Smart lighting is a major part of the IoT landscape and while there’s established players like Philips Hue, we need and thankfully have some smaller companies that have new designs that offer a different take on things.
Nanoleaf light panels are unlike most smart lighting that is designed to be hidden away, instead these are designed to be visible, they’re proud of their design and demand your attention. The honeycomb design of the panels means you can really get creative in the placement of each panel to create a visually interesting illuminated, animated, smart artwork on your wall.
The panels connect by a proprietary double-sided, double ended connector that slots into any sides of each panel. The Nanoleaf Aurora starter pack (reviewed) includes 9 panels, which provides enough arrangement combinations for you to be completely unique, but if you need further inspiration on arrangement, you can access suggestions through the Nanoleaf mobile app.
Once you’re arranged and connected each of the panels, you then connect the power connector. This uses the same, familiar connection point, which is smart, as it allows you to connect it to the the edge closest to your powerpoint. This is probably my biggest complaint with the Nanoleaf panels, that they need a cable for power, rather than some a backplate attached to the wall and an easily removable panel with replaceable or rechargeable battery. It’d technically be possible to run the cable into your wall to hide the cable, but as someone with a new home, drilling through my wall isn’t an inviting prospect.
If you can swing it, you may want to have the panels emerge from behind your office desk, hiding the power connector, or at least the cable. The power connector also contains 2 buttons (power and modes) so you’ll want to keep this accessible, should you ever need to reset the device.
For day-to-day configuration, you’ll connect to Nanoleaf through the mobile app, which lets you set the panels to any colour you like, or download colour combinations from the community. At Christmas, it was easy to find a number of community-built Christmas colour combinations (most consisting of red, green and white). Its safe to say, each annual event will have templates you can download to get you in the mood for Easter, Halloween or even birthday parties.
The panels themselves attach to the wall using the 30x 3M Mounting Tapes included in the box. This is actually enough to mount once and mounts again, should you change your mind. If you decide you want to go further, you can buy additional Nanoleaf panels in sets of 3.
Recently Nanoleaf added a new optional component (Nanoleaf Rhythm) to their lineup, when allows the panels to react to sound (usually music) making them a great addition to any house party. Like all good connected devices, the Nanoleaf panels feature IFTTT support, so you can have them respond to other events in your life. Changing colours when activations from other connected devices occur. This is one of my favourite features as it takes a visually interesting, yet fairly basic light display, into a smart, connected lighting solution. If you’re developer-minded, signup for the Aurora Open API and get creative, or contribute to the feature requests on the forum.
Price and Availability
Now for the hard discussion of price. Make no bones about it, this product is overpriced at A$299 for the starter kit, which features 9 panels. Every time you want to add 3 more, you’re up for the expansion kit which costs A$99. That’s not to say these are unaffordable, but it does place them at a price point that’s likely out of reach for the younger enthusiast. Some of the best designs (promoted on their website) feature a large number of panels, so to replicate, you’d be looking in the realm of $500+. 9 panels give you enough to understand what’s possible, but I doubt many ‘full installations’ of Nanoleaf stop there.
Nanoleaf Aurora Starter Kit and Expansion kit are both available in Australia from Harvey Norman.
IoT is really a category where companies are rewriting the design handbook. With new capabilities, comes new innovation and the ability to have smart, connected products that are not only conversation starters, they’re backed up by real functionality. The Nanoleaf Aurora is a seriously neat bit of kit and while overpriced, so are many IoT products, particularly in the lighting space. If you can stomach the cost, and the inevitable expansion cost, then look no further, you’ve found a unique product that is proud to be on display, not hidden away like so many others.
- Unique design
- IFTTT support
- Visible power cable