Light is life. Human beings have always been more comfortable in the light because we are a very visual species. So we mastered fire. We tamed electrical power to fuel light bulbs. We lit up the dark to keep it at bay and keep the eyes that are one of our natural advantages useful. So it isn’t all that surprising to know that as technology develops and improves, at least some of it still ends up going towards improving our ability to keep the dark away.
Which brings us to the rise of smart lighting. This can sound like an attempt to cash in on a trend, with everything getting “smart.” However, this is a legitimate area of development and one that could bring potential benefits beyond bright, convenient illumination.
What Makes It Smart?
The first thing that needs to be done is defining why smart lighting is called that. What makes it more “intelligent” than other lights we have? The simplest answer is that smart lights can turn themselves on and off. They also respond to voice commands.
How It Works
They do this by being integrated into an internal network of systems that include motion sensors and other control elements. These allow the lights to react to certain prompts, such as when someone enters or exits a room or vocalizes a specific command. It’s not that different from the technology that allowed people to clap their hands to turn their lights on or off, just using different cues and relying on smaller, more digital hardware.
Smart lights can also be controlled from an app on your phone or another gadget. Or they might be rigged to be controlled through voice commands using something like Alexa. Basically, the lights can be controlled by any device that is linked to the same network it is, with precautions in place so that only you have that control.
The Network Structure
Now, it is important to note that smart lights aren’t designed to be used in a vacuum. Each smart bulb is part of a wireless network that is connected to other bulbs of the same type. This allows them to work with and respond to each other with minimal input from you. The framework uses mesh networking, with a hub to act as the main control system. It also enables connections with the phone or tablet.
Beyond this basic framework, you might realize there is a lot of customization available. By default, voice commands, long-distance controls, and motion sensors aren’t built into every smart lighting setup, but they can be added.
A long-distance control system allows you to use your phone to switch the lights on or off at-will from anywhere. All it requires is that the network is hooked up to your wi-fi, so the app can deliver the signals from any point. This is more for convenience’s sake, such as those times when you remember you left the lights on but are already far from home. Or you could use it to give the illusion of your home being occupied, even when no one’s there.
However, while dimmers and motion detectors can be useful, the real power lies in connecting them to IFTTT systems. These are “If This,Then That” services, allowing for creating rules that the network must follow.
This includes specific situations when the lights will turn on or off, or setting conditions for when the dimmers switch on or specific areas of the house get lit up. This can allow for incredibly complex configurations, giving you the freedom to customize how automated your lights are.
There is the question of price, of course. When any technology first makes it to the consumer level, it can be a bit expensive. Is this true of the smart lighting systems out there?
The sad truth here is that they’re not cheap. The setup and the bulbs can be costly, and they’re not the sort that pays for themselves over time. They can lead to savings in your utility bills, but not enough that the cost of installation becomes covered in short order. The fact is that these can get expensive, though the technology is becoming more cost-effective and economical as time goes on.
One concern, of course, is obsolescence. No one wants to invest the kind of cash needed to install a smart lighting system, only to have it be wasted because the technology is out of date in five years. The energy savings will pay for itself, but over a longer period than you’d expect. The technology being developed by companies like Bluesmart is also meant to be backward-compatible, so new bulbs and parts won’t require an overhaul of an existing setup.
Smart lighting is an intriguing new way to use your lights. The basic function remains the same, and they’re still as bright or as dim as you need. However, the technology behind them does make them more convenient and removes the necessity of physical switches. Getting your investment back will take a while to happen, but you can enjoy the benefit of having far more control over your lights than normal.