Chinese Association of Idaho State University (CAISU)
What is smart lighting? Everything you need to know for your connected home
Controlling lights with your voice used to be something only a god could do, but these days we have smart lighting systems to make any of us feel all-powerful.
The biggest name is Philips with its Hue bulbs, but now IKEA, Hive and a whole host of others have got in on the act too. Let’s get to the important stuff: what’s right for you, is it going to cost a fortune and is it likely to become obsolete any time soon? Let’s find out.Tracking light
Smart lighting is lighting that you can control from an app, usually on your Apple or Android phone.
The app enables you to change the brightness of the bulbs, and if the bulbs have coloured LEDs you can change their colours too. That opens up a whole world of possibilities, which you might call light recipes: you might have one light recipe for watching movies, another for dinnertime, and yet another for reading. Switching from one recipe to another is as simple as tapping a smartphone or yelling at your favourite voice-activated personal assistant.
Smart lighting generally uses mesh networking, where each smart bulb wirelessly connects to its nearest neighbour. That network is controlled by a hub that plugs into your router, enabling your other networked devices - such as your phone or tablet - to communicate with your bulbs. Some systems also have an away from home mode that enables you to control the lights when you’re far away, which is handy if you’ve just remembered you left the lights on or want to terrify the babysitter. Not all systems require a hub, though. The LIFX platform just connects directly to your Wi-Fi.
You’ll often find that smart light systems can also be accessorised with additional items such as dimmer switches or motion detectors, and in some cases they can be linked to the IFTTT (If This Then That) service to create complex rules that trigger particular recipes for particular things. Fancy a flash of colour to notify you of an instant message, or a glow to gently break the news of today’s weather forecast? This and much more is possible without too much tinkering.
Smart lighting systems aren’t just controllable with smartphone or tablet apps. Philips’ Hue system works with Apple’s HomeKit, Amazon’s Echo and Google Home, and that means you can use those platforms’ voice assistants to relay your voice commands. There’s something undeniably cool about saying “Hey Siri, set scene to cinema” or “Alexa, turn the lights off” and seeing it happen. With HomeKit you can also control the lights with an Apple Watch. IKEA’s Trådfri will get similar compatibility later this year.