ZigBee Dimmer Switch | Project New Horizon (Blue Series)

TLDR: Here’s the PRD (Project Request Document) that we used to kick this off – this will give you the highlights and has pretty pictures.

Project New Horizon (Dimmer) - PRD (Compressed).pdf (4.1 MB)

NOTE: This is a PDF version, the PPT version is live and edited so the PRD may change and thus so will the project. However, I may not update the PDF as it shouldn’t change too much. In other words, this is a disclaimer stating that what you see in the initial PDF may not be what’s final.


Project Team
Feel free to tag any of us with questions. Courtney & Darwyn are the go-to’s for overall project management and timeline questions, Eric M is the go-to for any firmware related questions and I’m (Eric H) the go-to for anything else. Either way, we’re all here to help!


Introduction
As per our tradition of working with you amazing people, here’s what this thread allows us to do as a community.

  1. Allows us to keep everyone updated on the project status (either good or bad)
  2. Allows you to participate and help us develop amazing products together
  3. Enjoy each other’s company and have fun talking home automation

How this initial post will be laid out is in five sections:

  1. Project Overview
  2. Initial Hardware & Software Requirements (edited to remain up-to-date)
  3. Timeline (edited to remain up-to-date)
  4. Pinned Ideas & Shout-outs (edited to remain up-to-date)
  5. Weekly Recap

Housekeeping

  • DATES & FUNCTIONS ARE NOT SET IN STONE: Just a reminder that all dates and functions are sometimes fluid. We have to make choices based on feasibility, opportunity costs, and overall timeline. I will be as transparent as possible on these decisions, but just a heads up, they may not always be exciting.
  • NO IDEA IS A BAD IDEA: Ok, some are, but honestly throw out anything that you can think of. If we use your idea, we’ll credit you and send you a free device, so take that shot!
  • VERSION 1 VS VERSION 2: Some ideas may be fantastic, but may not make the cut for the first version of the product. Once the product is locked in from a function standpoint, we’ll keep a tally of V2 ideas and then once the product is produced, we’ll move the ideas over to a suggestions/wishlist section.

Ok, let’s get this party started!


Project Overview
The purpose of this project is to reach a new market. Traditionally, we’ve stayed in the Z-Wave space (and we will continue to do so) as that’s where we’re comfortable and where we’ve excelled. However, with the announcement of CHIP we made the decision to start developing in that space as well.

The ZigBee Alliance is spearheading the CHIP initiative and when the time comes to launch the CHIP project, certain products will have the ability to OTA the new protocol. In other words, some of the ZigBee switches you purchase now (ours included) will be using the same chip that the CHIP (too many chip references) protocol will use and you’ll be able to instantly OTA your firmware.

In addition, there has been a huge market for switches that work with smart bulbs and while our current Z-Wave switches have this ability already, they’re better suited for Z-Wave bulbs, which are a niche market (at this point in time, I think we’re the only ones who have plans to sell them). Whereas Philips Hue, the most popular and leader in lighting, runs off ZigBee.

We’re excited to start this journey and offer another option for people who aren’t quite ready for a full on hub and maybe are just starting to get their feet wet in home automation.

Project Name - New Horizon

“New Horizon” refers to us creating something that is new to us. As mentioned above, we’ve staked our existence in Z-Wave, but we’re ready to take on the adventure of a new (to us) protocol in ZigBee and a new (to the industry) protocol in CHIP.


New Horizon - Hardware Requirements
We will be using our current dimmer switch hardware with a few modifications. If you’re really interested in seeing what’s under the tent and how we kick off these projects, here’s the internal PRD (Project Request Document) that we presented.

Hardware

Hardware - Dimmer Switch (Look / Feel)

  • Responsive Paddle: rests in a neutral state (tap up = on // tap down = off & hold up = dim up // hold down = dim down)
  • Config / Favorite Button: button should be used for configuration of the switch as well as scene control.
    • Should be able to be held (for config)
    • Should be able to be tapped (for scene control)
  • RGB LED Bar: should measure the % of how much the switch is dimmed
    • LED’s should be RGB (artificial white included)
    • LED’s should also be able to be dimmed
  • Colors: dimmer switch will be offered in white (matching Lutron Claro wallplates), but the paddle should be able to be replaced to change colors (almond, brown, red, black, grey, etc)
  • Slim Design: depth of switch should be as slim as possible so that it can fit into metal boxes.
  • Air Gap: UL requirement
  • No heat-sink tabs: remove heat sink tabs for easier installation (note: may have to sacrifice max wattage)

Hardware - Features & Capabilities

  • ZigBee 3.0: use the latest ZigBee chipset (should be the same one that will be used for CHIP and compatible with Philips Hue + Amazon Echo Plus)
  • 3-Way / 4-Way Ready: should work in multiple different settings in a 3 & 4 Way setting
    • Should work with an auxiliary switch (like GE’s does)
    • Should work with an existing dumb switch
    • Should work with another smart switch (if wired to another smart switch, it should be able to detect this)
  • Power Monitoring: switch should measure the power consumption
  • ZigBee Distance Estimator: should be able to estimate the signal strength of the ZigBee signal and notify via the LED bar
  • Instant On: when tapped 1x (and scenes aren’t used), switch should turn the bulb on instantly (no delay)
    • Configurable delay in 100ms increments (see tech doc)
  • CFL & LED Compatibility: minimum buzz and flickering
  • 600W: increase the wattage to 600 like GE’s
  • Neutral & Non-Neutral Compatibility: switch should be able to work with a neutral wire or without a neutral wire
    • Should auto-detect which setting it’s in (neutral/non-neutral, aux/dumb) and if it can’t, then there should be a manual override.
  • Auto-Detect Line/Load (and if possible other terminals)
    • No matter how customer wires it, the switch should be able to detect what’s wired/where.

New Horizon - Software Requirements
Below is what we came up with for the software requirements. A lot has been inspired from our Red Series Dimmer switch!

  • ZigBee Scene Control: 15 scenes (if possible – not sure if ZigBee supports this yet)
    • 14 Scenes via Tapping the Paddle up or down and holding/releasing
    • 1 Scenes via Tapping the Config Button
  • Notifications via RGB Bars: RGBW Bars should be able to change colors based on events set up by customer (ie: if window sensor is opened, RGBW bar changes to red)
    • User can choose to sync the bars or have them show separate notifications
  • RGB Bars Config: bar should be able to change colors and also dimmed to the customers favorite level
  • Auto Timer: switch should have a timer that shuts the switch off after a certain amount of time
  • Easy Config: switch should be able to be configured via the config/favorites button.
    • There should be infinite customization via parameters in the firmware, but also set customizations for HUB’s that do not allow parameter changes (ie: Wink)
  • Internal Relay Disable: internal relay should be able to be disabled locally and via ZigBee
  • Set Min/Max Level: minimum dim level / maximum dim level
  • Ramp Rate Configuration: ability to change how fast/slow light turns on
  • Ramp rate & instant on/off separated
  • Default Dim Level: ability to set the default dim level
  • OTA Ready: ability to update firmware via OTA
  • Associations switch should be able to be associated to other ZigBee devices
  • Smart Bulb Mode: mimic our Red Series smart bulb implementation but for ZigBee

Timeline
Ah, everyone’s favorite part. When is this flippin thing going to be released? Great question – here’s the high-level of what happens leading up to the first release of the timeline:

  1. We present a PRD (Project Request Document) that has all of the above info in it (see above section for the pdf)
  2. R&D (manufacturer) analyzes the PRD and we go back and forth until we can align on 90% of the product
  3. Initial Timeline is released and remaining 10% of product features are added/cut along the way

Again, just want to throw this out there – I don’t have a crystal ball so I can’t predict things that come up along the way. Trust me when I say we’re trying our best to get things launched on time.

In addition, we are using a separate manufacturer for this project so there may be a learning curve. Nothing wrong with our current manufacturer, just this new one is more specialized in ZigBee.

Pre-Initial Timeline Milestones:

  • Present PRD: Completed (Feb. 02, 2021)
  • R&D Analyzation: Completed (Mar. 01, 2021)
  • Initial Timeline Released: Completed (Mar. 15, 2021)

Timeline (Estimated)

The initial timeline will be shown below and will be updated bi-weekly (if needed).

The overall project plan is divided into three stages:

Phase 1

Expected to be completed in mid-April, 2021.

  • Competing product analysis, including structure, appearance, design plan, functional operation, and interaction.
    • Est. Completion: April 15, 2021
    • Status: In Progress
    • Notes:
  • Analysis of the neutral and non-neutral part of knowledge.
    • Est. Completion: March 29, 2021
    • Status: In Progress
    • Notes:
  • Analysis and verification of the dimmer one’s circuit.
    • Est. Completion: March 29, 2021
    • Status: In Progress
    • Notes:
  • Analysis and verification of electric energy metering method
    • Est. Completion: March 29, 2021
    • Status: In Progress
    • Notes:

Phase 2

Expected to be completed early July, with the majority to be completed by late May, 2021.

  • Structural design and tooling
    • Est. Completion: July 5, 2021
    • Status: Not Started
    • Notes:
  • Hardware design and PCBA production of the neutral and neutral dimmer switch
    • Est. Completion: April 30, 2021
    • Status: Not Started
    • Notes:
  • Hardware design and PCBA production of non-neutral switch and non-neutral dimmer switch
    • Est. Completion: May 20, 2021
    • Status: Not Started
    • Notes:
  • Software/firmware development
    • Est. Completion: May 20, 2021
    • Status: Not Started
    • Notes:
  • Prototype testing and production
    • Est. Completion: May 25, 2021
    • Status: Not Started
    • Notes:

Phase 3

Expected to be completed by mid-late August, 2021.

  • Neutral adaptive switch and dimmer switch solution analysis and verification
    • Est. Completion: June 5, 2021
    • Status: Not Started
    • Notes:
  • Neutral adaptive hardware design and PCBA production
    • Est. Completion: July 5, 2021
    • Status: Not Started
    • Notes:
  • Prototype testing and production (beta testing)
    • Est. Completion: July 31, 2021
    • Status: Not Started
    • Notes:
  • Product certification FCC/UL/Zigbee
    • Est. Completion: August 14, 2021
    • Status: Not Started
    • Notes:

Final Estimated Release Date: September 30, 2021


Pinned Ideas & Shout-Outs
Here are the ideas from the community. We sincerely appreciate them, we love them, and we couldn’t create the products we do without them. So, thank you for your input and let’s continue to innovate together and change the home automation category for the better (NOTE: if an idea is crossed out, it’s not because it wasn’t valid, nor was it something we didn’t consider – we’ve discussed it internally or with the manufacturer and unfortunately it was not feasible).

Hardware

Software


Weekly Recap
Every Wednesday evening or Thursday morning, we have a meeting with our manufacturer to go over the various projects (status, issues, timeline, etc) and below I’ll provide a recap as well as edit the sections above so we can all keep track. If you have any specific questions you’d like me to ask, feel free to tag me and let me know so I can ask them as well. The weekly cadence for updates will be Thursday mornings (or afternoons depending on when we have the meeting).

March 03, 2021: First actual meeting with the new manufacturer to introduce ourselves and ask questions around the PRD that was given to them on the 1st of February (Chinese New Year halted a lot of the talks, that’s why a month has gone by without any movement). They are very excited to work with us and are optimistic about these switches as ZigBee is their specialty.

April 08, 2021: Still on track for a September release date. Today we talked about energy monitoring in a non-neutral setting. We ultimately decided against it as there is a 20-30% error rate if no neutral wire is used. Outside of this, we talked about a better dimming smoothness (ie: no choppiness) and the compatibility of our new aux switch. Overall, a great meeting!

May 10, 2021: Still on track for a September release date. More to come this Thursday (May 13th)!

7 Likes

I went through the pdf and it is just amazing.

It is like you heard a conversation I had with a friend when I was talking about the opportunities that are out there and what I would do if I were in your position :slight_smile:

I think you guys have everything to grow tremendously but I cannot see this happening while you are investing only in z-wave. I get everyone’s love for z-wave (I love it too, from sensors to switches in my house it is all z-wave by choice).

However, if you are going to provide the same look and feel, behavior and features why should I care that is Zigbee 3.0? Imagine the growth in sales just by making it possible for one to pair it with an echo device? Man, I hope you guys can pull this off as soon as possible.

I remember seeing a post where I believe you mentioned you would go with Zigbee for the masses and z-wave for the enthusiasts. Is this necessary? I mean, shouldn’t you guys do whatever it takes to minimize costs and expedite product releases? Let us assume that shifting completely to Zigbee will help you bring prices down (and become more competitive), will the “enthusiasts” really prefer to pay more for a z-wave version if they look the same and do the same thing? Especially considering that “enthusiasts” will most likely have a hub with Zigbee support.

I think you have a good opportunity here to experience an imaginable growth and maybe even become the device of choice for high-end systems which today rely a lot on Lutron and Leviton for their multi switches, remotes, and customization options (an area you can invest on given the opportunity and resources).

Anyways, you guys know more than anyone what you can handle but my suggestion is: don’t let z-wave slow you down to the point where someone else can take your well-deserved place on the market.

If the goal is CHIP compatibility, wouldn’t Thread be better? My understanding is Zigbee isn’t part of the first phase of CHIP because it isn’t IP based. But since Thread is IP based it will be in the first phase of CHIP. I suppose since they both use the same radio you could firmware update to Thread down the road.

Thanks :slight_smile:

Definitely – it’s been one of those, “never put all your eggs in one basket” type conversations for a while and while we love Z-Wave too, we also have to make business decisions that align with the market trends. Right now, it’s looking like CHIP is where a lot of major companies are putting their money behind, so we should probably follow suit.

Yes, not only Echo, but Philips Hue bridge :slight_smile:

The amount of people wanting smart switches to work with their smart bulbs is much bigger than we anticipated and to give a native ZigBee switch that will work with Philips should be a game-changer.

This is an excellent point and something we should reflect on for sure. I think the general consensus is that security companies (ie: Alarm.com, Ring, etc) prefer Z-Wave as it’s more secure and a lot of our business relies on B2B, with a majority of it coming from ADC and it’s distributors. So, we’ll have to stay in this field for a while. From a B2C standpoint, yes, it’s tough to figure out what the true marketshare is for Z-Wave and the future of the protocol from a consumer standpoint. Right now it makes up about 3% of the entire smart home industry. So, very niche.

Definitely sound advice and what we’re anticipating as well. I fully believe ZigBee/CHIP will outsell Z-Wave 10-1 over the next couple years easily.

Thanks for the comments, that was actually a fun way to end my Friday!

Well, the goal is certainly CHIP compatibility, but before that happens, we’d like to ride the coat-tails of Philips just in case CHIP takes longer than anticipated. I believe Google uses Thread (at least from what I remember Nest did), but tbh, I’m not entirely sure on the ins/outs of it. So, we will unfortunately miss out on Google integration if we go down the ZigBee path, but we will at least get a part of Amazon Echos (the models that support it) as well as Philips Hue integration.

1 Like

I think this looks pretty neat! Seems comparable to the Red Series Z-Wave dimmer, but Zigbee — and honestly, that alone is good enough for me. :slight_smile: In-wall Zigbee products seem hard to come by, so if you want to build a solid Zigbee mesh without using smart plugs all over the place, it’s hard to do right now. But I know, most people probably don’t care about protocol and it’s just the enthusiast in me talking (guilty!).

I’m curious how things like Hue compatibility would work. While you can pair pretty much anything to a Bridge network as a switch/dimmer, I don’t know of any third-party device that supports “sensor” features (in Hue speak, this includes buttons/remotes) unless they’ve officially partnered as “Friends of Hue” like Lutron did with the Aurora (and like Ikea didn’t with theirs, which are otherwise pair-able to the network). I see Friends of Hue is mentioned as “optional” the PDF. But perhaps there are details you can’t speak to yet — or things I’m not considering (TouchLink to smart bulbs and no hub technically even needed at all, maybe?). Even basic capabilities would be good, but using multi-taps on Hue would be great, even though I’d probably still keep most of mine on Hubitat just for access to all features, like the notification bar, which I can’t imagine Hue supporting to the same extent.

But again, neat! I’m looking forward to it.

If the goal is CHIP compatibility, wouldn’t Thread be better? My understanding is Zigbee isn’t part of the first phase of CHIP because it isn’t IP based. But since Thread is IP based it will be in the first phase of CHIP. I suppose since they both use the same radio you could firmware update to Thread down the road.

Almost anything using a modern baseband chip from any of the major players can be flashed to Thread at a future date. SILabs comment on the issue is that current basebands can be set to either use Thread or Zigbee - and if you want to do both you need two separate chips. So in a practical sense, we’re still at the point where you need to chose one or the other (with the option to switch at a future date via firmware).

Accepting the above, choosing thread completely locks you to HomeKit currently. Aside from the HomePod Mini, I don’t think there is any other device that can act as a gateway between thread devices and your smarthome platform. Even Google’s stuff only acts as a repeater and has no ability to add a Thread device into your platform. We’ll see if they enable this with the new Hub Max, but they’ve made promises about enabling it when the current Nest WiFi launched and then seemingly just forgot they ever said anything.

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A problem in the smart home market right now, I think, is the existence of two (and now with Thread, three. And four if we count Bluetooth) competing, incompatible protocols. If I build out a robust Z-Wave mesh in my house it almost certainly means I won’t have a robust ZigBee mesh and vice versa.

Would it be possible to build multi-protocol devices? Make it so you can pick which protocol is used to command the device but have it act as a mesh node/repeater for both networks?

I very much doubt this is feasible, but you don’t know until you ask, right?

I just said “both” and all of my battery sensors are zigbee and hardwired stuff is z-wave. Both meshes are pretty damn stable and I’m happy!

I mean my credit card nearly burned up, but yeah, smarthome stuff :D.

1 Like

@kreene1987, I don’t think most battery-powered devices act as repeaters in order to conserve battery (I know that for Z-wave, and would assume that for ZigBee), so if all of your ZigBee devices are battery-powered then they really aren’t forming a mesh but a big hub-and-spoke network. That’s the problem currently running a dual-protocol network.

Agreed completely. I do have a few wired zigbee devices (10 light cans) that form the mesh.

But yes you are absolutely correct they are not a forwarding component of the mesh.

@kreene1987 – I legit thought you were having a conversation with yourself lol. I just saw the KR’s!

2 Likes

Got a recommendation there by chance?

@Eric_Inovelli given your comments here regarding ZigBee/CHIP and this being Inovelli’s first (I think?) device using ZigBee, do you see Inovelli focusing more on ZigBee/CHIP in the future instead of Z-Wave? Still a hybrid, or just too soon to tell since it would depend on the success of the project/market penetration, etc?

This is what i got a LONG time ago:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07H9HKLFR/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Looks like no longer available.

Edit: These look like them, but I got 10 for under $109.99:

https://www.amazon.com/SYLVANIA-Recessed-Lighting-Changing-Dimmable/dp/B0196M601A/ref=sr_1_21?dchild=1&keywords=Sylvania+Lightify+65W&qid=1616508182&s=hi&sr=1-21

1 Like

Yeah I like your price point a lot better, but I’m a fan of the style of them too. I’ll check around and see if I can find them anywhere else as well. Appreciate it!

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Yeah they were changing from sylvania branding to osram and I got it flagged from slickdeals I think. Actually bought 2 x 10 packs and have some left but definitely will be using :D.

Are you on smartthings for your hub? Looks like Hubitat lists them as compatible regardless so I should be good.

This is great progress! Two points surprise me and I’d like to hear your reasoning Eric:

  1. Why design for CFL’s at all? If I’m buying smart switches I’ve most likely switched to LED already

  2. 600w seems very excessive in the 31st century with the prevalence of LED’s, and enough for 100 60w equivalent bulbs!. Is this coming from the B2B market? I wonder what percentage of installations even require this.

If you were to make a 200w version (still excessive for LEDs in most cases) how would that impact the circuitry, thermal management and size? Not saying the choice is wrong as you know your market, just pretty shocked.

NB I’ve switched to GE switches because of the lower cost auxiliaries. Especially in Canada they are far more cost effective and do exactly what I need. But the fact I feel like a traitor says a lot about how Inovelli has become far more than a manufacturer.

My workshop has 24x 18W T8 LEDs (yes you need sunglasses lol) so the 600W ceiling is great for my application.

@Eric_Inovelli any chance you’ll update the red switches to support 600W?

1 Like

Also, keep in mind different types of loads affect the wattage requirements:

  1. Max Wattage for Lights: See below – maximum will vary based on bulb type and whether the heat sink tabs are removed or not

  2. Heat Sink Tabs Not Removed: 400W Incandescent, 300W LED, 150W CFL

  3. One (1) Side Heat Sink Tabs Removed: 300W Incandescent, 200W LED, 150W CFL

  4. Two (2) Sides Heat Sink Tabs Removed: 200W Incandescent, 150W LED, 100W CFL