Smart lights can be a huge convenience, but too many still fail the most basic test: can you turn them on and off with a light switch, without messing everything up?
So instead of making smart lights, a new startup named Noon has decided to make smart light switches — transforming your regular lights into smart ones and ensuring you can turn lights on however you’d like, by a timer, by your phone, or by tapping a switch.
Noon’s lighting system has two parts: “extension switches,” which are basically just regular light switches, and “room director” switches, which is where all the smart stuff happens. The room directors are all black with a small OLED touchscreen in the middle, that displays the current lighting setup. Since OLED displays can turn on pixel by pixel, it ends up looking like a black slab with a glowing icon in the middle. It’s pretty subtle, so it shouldn’t look like there’s some garish tech built into your wall.
As the name suggests, you’ll need one room director switch per room (or at least one per every general area). You can think of the room director a bit like a hub; it communicates with all of the extension switches and then uses Wi-Fi to sync everything back to your phone. And unlike on the extension switches, which don’t have a screen, you can use the room director to change lighting scenes, swiping the screen to move through pre-made settings designed for entertaining, watching movies, relaxing, and so on.
Those scenes are one of the features that Noon hopes will help it stand out. While basically every smart lighting system offers scene support, Noon says it’s the only one that can do it automatically using traditional light bulbs. By seeing home much power is going to each bulb, Noon claims it can determine what kinds of bulbs each switch is connected to, building a profile of the room that lets it suggest how to dim them in a variety of pleasant ways. I was able to see a handful of scenes it set up in a Manhattan apartment, and it seemed to work well — although it was a nice apartment, so I’m not sure what it would have had to do to look bad.
And then there’s the most important thing here: you can turn lights on or off using your phone or a switch, without breaking anything. Each switch taps in to toggle lights on and off, and the extension switches have little up and down buttons to let you control dimming, too. Naturally, it’ll also hook into Alexa; although other smart home integrations are still unannounced.
There are a few downsides to this system. It can’t turn individual lights on and off, like smart bulb systems can, unless they’re the only one connected to a switch — you can only control lights as a group, just like a traditional switch can — and you’ll need to replace every single light switch in a room with one of Noon’s switches. If Noon isn’t wired in, it can’t control the bulbs. And if you have two light switches that control the same lights, you’ll want to replace both of them, or else you’ll risk knocking the system out of sync.
The biggest downside here is Noon’s pricing. Installing this system gets really expensive, really fast. A starter kit, which comes with one room director and two extensions, sells for $399.99. Additional room directors cost $199.99, and additional extensions cost $99.99. If you want to outfit your home with Noon’s switches, that’ll add up quickly. They go on sale today.
Noon has a lot of nice ideas, but the pricing makes it a hard sell. There are already plenty of other smart switch options. They’re not nearly as fancy, and they usually require a finicky smart home hub. But you’re looking at $20 per switch instead of $100-plus. For that price difference, a cheaper system might be worth the headache.
Correction October 26th, 12:12PM ET: Noon’s switches are available immediately, not on November 15th. November 15th is when they will be available at Home Depot.