Lutron Electronics, the Lehigh Valley-based global giant in home lighting controls, Thursday joined the growing ranks of companies whose consumer gear and services "hear" and respond to voice commands dished to Amazon Echo and Fire TV products.
Users who pair Lutron's do-it-yourself Caseta wireless lighting control devices with Amazon's Echo smart speaker or Fire TV (streaming video receiver) will be able to orally cue Amazon's virtual assistant Alexa to switch " 'Bedroom lights full on' in the morning or 'Alexa, lower living room lights to 65 percent' for movie viewing at night," said Neil Orchowski, Lutron product development manager for strategic alliances.
Multiple microphones inside the cylindrical Amazon Echo and Fire TV's remote control capture the spoken commands and questions. The message delivery, processing, and activation route is circuitous, but almost instantaneous. A voiced user command is first whisked via the Internet to the "cloud" (an Amazon mainframe computer) for translation, then zapped back to the user's Caseta Smart Bridge hub (a WiFi signal receiver/distributor) and on to its network of wirelessly connected light switches. And soon, probably more. Caseta also supports Lutron's Serena remote-controlled window shades, plus Nest and Honeywell thermostats.
A demonstration of Echo/Caseta integration was impressive - the voice-signaling process took barely more than one second from request uttered to light bulb "on."
Given Lutron's Swiss-like neutrality, happily working with rival home automation formats, the hookup with Amazon was hardly a surprise. Orchowski said Lutron also has deals in place with Apple HomeKit, Wink-connected products (sold at Home Depot) and the Staples Connect system (spawned by Malvern-based, Internet-of-things integrator Zonoff.)
But of late, Amazon's hands-free, voice-activation feature has been capturing the lion's share of media attention, "third-party" product support, and the public's imagination.
Early Alexa skills like "Play 'Misty' for me," "Put peanut butter on the shopping list," and "What's the weather forecast?" now vie with "Call me an Uber," "Ask Capital One to pay my credit card bill," "Place my easy order with Dominos," "Ask Fitbit how I slept last night," and (soon) "Warm up the Ford."
"We're seeing the presence, the attention growing for Alexa through advertising, marketing and alliances," said Orchowski. "Amazon even put a commercial for it on the Super Bowl."
The $179.99 Echo was one of Amazon's top sellers last year, says the company. Shopping tracker 1010data reports that single model swamped the wireless speaker market, claiming 25.9 percent of all online sales - more than next biggest brands Bose and Sonos combined with multiple models.
Two new, smaller Echo variants, the system-extending $89.99 Dot and portable $129.99 Tap, should likewise push along the grand mission shared recently by Amazon executive Dave Limp: "What we're trying to do is build a computer in the cloud that's completely controlled by your voice."
And maybe build Amazon's "third billion-dollar business" too, said e-commerce veteran Scot Wingo, cofounder of ChannelAdvisor. "It could be Echo."
A starter kit of Caseta wireless products - including a Smart Bridge (supports up to 50 products), one dimmable wall switch, and a wireless remote - sells for $99.95.