building a connected lighting system for the last three years. Like the Otto lock, another recent luxury smart home product launch, it feels as though Noon is offering a product that would have made sense in 2015 before companies wised up about the challenges of supporting connected hardware and consumers became leery about paying for it.
Noon is a light switch that offers pre-programmed settings and sensors that can detect motion so they know when to turn on. The idea is more in tune with the intuitive home that predicts and meets your needs rather than the pre-programmed and command-driven home most of us live in today.
The Noon system is designed for large open rooms that have multiple light switches. My combined kitchen, living and dining room would be a good example. I’d install the Noon Director switch ($200) for one of the lights I want to control and then replace any of the other lights I want to control with the available Noon Extension switches ($100). From there, Noon tests the lights controlled by the switches and builds three different lighting scenes that use them. You can also create custom scenes.
As a user, I don’t program anything. Erik Charlton, the CEO of Noon, told me that in his company’s research about 70% of users had changed out a light switch, so he was hopeful that DIYers could install this. I was and still am skeptical of that number. However, the cost will be the big factor here. To layer all the lights in my massive downstairs room, I’d have to spend $1,000 replacing nine switches. I’d also want to swap out my colored Philips Hue bulbs in the living room initially because Noon sees those as white bulbs. (Charlton says that may change one day.)
This feels pricey unless you look at where the Noon folks are coming from. Their competition is the Lutron Caseta switches that cost $65 a pop. They are trying to replicate the custom programming a lighting engineer would offer with the Lutron professional line. The idea is that Noon combines customized lighting design with automation, whereas most other options on the market only provide automation.
Improving and automating my lighting has been the main reason I got into the smart home. It began with a connected WeMo switch in 2012 that saved me from having to climb behind my Christmas tree to turn the thing on and off. I then graduated to Hue light bulbs in 2013. The promise was less about automation (I hated going to an app to turn my lights on and off) and more about the ability to use the Hues for ambient information and fun.
Fun was obviously had in the many dance parties held in my living room, and my ambient information efforts ran the gamut from changing the light bulbs to red when the Cardinals scored a run (for my husband) to turning the lights blue when an email from a specific person arrived (for my daughter). I even made a bat phone (for my editor).
From there I graduated to switches over bulbs, and then to the Amazon Echo, multiple smart outlets and Lutron switches controlled by voice. In 2015, I made a Christmas video showing all of the lighting control pulled together. But if I thought I had reached the pinnacle of lighting automation, I was wrong.
While I did have fancy scenes that offered “dinner party” lighting or “movie” lighting, I had to manually program them and every new connected device that entered my home (and this happens a LOT) to work together. Add to this a trip to visit a high-end lighting startup called Ketra and the CEDIA show this summer and I realize that we’re only cracking the surface when it comes to the available innovation in lighting available to users today.
Noon’s best bet may not be in focusing on giving the middle class a millionaire’s lighting, but in automatically orchestrating the huge amounts of lighting options already available in homes to make it easier to program and live with. That way I could still get my ambient information from my Philips Hue bulbs where and when I need it, use a Sengled as a security camera near my front door and pull both of those back into everyday lighting when I don’t need their “double identities.”