Smart lighting explained

If you're new to home automation and want to give it a go, you should probably start with smart lighting.

The easiest way to get started with simple home automation is to buy accessories or devices that are specialised for certain tasks. Smart lighting, for instance, gives you flexibility because you can control it with timers, plus you can set schedules and monitor bulb status remotely, etc. You can somtimes even hook smart lighting networks up to web-apps like IFTTT to achieve some really neat effects. It's a great way for beginners to start automating stuff.

Don't worry if you're clueless about what smart lighting is and what it can do for your life and home. Pocket-lint has explained everything below, detailing the different types of smart lighting available, how they work, and the many products you can buy today. Keep reading to learn more.

What is home automation?

Home automation enables you to have automatic, electronic, and even remote control of your home as well as the devices, fixtures, accessories, and appliances inside.

Several manufacturers have already developed smart products for homes and various control systems that enable their automation. Smart lighting networks fit into the home automation trend and will change the way you light your home, forever.

What is smart lighting?

Smart lighting incorporates many technologies so that either indoor or outdoor lights will work automatically under certain conditions. Different smart lighting networks do different things, but some of the more popular solutions feature smart lights that are capable of instantly switching on when someone enters a room or changing colour when something occurs, for example.

Imagine your house has 50 lights, and each light is normally controlled by the flick of a switch. Smart lighting eliminates the need for you to get up and flick that switch. The network does all the work for you, automatically, though you can still program the lights to respond as you wish. Smart lights often feature sensors too, so they can identify people and things like when they need light, as well as how much they may need.

The last bit to remember: smart lighting networks often allow lights to interact with each other, so that they can be calibrated en masse, or even individually through a remote control setup.

What types of smart lighting are available?

Smart lighting networks vary drastically, but generally, their lights can either work independently or together when connected. Keep in mind there are two main types of smart lights: sensor-integrated and non-sensor integrated.

Sensor-integrated lights feature sensors that enable them to recognise people and daylight, among other things. These lights automatically send data to the smart lighting network, which sets specific parameters for each light. You can still manually control sensor-integrated lights however, if you desire. Although non-sensor integrated lights don't have sensors, they're still considered smart, because you can program them.

There are two main ways of controlling smart lights: control hubs and smart devices. You can use tablets, smartphones, laptops, and even desktop computers (as long as both the device and the smart lights are connected to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth) to remotely configure and manage your smart lighting. In some situations, typically in larger buildings, there is a dedicated control hub that maintains the smart lighting network.

As a consumer, you'll probably want a smart lighting setup that works with your smart device. Not only is that the more user-friendly option but you'll be able to control your house lights from anywhere in the world (not just when at home). That said, whether you choose sensor-integrated lights or non-sensor integrated lights is up to you. Typically, sensor-integrated lights are the more costly option.

Why should you use smart lighting?

There are four reasons why you should use smart lighting. First and foremost it can save you money on a utilities bill. That's because a smart lighting network is very energy efficient; it allows you to calibrate when exactly a light should be on. Smart lights can also simplify your life. When preparing to travel, you won't have to physically alter the settings of each smart light or check to see if it is off before you leave. You can do all this remotely, from afar.

And finally, it's just plain cool. If you own the Philips Hue smart lighting system, for instance, you could use the IFTTT web-app to automatically turn on a light in your living room every time you're tagged in a Facebook photo. The possibilities are endless...and awesome.

What are some smart lighting products?

Here are some of the most popular smart lighting options out there. Keep in mind there are many more in existence, and that this is a brief overview.

Philips Hue

The Philips Hue Connected Bulb system enables you to wirelessly control the colour and intensity of your home lighting. The 3-bulb starter kit is expensive at $199.95, but you'll be able to use it with the Philips Hue app for Android and iOS.

READ: Philips Hue complete system review

It's a surprisingly powerful and easy-to-use tool that lets you wirelessly and remotely program everything from the intensity and schedules to custom colours and colour combinations of up to 50 Hue LED lights.

Samsung Smart Bulb

Samsung Smart Bulb is a Bluetooth-only smart light - unlike the Wi-Fi-based Philips Hue - that was unveiled earlier this year. A smartphone app will give you direct control of up to 64 bulbs at once, at a range of up to 2,000 feet.

The bulbs can be dimmed all the way down to 10 per cent brightness, and you can adjust the bulbs' spectrum from 2700K (arm white) to 6500K (cool white). You'll need a ZigBee hub for home automation however.

LG Smart Lamp

The LG Smart Lamp also unveiled earlier this year. The 10W LED bulb gives Android and iOS users a level of control over their illumination, including a light-based alarm clock setting, as well as a security mode that pretends you're at home.

READ: Hands-on with the LG Smart Bulb

You can also control the brightness of the bulb, and set it to slowly brighten as you wake up from a nap. The light connects through both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and costs 35,000 won ($32) in South Korea.

GE Link Smart LED

GE Link is a connected LED lightbulb that you can remotely control from anywhere and sync to other connected devices. Link works with an app called Wink - the same app for Android and iOS devices that controls GE and Quirky's Aros air conditioner.

You can use Wink to control one Link or even a group of Links. It has options to set timers, turn lights on or off by location, dim or brighten lights, etc.

You can pre-order the Link at retail websites like HomeDepot.com. Link will hit stores in autumn, and the light bulbs will range from $15 each to $50 starter kits (includes the Zigbee-compatible Link hub that plugs into outlets).

LIFX

Originating on Kickstarter, LIFX is an LED light bulb that can be controlled using a smartphone app - but over your Wi-Fi network, rather than using your phone's Bluetooth.

From an Android or iOS app, you can turn your LIFX lights on or off, adjust brightness, change the colour, and even create a light show to go with your music. Although a single LIFX will cost you $69, it can last up to 27 years.

Lumen Smartbulb

The Lumen Smartbulb uses Bluetooth, so you won't need to fork out for that Wi-Fi hub. The bulb itself consumes one-sixth the power of a 40W bulb while delivering comparable light.

You can adjust the brightness and colour (16 million options) using an app. You can also use Lumen to flash in time with music, when you receive a call, or to rouse you gently from a nap. This control works on multiple bulbs, and each Lumen Smartbulb costs £49.

Belkin WeMo

Belkin has added to its line-up of WeMo connected devices, with WeMo Smart LED Bulbs. Belkin already had the WeMo Light Switch, so the next logical step was lighting.

The WeMo Smart LED Bulbs are 60-watt equivalent with 800 lumens brightness and can be controlled via an iPhone or Android device. That means you'll be able to dim your lights quickly and easily or turn them on and off whilst you are away from home.

The Belkin WeMo Smart LED Bulb costs £30. The WeMo LED Bulb also comes in an LED Lighting Starter Set with another bulb and a WeMo Link - which allows control of up to 50 bulbs - at £100.

Belkin said the WeMo LED Bulb will last up to 23 years, and like many of the solutions listed above, it works with the automated web-app IFTTT.

READ: Five smart lighting solutions



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