Can Blue switches be used with Thread bulbs today (via Home Assistant)?

Hi all,
I’m new to the smart home ecosystem, so please bear with me if I’ve got any misconceptions or obvious questions here.

I’d like to replace a dozen or so BR30 ceiling lights which are wired across 4 separate circuits with something smart (with at least adjustable color temperature, though RGB would be nice to have). The features I care most about are:

  • Having switches control (on/off/dim) bulbs that are not actually on their circuit (I expect to set up all the switches in smart bulb mode)
  • Changing color temperature automatically based on time of day
  • If going with RGB-capable bulbs, then I’d also like to be able to coordinate colors or possibly patterns across multiple bulbs

From what I’ve been reading, Inovelli’s switches are some of the most flexible when it comes to setting up actions based on varying button presses, and if I got Zigbee bulbs then I would be able to use bindings for good response times as demonstrated in this video. I believe I would even be able to group the bulbs into “virtual circuits” controlled from different switches (or different # of button presses) that are not tied to the actual physical circuits — i.e. “rewiring” the current circuits so they are grouped differently.

Based on that demo video and other reviews about their quality, I was leaning towards Philips Hue bulbs + Inovelli Blue 2-1 and was prepared to follow the “Switch to Switch(es) + Bulb(s)” setup flow described in that post.

However, I then realized Nanoleaf has a new Thread/Matter BR30 bulb that seems like it may be comparable in quality/brightness and significantly cheaper than Hue (plus there’s the recent news about Hue requiring accounts). Thread/Matter ubiquity seems to be on the horizon and it sounds like more Thread devices will continue to appear on the market in the next few years, so it seems like buying Thread-capable bulbs would be the forward-thinking move.

So, my question is: what happens if I buy Thread/Matter bulbs, but Blue switches (Zigbee) today? Obviously the switches would not be able to talk directly to the bulbs yet, but if I had a hub with both Zigbee and Thread/Matter support, such as Home Assistant + SkyConnect, would I be able to implement similar features today, just without direct bindings? And when a Thread/Matter firmware upgrade becomes available for the Blues (read this would require a cable to reflash the currently available batch of Blues), would I then be able to follow similar binding steps for Thread and improve response times and retain functionality if the hub goes offline? Or is this a silly idea and should I just go with things that are proven today — Zigbee bulbs + Zigbee switches?

Thanks in advance for any insights, and cheers to everyone here and at Inovelli for being so available & supportive on the forums.

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It will work just fine. But a few things to consider…

When turning on/off lights through automation instead of something like binding, there is a noticeable delay that can be off-putting for some. Be prepared for someone to tell you they hate how slow your lights are because they don’t turn on/off as a dumb light.

It may be several years before matter reaches feature parity with what we have today with zigbee/zwave. And the fact that you have a hub that can speak multiple languages, it kind of already does what matter is aiming to do.

If it were me, I’d stick to your original plan of going hue and using binding. By the time matter matures enough to be a staple you’ll be looking to replace things anyways.

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Wait, what? I didn’t think the Thread firmware was available, yet. Can you provide a link to the announcement? I’d like to upgrade one or two of my Blues just to dip my toe in the water. Yes, I’m aware I’ll need to build a harness to flash OTW, but I think I can handle that…

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He was talking about using the Zigbee switch with a thread bulb. Thread firmware for the switches does not exist yet.

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What about dimming (if using smart bulb mode) — does dimming work via binding with Zigbee bulbs (this post and this thread seem to say so, but maybe it doesn’t work great?), and do you think it could be set up with the Nanoleaf bulbs to dim via Home Assistant?

Dimming works 1000x better via binding than it does through automation. The expected behavior is the bulb dims while you’re holding the paddle and stops dimming when you release. This is how it works through direct wire and also through binding. But with an automation you get that bit of delay, so when it hits the dim level you want and you release it keeps dimming for another half second or so.

Now with all of this in mind, if you’re looking at changing color temp based on time of day, just setup the adaptive lighting integration and forget about manual dimming. It will automatically adjust color temp and brightness based on time of day and works flawlessly. I use it in just about every room in the house now.

@rohan is correct. If using a hub like HA that speaks zigbee, zwave, matter, bluetooth, RF, etc… you can mix and match protocols and control them all through the hub. The delay I mention is because the switch will tell the hub what it’s doing, the hub will process it and run the automation and then send it out to the matter bulb. It’s not “slow” by any means, we’re talking maybe 1s max, but it’s slower than direct control.

I think it will be a while before matter evolves to a point where it would make sense to update the blue’s firmware to matter. If we were to do it now, we’d have a switch with basic on/off control and that’s about it because the protocol is still very basic right now.

Ah, that makes more sense. Too bad, though… I’ve been looking for an excuse to start building a Thread mesh, but don’t want to do it with just bulbs.

I would argue with you on this point - my automations (using Node-Red, not HA) are lightning fast: for example, a zigbee motion sensor detects motion, reports it to MQTT, Node-Red picks up on that and sends an ON command back through MQTT to a zwave switch, after which the light turns on. Happens in << 0.1s every time. Looks instantaneous to the eye (I can time it by watching for the motion sensor LED to flash when it detects motion, with an attempt to observe a delay before the lights come on). I would expect a simple HA automation to be similarly fast.

Agree that matter is still a work in progress, but disagree that there’s not a use case for a Thread+matter Blue switch - I have lots of Blues installed that perform on/off functions only. Where I see a benefit for Thread+matter now is trying out the ability to have multiple ecosystems directly interacting with the matter devices. Right now I have HA importing all my z2m switches from MQTT… HA then exports some of those to Nabu Casa so I can expose them to Alexa. With Matter, I’ve been promised the ability to have my Alexa devices see the switches/bulbs/whatever directly without the need for the MQTT/HA/Nabu Casa intermediary, and at the same time I should be able to keep my Node-Red automations running (assuming there’s a node that talks to the matter network - I haven’t looked deeply into how far along this might be)

Worth noting that Thread / Matter support is being worked on and estimated coming early next year. See: Thread 2-1 Switch (On/Off & Dimmer) | Project Jonagold (White Series) - #102 by Eric_Inovelli

This is the unfortunate truth I have to grapple with — I don’t mind having a hub to bridge two systems, but I’d like to believe that as I buy more devices in the future they can piggyback on and extend the coverage of the network I set up now (if it’s Thread) rather than building two separate meshes and thereby ending up with worse coverage within each mesh. And I’d like to not have to spend hundreds/thousands of dollars again a few years down the line to replace all the bulbs.

How does this work exactly — does the switch just keep sending out brightness levels (95%, 90%, 85%, …) as long as you hold the switch down, and the automation just has to try and keep up? Or is the switch waiting for confirmation the target level has been reached before it sends the next dim command, or something like that?

That sounds nice. For rooms whose lights are off, does it continue to adjust the color temp “in the background” so when you turn them on, they are instantly at the right color?

Are you saying Matter doesn’t even support dimming right now? I’ve seen some comments that Matter is quite limited, but haven’t seen a good source to explain exactly what it does support. If you know of one, I’d love to see it. I have been wondering whether a potential Thread/Matter firmware upgrade for the Blues would still retain the ability to customize multi-button-presses for scene control, etc. It sounds like maybe it hasn’t been decided for sure yet.

@epow – just curious, why did you go with Blues for on/off only? I’ve been wondering if I should mix & match Blues where I want dimmers and more complex functionality, but just have cheaper/simpler Zigbee or Thread switches (that match visually) in places where a simple on/off is sufficient. Some of the old products like Smart On/Off Switch looked promising (although that is Z-Wave only) — or maybe the Aux switch is what I want?

Why not? Is there something I should know? :sweat_smile:

Pretty much this. I wanted a consistent look and feel everywhere, even if the switch is way more than what’s needed in some locations.

I’m assuming Thread bulb radios will be nearly identical in performance to the radios in Zigbee bulbs… not good enough in my house, in other words. The combination of floor plan and building materials used means I absolutely rely on zigbee routers for a stable connection to far-flung bulbs. If I’m right about radio performance, I’ll need Thread repeaters/routers/whatever they’re called.

How far apart are the bulbs in your setup? I don’t know of any way I can really test this in my space without buying and installing all the bulbs :confused:

I have a group of six bulbs in a room that’s 60ft away from my coordinator, up one story, and with lots of intervening walls. Direct connection between the coordinator and the bulbs in that room is spotty at best, usually non-existent. With a strong mesh of routers, those zigbee bulbs work perfectly.

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