NuBryte Smart Home control system raises questions about what a smart home is supposed to do
An old rabbi once said "my life has been blessed, because I never knew I needed anything until I had it." I often think of that phrase when someone pitches a new Smart Home device that promises to simplify our lives and save energy, like this one, the NuBryte from LUCIS technologies. Do we really need this kind of thing? Or would it be like my Hue LED bulbs, which I adore and need more?
NuBryte is a very clever replacement for your light switch that any reasonably handy person can install. The $199 device learns your habits, sets your lights the way you want them and turns them off when you leave the room. It can talk to the other NuBryte units and act as a home intercom. Turn on the security camera and it can act as a home security system. It tells you the weather and acts as a family calendar. Of course, you can control it all with your smart phone.
One reviewer noted that " you're supposed to install a NuBryte in every room to tackle lighting control, security and energy usage reporting. No sane person would do this given the $199 price tag." I don't agree; think of what people pay for a bit of granite counter when they renovate their houses, it is a small price to pay if it gives you better control and comfort. The more of these you have, the more they talk to each other and the more useful they probably become.
The real problem with this is the pitch that it will save a lot of energy. In the press release the company writes:
Based on a recent U.S. Department of Labor report on annual home energy costs, Business Insider estimates that Americans spend $146 billion on wasted energy every year. With NuBryte, consumers can set their lighting controls for each room based on their activities in it, which can reduce excess lighting and cut down overall energy costs.
Then they show this pie chart on their website:
It shows that lighting and other appliances consume 30% of the average home's energy. In 2009, when there was not a single affordable LED bulb available to consumers. Today, the LED bulb in my bedroom ceiling consumes 6.3 watts; I suspect that the NuBryte device actually consumes more electricity than the light bulb it would control. It is like the Nest smart thermostat, which in a properly designed and insulated house would be bored stupid; in a house with modern, efficient lighting the Nubryte isn't going to save a nickel.
LUCIS has a nice definition of a smart home on their site:
A smart home connects all devices and appliances allowing them to synchronize and communicate with each other. It allows for collecting information so the technology can anticipate the user’s actions and habits.
That sounds smart and reasonable. But let's talk comfort, safety and convenience, and not energy; the savings just aren't there when it comes to lighting.