Smart Lighting Solutions are the hot topic of the current consumer market. Most importantly, after the entry of Google Home Assistant and Amazon Echo, people are realising the importance and need of the hour. However, gaining knowledge in this area and understanding the market are very important things to do before you delve in to this realm. To clarify things, let’s ask some questions before proceeding further.
- Why does Smart Lighting Solutions matter to you ?
- Are we really need to follow along the Lighting Industry trend ?
- Is there any advantages in adapting it ?
- How much does it cost ?
Continue reading this article to get all the answers and there is even more to know.
Let’s Start With LEDs
The demand of smart lighting solutions got raised ever since the LED lights entered into consumer market. In India alone, the LED Industry is expected to reach ₹370 billion by 2020, while it was ₹20 billion in 2013. The young Indian minds are quick in adapting new tech trends, it seems. Moreover, advancements in LED technology made it through the consumer market and various design ideas and features are added every now then.
The significant developments in energy saving made a consistent growth rate of 10% in the past few years. As a result, major factors in adapting the LED Lighting became Quality, Customization, Design, Compactness, Color variations, Low prices, Energy efficiency, Durability and Lifespan.
What Is Smart Lighting ?
Traditional way of installing and controlling lights are very basic. It’s like,
- Turning ON and Turning OFF
- Having Single Light Color
- Fixed Color Temperature
- Limited Dimming Options
The Smart Bulb is the one which fills this gap and add more to these functionalities. So, we can say the main feature of the Smart Bulb is Accessibility. It can be controlled through a mobile application or Smart Voice Assistant like Amazon Alexa or Google Home. The Smart Bulbs also support remote connectivity through Internet. Let’s summarize the features of a Smart Bulb. It can,
- Turn ON/OFF via Switch, App or Voice Commands
- Schedule the actions
- Have various color options like White or RGB
- Change Color Temperature according to the need
- Dim the light easily
- Work together as a group to make different scenes
- Be controlled via Smart Switches
- Track the energy consumption
- Be automated trough IFTTT to work with various Internet Services
There are a wide variety of Smart Bulb applications and Smart Lighting solutions can be found and those are only limited to your imaginations.
Trend In Smart Lighting Solutions
Few years back, CFL took over the Incandescent Light Bulbs, but not marginally. The entry of LED Bulbs took over both CFL and Incandescent like a storm. The meticulously designed LED bulbs have many advantages over the others; mainly Energy efficiency and Eco-friendliness.
LEDs are solid state components and require very less voltage to operate; within 5 Volts DC in contrast to the 230 Volts AC requirement of CFL, Incandescent, Fluorescent Tubes. That makes LED even more controllable using electronic circuits and Microcontroller chips. This created a new space in lighting industry where companies started implementing innovative ideas. Most importantly, Philips with their Philips Hue line-up is a major contributor to this trend. The consumer market is flooded with Wi-FI Bulbs, Bluetooth Bulbs, ZigBee Bulbs, Speaker Bulbs, Camera Bulbs, Motion Detection Bulbs and so on.
What Are The Smart Lighting Features To Look At ?
Apart from being remotely controllable, Smart Bulb has many other features. RGB LEDs can produce millions of colors while White LEDs have variable Color Temperature. Some Smart LED Bulbs can adjust its brightness to improve the TV watching experience as well. They have support for different wireless technologies like WI-Fi, ZigBee or Bluetooth. Leading Smart LED Bulbs manufacturers also support location based actions.
Imagine that you enter into your house and your phone detects your location and sends command to the Smart Bulb to turn it ON. These bulbs can be used as a notification light or alarm when you link it with services like IFTTT. Smart Bulbs can save energy by running on schedules. In some cases a PIR motion sensor detects the human body movement and brightens up the LED when detected.
Consider the below points when selecting Smart Lighting solutions for your home.
1. Lamp Base
Check the lamp base type of Philips Hue before buying. Philips Hue is available in both types.
Use a B22 to E27 Lamp Base Converter Adapter if you end up buying the E27 Smart Bulb.
2. Support For Other Services
Philips Hue supports Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Apple Home Kit, Logitech Harmony, Samsung SmartThings, IFTTT and many more. So, make sure to purchase a Smart Bulb which has support to these third party Smart Assistant/ Smart Home Hub or services. Most importantly, check at least it supports the one you have it in your home already or you just want to implement later. But, Apple HomeKit supported Smart Bulbs are limited to few brands like Philips, NanoLeaf, Incipio, LIFX, and Sylvania. On the other hand, large number of Chinese and Indian brands support Google Home, Amazon Alexa and IFTTT.
3. Connectivity For Smart Lighting Solutions
Philips Hue has a main Hub which communicates with the bulbs using ZigBee Wireless Technology and it can connect to 50 bulbs maximum. But, the hub need to be connected to the router through a LAN Cable for the network connectivity. Other similar brands are also available in the market. These Hub based ZigBee devices have some merits and demerits. Though the cost is high compared to Hub-less implementations, this method will reduce the overload in the network if you install more and more connected devices in the house.
4. Power Consumption
Honestly you don’t have much options in this with the brands available in the market. But, some manufacturers like Philips Hue have wide variety of products with a power range of 4W – 40W. 7W to 9W is sufficient for a standard size room and adding more bulbs is an efficient and elegant way to cover large rooms or halls than using single higher Wattage bulb.
Note: High power LED lights can damage your eyes. Avoid directly looking at the lamp. Low luminous, Soft diffused LED lights are safe.
3. Lumens Per Watt
The energy efficiency of a lamp is measured in Lumens Per Watt (lm/W). Traditional incandescent lamps have 15 lm/W and CFLs have 58 lm/W. The current LED technology comes in the range of 75 lm/W to 110 lm/W. Check the lumens and the Watt mentioned on the bulb to calculate the Lumens Per Watt. In other words, Higher the lm/W value, less the electricity bill and more the light. In recent future, you will be able witness the entry of 200 lm/W Philips Bulbs as well.
4. LED Life Expectancy
Some brands say 10 years, others boast 15 years. Ignore the life expectancy values given in ‘years’. Because, that vary with your daily usage. Check the total working hours mentioned on the box. It ranges from 25,000 hours to 50,000 hours usually.
5. Mobile App Features
Software features are the key elements when it comes to daily usability and comfort. Therefore, Look for the features listed below when you plan to stick with a brand.
- Scheduling or Routines
- Custom Timer Events
- Location Based Actions
- Rooms and Layouts
- Sensor Events
- Smart Switches
- Energy Monitoring
- Giving Access to Family Members
- Restricted Guest Access
- Parental Settings for Kids
- Color effects – Loop, Flash, Random, Rainbow etc.
- Music Syncing
- Ability to Work Without Internet
Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit and IFTTT
Smart Voice Assistants or Smart Speakers are the backbone of a Smart Home setup nowadays. As a result, any tech enthusiast will go for Google Home or Amazon Alexa to setup their Smart Home. I use both Google Home and Alexa in my home for wide accessibility. Both are good at their performance but Google Home has marginally better performance over Alexa. It should be noted that, Some Alexa Devices like Echo Plus can communicate with Philips Hue or other directly connected smart devices without an active internet connection.
Ask Alexa this,
“Alexa, What can you do offline?”
The Apple Home
People who are fond of Apple Eco-System will definitely appreciate the Apple HomeKit and consider it while setting up their Smart Home. Only limited products are available in the market which support Apple HomeKit. However, compatible products are available from the leading brands to fulfill your most requirements.
Linking Your Lights With Online Services
IFTTT (IF THIS THEN THAT) is a free online automation service which connects online services, portals and hardwares together. It can do millions of automated actions as per your requirements. For instance, you can make your Philips Hue bulb blink when someone tweets you. Another example is, make some lights turn on when you reach home.
It is obvious to choose devices that support IFTTT natively, because it is the widely used robust automation platform right now. Philips Hue and many other brands support IFTTT along with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. Therefore, make sure to look for the IFTTT logo on the box label when you try to pick a ‘Smart Home Product’ from the store next time. Don’t neglect potential of the IFTTT while setting up your ultimate Smart Lighting Solution.
Smart Hubs – Do We Really Need Them ?
The very first thing to consider before setting up your Smart Home is to decide which Smart Home Hub brand you want to go with. Surely, there are multiple options like Amazon Echo, Google Home, Samsung SmartThins, Wink, Logitech Harmony, Apple HomeKit and many more. Apart from that, your Smart Lighting Solution may introduce its own hub for isolating the lights from the Home LAN Network. After all, that’s a good thing to consider for your home when you plan to add more lights.
But, for those who are not going to completely setup their home with Smart Light Bulbs, there is no need to go for a Hub-based Smart Lighting Solution like Philips Hue. LIFX has Hub-less WiFi Smart Bulbs and lots of other manufactures also have. This will also reduce the cost of the setup as well but, keep minimum number of lights as possible.
Issues With WiFi Smart Bulbs
As I said earlier, if you have a large number of connected device over your LAN Network will slow down the entire communication. The router must be able to handle the huge traffic in your Network if you have WiFi cameras. Certainly, video streaming will eat up your Network bandwidth too much. Therefore, offloading the connected devices will definitely help you out reducing the Network congestion. Philips Hue and others with a Smart Hub will help in reducing the Network overload by utilising the RF technologies like ZigBee or ZWave to communicate with light bulbs.
Another issue with WiFi Smart Bulb is the Wireless Communication Range. Usually, the WiFi range is about 50 meters or below and even lower in indoor conditions. Some Smart bulbs will act like WiFi repeater also which may help in some cases, but it has its own pros and cons. You may also use WiFi Repeaters or Extenders from TP-Link, Netgear, Xiaomi etc.
Secondly, adding more and more WiFi will fill up your home with radio signals which is not considered to be good thing. Then you may ask, “What about other radio technologies like ZigBee ?. Don’t they produce the same effect ?”. Well, ZigBee is also using the same 2.4GHz spectrum as WiFi but, it has some merits over it. The Sub-1Ghz spectrum is harmless and there are so many technologies coming in the consumer market in near future. Even, ZigBee has protocol that works under 1GHz.
ZigBee – A Smart Decision
ZigBee Wireless Networks allow its connected devices to work in tandem as each device will act as repeater, so that the device placed at distance can also work without communication failure. For instance, Philips Hue bulbs don’t need repeaters even if some bulbs are placed at very long distance, provided another bulb is placed in between and distance from the Philips Hue Hub and the distant bulb are in its range. So, for a best experience for your Smart Lighting Solution, stick with a Non-WiFi setup.
White Or Colored Smart Lighting Solution?
Even though the Color Smart Bulb can produce enough white with various color temperature, choosing a white (non-color) bulb or Tube Light is sometimes seems relevant. Imagine a study area where your child needs a warm light to read properly, or else you want a cool white while doing Yoga. In short, spending on an RGB Bulb is not recommendable and going for a stable white light source with amble luminance is more reasonable. There are many Smart Lighting Solutions available for White light source from different manufactures especially Philips Hue range and most of them comes with Adjustable Color Temperature.
LED Bulbs or LED Tube Lights ?
Which one do you prefer the most, Bulb or Tube Light ? Though most of them have preferences, but bulbs are simple, convenient, low cost and suitable for small rooms, toilets and outdoor. Tube Lights shines well in the Halls, study rooms, living rooms etc. It spreads the light in a soft distribution which is pleasing to the eye. In addition, the Tube Lights helps to reduce the shadow areas. However, the availability of Tube Lights/Battens in the Smart Lighting Solutions is some what lower. Luckily, Wipro is the only one brand in the Indian market to provide such solution.
Wipro Garnet series has battens that support Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Replace your old battens with these Smart LED Battens, so that you can control them with your voice.
Cheap Smart Lighting Solutions vs Premium Brands
This is where the cost matters, but think again; quality is most important thing while setting up your Smart Home. The indian market is flooded with various Chinese brands and available in different quality, shape and functionality. Most of the Chinese brand products are similar in functionality and utilises the IoT Cloud service giant Tuya for internet connectivity. On the other hand, Philips Hue restricts the online connectivity of its light bulbs and imposes a strong authorization policy on partner services.
Security is a questionable thing in most devices in the market apart from the leading brands like Philips Hue, LIFX and Wipro etc. Invest in a brand which takes care of the Security aspect seriously.
Inverter LED Lights – A Less Smart Lighting Solution
Inverter LED Bulbs are those work even after the power failure. Unlike the Emergency Lamps which turn ON when the power goes off, Inverter Bulbs remains in the same state irrespective of the power line state. That means, it follows your switch state; Switch ON means Lamp ON and Switch OFF means Lamp OFF ‘irrespective of the power availability’. The idea is to have an inverter circuit with rechargeable AA battery and smart electronic circuitry which detects the status of the switch even after the power line outage; all integrated in to the light bulb.
Inverter LED Bulbs are very useful when you don’t have an Inverter Backup System installed in your house. Because of the complex circuitry and the built-n inverter, the Inverter LED Bulbs (or Rechargeable LED Bulbs) are slightly expensive than the normal LED Bulbs. But, the cost is very lower compared to Smart LED Bulbs. Inverter LED Bulbs can be very useful even though, it lacks the connectivity. HALONIX, Syska, Panasonic etc are the leaders in Rechargeable LED Bulbs. It is worth considering Inverter LED Bulbs while setting up your home for a Smart Lighting Solutions.
Start with replacing your Tube Lights as a first step in embracing the Smart Lighting Solutions in your home. After that, place the RGB lights wherever you think needs colored light. Lamp shades, overhead Pendants above tables, ceilings, computer tables, TV units etc are the areas where the RGB lights dazzle. Further, consider accommodating Inverter Bulbs in some important areas like toilets, wash rooms and walkways where power failure should not be a problem for you. However, it is less effective if you already have an Inverter Backup in your home. Even Though, you can use these Inverter LED Bulbs where the Inverter Power is unavailable, because most household wiring limits their connected load in Inverter backup.
To conclude, plan your Smart Lighting Solutions in such way that it adds value to the usability and comfort. Good luck to your Smart Home aspirations.