A new home automation system from Avi-on Labs integrates smart units—ranging from light bulbs to movable switches to in-wall outlets—with a mobile app that can act as a programmer or controller for groups of connected devices. Through the use of Bluetooth mesh technology, devices communicate with each other without a central gateway.

Bluetooth has also improved to give devices a longer range, so homeowners can get a whole-house system with only a few connected devices, says Eric Miller, Avi-on Labs CEO.

“It allows us to create a system that can run just like the core infrastructure of your house,” he adds.

The company started by creating a wireless, movable light switch, and has since partnered with Jasco Products to create an expanded suite of Bluetooth-enabled GE units. 

“This system is different because it’s a lot of familiar products that builders already trust: GE in-wall outlets, GE dimmer switches, and GE on/off switches,” says Dana Kunz, general manager, Avi-on Labs. “With Avi-on, we can create wired performance without wires.” 

Avi-on is designed for use both by builders at the point of sale and by homeowners as an after-market addition, with two categories of products tailored to those audiences—in-wall solutions that can be incorporated into the home, and plug and play devices that require little to no installation effort. Currently, the eco-system includes outlets, switches, and light bulbs, and will soon grow to include products such as door and window sensors, shades, ceiling fans, and entertainment remote controls.

Tailored to Fit
Since the system does not rely on traditional wiring configurations, builders have greater flexibility to work with architects and lighting designers to optimize the set-ups for each home, says Kunz. 

“Right now, you make all those decisions really early on in the process, and … it causes a large expense on the builder’s part to be able to customize the home," she says. "So we actually expect that builders will be able to increase the level of customization as well as increase the profitability of their home automation features.”

Builders will also be able to involve homebuyers directly. “As part of the final walkthrough, a builder could ask the owner, ‘What switches would you like and where would you like them to be, and how would you like your lights to work?’ That could actually be set up in the final walkthrough, as opposed to having to hard-wire it into the new construction,” Miller explains.

And because Avi-on can be added onto and reconfigured, it’s flexible for homeowners as they find their needs changing. If a room was previously used as a home office and now is being repurposed as a bedroom, for example, switches can be changed to better suit the new layout, and no work with the wiring is required.

Through the Avi-on mobile app, users can connect their devices, configure groupings, and set up security protocols. Once the devices have been connected and linked to the desired settings, the system can operate independently.

“If you want, you can remove the phone from the system and your switches work just like regular switches,” Miller explains. “Or if you want to use your app, you can do that too.”

Avi-on products are currently in the pre-order phase, with shipments expected to begin in late spring or early summer of 2015. Keeping products affordable is an important goal, and so each unit’s retail price will be targeted at under $40.

The company is also planning to work with builders next year on show homes that will demonstrate the technology.