Back in 2014, not-yet-Orro-CEO Colin Billings saw a golden opportunity in light. For some time, he struggled with maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, and when he dug deeper to find out what could help, that was when he learned about the vital role light played in this process in the form of human-centric lighting.
Our bodies, so keenly tuned to the sun’s daily cycle, often see more indoor lighting and computer screens than sunlight. Because we rely on sunlight to determine when we should sleep, these unchanging fixtures in our home represent artificial suns essentially telling us to stay awake when we should be winding down.
Eventually, Billings found some software that could help with the computer screen. By calculating the time of day, location and sleep preferences, the software would adjust the screen temperature automatically. But when he looked to find a similar smart home solution for indoor lighting, he found nothing.
Leading the Charge in Human-Centric Lighting
Imagine a room with a motion sensor. It turns on when you enter, and then you sit down and start reading, only for it to turn off because you weren’t moving enough.
It’s a story Orro sought to avoid designing the Orro One. Packed with ambient lighting sensors, proximity sensors and microphone arrays, the end product is a dimmer switch that is far more aware of its surroundings. Ideally, in a house fitted with Orro switches, the light should “follow” inhabitants throughout the house.
By detecting ambient light within the room, Orro also dims interior lighting to provide people with more energy through natural sunlight and cut down on consumption where less artificial light is needed.
Building an Intelligent Home
Despite having its start in lighting, the same qualities that make it a truly unique dimmer switch also make it a standout controller. Combine it with the myriad integrations and compatibility upgrades the device continues to receive and you have a product pivotal in building what Head of Channel Development, Patrick Gall (or PG), calls “the intelligent home.”
“The term smart home has become overly used,” PG says. “It’s become this broad term that doesn’t hold the weight it used to. Anything hooked up to your home network is considered a smart home product these days. A smart home product should be a product that is intelligent and proactively does things on its own without you having to interface with it all the time.”
“The best technology is the one that you never have to interact with,” Gall concludes.
The first bit of magic is in the software that helps runs the control system. It can use the sensors provided to make complex decisions based on homeowner activity, and it can remember specific preferences over time. This allows the Orro One to adapt to occupant behaviors through continued use, with no pressure to use the app like with other smart home products. While used initially for set-up and integrations, Orro ultimately governs all the technology.
The second bit is that Orro integrates with an incredible ecosystem of smart home products like Alexa, Nest, Sonos, SmartThings and Ecobee, enabling homeowners to control all of these products from the wall switch, through voice commands or the Orro app. Integration with control and lighting systems often used by integrators are also on the roadmap.
Human-Centric Lighting, Human-Centric Design
Second only to function for Orro is the design of their product. According to PG, its one of the most striking features, often coming in conversation with consumers and integrators alike.
“When people look at something, they usually try to compare it to what they know,” Gall says. “For some products that often get compared to Orro, they have something like an iPhone screen placed on their walls. Some people like that. But the design-centric customer doesn’t want to see a black screen on their wall when they’re walking by. They want that technology to blend in.” The same goes for the traditional 13” screen most controller systems provide.
The Orro One and Orro One Pro, on the other hand, offer discreet bordered screens that take up no more space than the light switches they replace. From there, homeowners may never interact with it again, but the display menu offers full, simplistic control over the entire home if they do.
Beyond Smart Lighting
Since its start as DIY product Orro has shifted more to the expertise of professional installers. Make no mistake, however, the shift comes with the homeowner in mind. Between the dangers of dealing with electrical grids and a growing desire to spend time with families and friends over install projects, the switch seemed like a smart move.
And Orro’s response to this has been tremendous. Already they’ve updated the price point to accommodate ratios professional integrators need to account for and begun investing heavily into app development, software upgraded and more installer-centric integrations. For instance, the app originally started with the intention of doing one installation at a time, but changes are underway to be more accommodating to bulk setups.
Beyond that, plans are already underway to assemble a dealer advisory council to enable proactive communication with the industry and integrators. While done in the interest of being able to distribute news of updates from Orro, the council will help the company better understand what needs to come next for the product.
As Orro is still a nimble start-up company with incredibly versatile software, they aim to capitalize on it. Since software updates can have a near real-time turnaround based on feedback, they want to be able to continue this push into the realm of human-centric lighting and building a home that can enhance the health and wellness of its inhabitants.
What’s next for the product after lighting and smart home controls? PG hinted at some greater capabilities for security monitoring within the home, such as the already available Away Mode that can detect movement when home occupants are way and alert them. Aside from that, however, it’s all up to how the future unfolds.