For most of us, the journey down home automation starts with one of the simplest things we can add some tech to - lighting. But, for the most part, lighting is pretty boring, Push the globe in, install an app, connect it to your network and you're done. But the Nanoleaf Aurora is a little different. It's an array of triangular LED panels that you can assemble into different shapes so you can add a little bit of artistry to your illumination.
The Nanoleaf Aurora Smarter Kit I tested comes with nine panels, the power module, a bunch of panel connectors and some Command strips for attaching the panels to a wall. I didn't use the strips, preferring some Blu-tack as it's easier to move things around, particularly as I'm still not sure the shape I've created will be the final shape I keep. Also, the base of my set up is on a solid surface.
If I was wall-mounting the panels, I'd use the strips or something similar as they will be far more stable.
The power supply that ships with the Nanoleaf comes with three pieces. There's a module that plugs into one of the panels that plugs into a small power brick and then another cable that goes into the wall. Given the elegance of the rest of the set up, this looks quite ugly. And the cables are really long. I've installed the Nanoleaf on a boring timber panel behind the bar at home and the power outlet is about 20cm away from the lights. That's meant I've needed to coil up several metres of cable.
I connected the panels together, using the connectors which transfer power and data between the panels from the controller, which I plugged in on the panel closest to my power source.
Connecting the lights to your network is straightforward. I'm using an iPhone and Apple's HomeKit at this stage of my home automation set up. Initially, I simply added the Aurora as an accessory using Apple's Home app, which scans a code that's provided with the Aurora documentation. Nanoleaf also provides an app of their own and this gives you greater control over the panels.
All of that took about 10 minutes of tech set up and an hour to decide where to put the lights and what shape to assemble them into. If you're looking for inspiration, Nanoleaf's Instagram account has some really interesting ideas to inspire you.
Using the Nanoleaf Aurora
Controlling the Aurora array is straightforward. There are three different ways I could control the system.
The simplest is to simply walk up and press the power button on the controller module connected to the array. Adjacent to the power button, there's a button that toggles between different lighting patterns.
The Nanoleaf app lets you choose between different lighting "scenes". These are simply lighting patterns that use different colours and rhythms to provide some mood lighting to your room. There are eight different schemes to choose from, or you can choose to light the array with a single colour. You can also dim the lights if they're too bright. And you can use Siri to change the colour of the lights.
HomeKit and it's integration with Siri is how I'm using the Aurora. Using the Home app, I can turn the lights on, use a tap-hold on the Bar Lights icon to dim or brighten the array, or choose different lighting scenes so I can adjust the colours to suit the occasion.
There's also support for Android and the Google Asistant, Amazon's Alexa and IFTTT.
Other than my own hassle with the length of the power cables - and I appreciate that longer cables may be an advantage in some places - I didn't hit any problems in setting up or using the Nanoleaf Aurora.
If you can't make the shapes you like out of triangles, square Nanoleaf panels have also been announced, which will hit the market soon. They also have an upgrade module, called Rhythm that can make the array into a music visualiser.
Price and availability
The Nanoleaf Aurora Smarter Kit I tested has an RRP of $299. That gives nine panels and enough connectors to create some really interesting shapes. If you just want to dip a toe in the water, there's a $99 kit with just three panels.
The Rhythm, which makes the Aurora into a music visualiser has a street price of around $80 locally.