Smart Lighting and Smart Light Bulbs

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Lighting in houses is very simple. We put in bulbs into light sockets and there’s a switch that turns them on or off. We’ve had this system since 1837, I’m sure we can do things a lot smarter now. We’ll have a look at what smart lighting is and what we can do with it.

Save money with intelligent dimming. Have the lights come on as you enter the house or different rooms. This is available in a lot of offices, so it’s not a new thing by any means. Intelligent lighting can also mimic daily use to fool potential burglars while you’re on holiday. We look at Philips Hue and Hive smart lighting.

Intelligent lighting

Some greener offices built with energy efficiency and the climate in mind, incorporate systems like motion detecting lights. These lights use proximity sensors. Why not do the same in your house?

There are a number of smart bulbs out there that can do one or two tasks. What you really need though, is a system that talks to your phone and/or smart speaker device. Here are a couple of popular options.

Philips Hue

Philips Hue White Starter Kit – Buy now

Philips has a home smart lighting system called Hue. You need a Hub to start with and then you can control up to 50 lights in the house with it. You can also attach Hue movement sensors that can detect someone walking into a room, and dimmer switches. These types of add-ons will be very helpful in the bathroom or kids bedrooms, where lights always seem to be left on. The lights aren’t just white there are many different bulb types, filaments, fittings and colours. There’s even a Hue app called Hue Disco that can turn your living room into a disco, all you’ll need next is a mirrorball!

It’s compatible with all voice assistants so you can dim, brighten or turn on lights with just your voice. Set schedules while you’re out, or set up a GPS feature on your phone so lights turn on automatically when you come home. Another quite nice addition are the LED lighting strips. These can be stuck on to your furniture to create background lighting that can really look very nice.

ZigBee Light Link

Although the Hue system needs your WiFi to work, it actually runs on it’s own wireless network called ZigBee Light Link (Is it me or does that sound like a Spice Girls lyric?) .The WiFi then bridges the lighting network with the Internet and then your phone. The lights use one another to communicate through a form of mesh. So the more lights you put in the house the stronger the communication is with the Hub and the other lights. So it doesn’t matter how big your house is either, as each light extends the mesh. For outside lighting such as a car port or your garden, the first light should be within 10 meters of your Hub. Then each light afterwards can be within a 20 meter range of the last one. Large metal items such as cars or BBQs might cause interference so place your lights wisely. 

There are a few different starter packs available to get you going and they’re very easy to set up.

  • First plug in the light bulbs and turn on their switches.
  • Then plug in the Hub into your WiFi router and the mains.
  • Then download the Hue app and following the instructions.

After syncing your phone to the hub (by pressing a button on each device), you’re away. There are many helpful videos available on Philip’s support site (https://www.philips-hue.com/en-us/support), and each one is quick and concise.

Hive Smart Lighting

Hive Lighting Starter Kit – Buy now

If you already have the Hive Hub for your heating you might want to look at Hive lighting too. Hive bulbs come in all different shapes and sizes and should be compatible with your fixtures and fittings. They’re now available in GU10 so if you have downlighters in the kitchen you can swap these out too. They are A+ rated so will be energy efficient and last ages. They are dimmable, and the more expensive bulbs can change colour. Connectivity wise they need a wireless router and like the Philips Hue work on a zigbee network. They’re IFTTT (https://ifttt.com/) as well so can be compatible with other web based systems like perhaps your existing security system. If you already have Philips Hue lights and a hub, then Hive can actually control your Hue lights too. It just doesn’t support their motion detectors or switches.

Hive have motion detectors that work with Hue, but there are no dedicated on/off switches. Hive is compatible with Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Samsung SmartThings and Apple Homekit, so voice control is your best option here. You might also be able to get creative with the IFTTT connectivity. You could get your outside security light to also turn on the kitchen light. Or get a porch light to turn on and off with the sunset/sunrise times.

Conclusion

If you already have Hive for your heating and other things, then getting some Hive active lights will make a great addition to your home. Otherwise Philips Hue smart lighting is clearly the better option. You’ll have a real house of the future with automatic lighting, that can also deter burglars, or light up your living room like a disco.