Am I understanding correctly that the Blue switches can control Hue bulbs directly or locally? Goal is reliable, hardwired switches + flexibility of smart bulbs...without chance of traditional home network disruption rendering bulbs unusable

I am looking for a smart switch solution that would be able to control smart bulbs…without relying on something that can go offline like Home Assistant (or something else on the LAN). Best I can tell, the Inovelli Blue series will do this, but I am having trouble understanding how or why it works. I’ve read about how the Hue folks aren’t open to a direct integration. So how does it work? Switch and bulbs utilize the same wireless protocol, right? Do they use a ‘generic’ hub, then, to serve as middle man, and if so, is it dead reliable? Or does Home Assistant help facilitate the initial connection and then the switches and bulbs talk to each other directly? Basically, I want the functionality of smart bulbs (in many places), but I want in-wall, ‘normal’ hardwired light switches (an Inovelli paddle switch is what I could consider a normal form factor switch). And then maybe in other places I want to control a normal bulb (which is why Inovelli is great…it’s got the various operation modes).

Are your bulbs on the Hue Bridge or paired to Home Assistant (by which I really mean one of its possible Zigbee integrations, like ZHA or Zigbee2MQTT)? This is only possible in the latter case. You can use Zigbee binding (similar to Z-Wave Association) to have one effectively directly control the other without the need for anything in between. Here is how you can set that up in ZHA, though something similar is possible in Z2M too: How To's | Setup Zigbee Binding - Home Assistant (ZHA) — so to answer part of your question, yes, you’d need Home Assistant to set this up originally, but it won’t play a role in the middle after that.

(It should also be noted that many smart bulbs, including at least some Hue generations, are reported to be poor Zigbee routers, and it may not be a good idea to mix them with non-bulb devices on the same network. I’m not sure if people who do this have only lighting on their network or just have good luck, or if there really is something about the coordinator — but I consider it an advantage of the other approaches.)

In the former case, i.e., with the Hue Bridge, you’ll need a “hub” like Home Assistant to talk to the Hue Bridge in response to events from the Blue Series switch/dimmer. This is how I have all of mine set up (except with Hubitat instead), and it’s honestly perfectly fast enough for my needs and the hub is reliable enough that I’m not worried about it going down. If it comes down to it, there are other ways to control the Hue bulbs, like via the app (though, of course, I’m doing all of this to avoid that). But everyone’s network and tastes are different, and there are some who don’t like this setup.

I know they were originally hoping to be able to get these to pair directly to a Hue Bridge network, which would theoretically allow something like the first scenario (though how exactly that could be set up in the limited Hue app may be difficult…) or at least eliminate communication between two entirely different Zigbee networks (plus your LAN) as a point of failure. Maybe some day. But in the meantime, the above still works well for me!