Disclaimer: I’m not an electrician nor an engineer so if you see something wrong in my explanation below or as I’m going through and responding, please feel free to correct me. I won’t be offended, I promise! My role is to collect the input from this thread and package it up nicely so that the everyday person (like myself) can understand it and use it easily. I’ll try my best to ask for clarity if I don’t understand.
The purpose of this thread is to discuss smart bulb mode on our switches. If I’m being honest, this feature has taken on a mind of it’s own and even I don’t understand everything it can/can’t do. I’ll outline below the history of Smart Bulb Mode, the way in which we approached it and then at the end we’ll track the changes we’ve made (and will continue to make based on feedback) so at the end of the day, we can perfect this feature as it’s a major selling point and need in the industry.
Before we dive into the history, approach and game-plan moving forward, it’s important to understand the vernacular used as it can be confusing and I will admit, I’m the primary culprit who made everyone confused as I didn’t quite understand the technology or terms being thrown around (here’s my public apology – sorry).
This was used a lot in our marketing, but I regret daily ever using this phrase as I found out later, it’s the wrong phrase to use and I get reminded almost daily here lol. I’m going to do my best to not use this phrase moving forward. However, for explanation and historical purposes, here’s what was meant by this phrase – the switch has two ways to disable the internal relay (again, I realize now that the dimmer does not have a relay so this term is incorrect): local (at the switch) and remote (via Z-Wave and your hub).
The way this phrase was used was that smart bulbs could now be controlled by disabling the internal relay from turning off (and thus keeping 100% power to the bulbs).
Disable Local & Remote Control
These are the new phrases I’m trying to push as they are a more accurate depiction of what’s going on. Alternatively, enabling local & remote protection can be used interchangeably here, but for simplicity sake, I’m just going to use the above phrase (disable local and remote control).
- Disable Local Control = removing the ability to control the load of the switch at the actual switch
- Disable Remote Control = removing the ability to control the load of the switch remotely (via Z-Wave commands and your Hub)
Scene control means the Z-Wave Central Scene Command is used to control another smart product. An example would be: Double Tap the smart switch and your smart lights turn on purple at 75%. This is commonly used on our switches with non-Z-Wave bulbs.
Associations are used to communicate Z-Wave product to Z-Wave product. It is a one-way street in that only Product A can talk to Product B (B cannot talk back to A via Association). There is a limit to how many devices Product A can control via Associations and currently our switches only support up to 5 other products. In addition, in order for Associations to work, the same security level needs to be applied across the products (No Security, S0, or S2).
History of, "Smart Bulb Mode"
Ok, so now that we have the vernacular out of the way, let’s talk a bit about the history and how we approached what is now called, “Smart Bulb Mode”.
The problem with putting smart bulbs on smart switches (or dumb switches) is that the bulbs require constant power to them in order for them to communicate with the hub/gateway they’re attached to.
Remember my disclaimer here: Traditional switches have a line attached to them (120V) and a load that goes to the light bulb and when you toggle the switch, there is a connection that either opens or closes which turns on or off the light. In smart switches, there is a relay that opens and closes, which turns on and off the load it’s connected to. It was my mistake in thinking relays are in every type of switch and why I referred to disabling local control as disabling the relay.
Either way (dimmer or on/off), there needs to be a way to keep electricity to the load to power the smart bulb.
Solution (Our Approach)
The solution has evolved (and still is evolving) to this problem over the years and while it started out, “simple”, we’ve come to realize there’s a lot to take on here. It’s not as simple as just allowing a way to keep constant power to the light/load (that was so Inovelli circa 2017), but rather now there is an LED bar, 3-Way scenarios, non-neutral scenarios, etc. Below is how we’ve tackled what’s now referred to as, “Smart Bulb Mode”:
2017 - July 17, 2020
We didn’t call it SBM back then nor had a specific feature to enable this quickly. How we approached making smart bulbs work on your switch was to do the following:
- Install your switch and turn the power on to the load (and to 100% for dimmers)
- Disable local control at the switch (Gen 1 switches could do this with a tap sequence on the paddle, Gen 2 switches do this by pressing the config button 8x)
- If you had a Z-Wave bulb, use Associations (Groups 2 & 4 for On/Off and Dimming control – NOTE: On/Off switches did not include Group 4) and if you had a non-Z-Wave bulb, use Scene Control (Various taps = change dim level of the bulb and/or color)
That was it! The premise was simply to allow full power to your smart bulb and use either Associations or Scene Control to control your smart bulb. This worked (and still does quite frankly) for 99% of use cases and the average user.
But you guys (and girls) aren’t average users and challenged us with different scenarios!
As mentioned above, SBM is much more complicated than just providing power to the load/light. With the addition of the LED bar on our switches, 3-Way setups, limited Z-Wave 500 Series space, and trying to translate this across languages and cultures, it’s been a real challenge to try to keep up.
Before we go into the modifications we’ve made, it’s important to understand the limitations from a hardware and firmware standpoint.
LED Bar (Dimmer)
Starting with Gen 2 (Black/Red Series) we added an LED bar that will track the dim level of your dumb bulbs. When you disable local control, the LED bar no longer showed you the level at which your light bulb is at.
3-Way (or Multi-Way) Setups w/a Dumb (Existing) Switch
I’m not sure if this is a hardware or firmware issue, but as of right now, if you enable local protection and use a dumb switch on the end of a multi-switch setup, operating the dumb switch will override the local protection on the Inovelli.
Local vs Cloud Processing
If your hub does not support local processing, the speed at which commands are sent can vary and user experience can suffer. In other words, trying to mimic the way a dumb bulb works with your smart switch will be very difficult as it takes time for the cloud to process.
Similar to the above limitation, mixing protocols can be difficult as you are sending a Z-Wave Command to the hub to process and then converting that to a different language (ZigBee, WiFi, etc).
Limited Z-Wave Space & Certification Woes
Since most switches (aside from the Fan/Light) run on the 500 Series chipset, they only have a limited amount of space. So we have to make decisions as a company on what features we keep in vs take out for our production runs. Every time we make a change and produce it, we have to get it re-certified ($$$$$). In addition, our larger B2B customers do not require all the fancy features, but do need some of the features less used by power users, so we have to weigh that in our decision.
Keeping all this in mind, what we tried to do with SBM is to provide the best user experience we could to mimic using a dumb bulb on your smart switch, all the while keeping it easy for the average user.
Present Day, “Smart Bulb Mode” Implementation
So, with the limitations in mind above, we created SBM to work the following way when parameter 52 (SBM) is enabled:
- Switch delivers 100% power output to your light/load
- Local Control is disabled (so no one at the physical switch can turn off the light/load)
- Remote Control remains enabled
We kept remote control enabled for safety reasons. If you’re away from your house and there is an issue, we want there to be a way for you to turn off the switch. If you would like remote control disabled, you can still select this via a separate parameter.
Wishlist & Enhancements
Below will be a running list of ideas on how to improve SBM. I’ll capture everything and then cross them off when we implement them. If we cannot implement them or we come to the conclusion it wouldn’t make sense, I will cross them off and provide an explanation as to why. Please do not be offended if your idea is crossed off – we promise we’ll discuss it in the open before making a decision.
LED Bar Tracking: Have the LED bar track the level at which your smart bulb(s) are at
- Q1: What if there are multiple bulbs at different levels?
- Q2: Associations – can this already be accomplished via Associations (Group 3)? I’ve seen mixed reviews across the forums, but I haven’t personally tested myself.
- Q3: Non-Z-Wave Bulb Tracking – what’s the current best way to accomplish this?
3-Way Compatibility: SBM should work in a 3-Way setting with a dumb switch or aux switch. Currently this is supported with an aux switch and Z-Wave bulb only via Associations.
Security Level Choices: This is now needed due to SmartThings not allowing the choice of security levels when including (to be clear you never could choose, but the work-around no longer works).
I’m sure I’m missing something and I’ve taken about 6hrs to write this out, so I feel like I’ve exhausted this topic in my mind for today. Please comment below and I’m looking forward to the discussion!