Smart Lighting: Perfect Illumination Made Easy

Smart Lighting: Perfect Illumination Made Easy

How smart lighting works, what you get, and what’s required. Smart lighting as part of home automation helps you get the illumination levels you need. We show you what to look for.

We all have seen it in the movies: protagonists returning home after dark need to flip one switch only to turn on all the lights in the room. Good news: reality has caught up with Hollywood as nowadays smart lighting systems get you the lux levels you want. No hassle involved. The only thing you need to do is swap old light bulbs with smart bulbs that come with a built-in chip. When it comes to choice and usage, only the sky is the limit. Conrad Connect allows you to interconnect smart bulbs with smart door locks, thermostatic radiator valves, air quality detectors, and many other devices. This boosts the comfiness and safety of your smart home. We help you find what works for you, and how to make the most of it.

How does smart lighting work?

Looking at state-of-the-art LED bulbs, incandescent lamps have come a long way since starting out as glass contraptions with carbonized bamboo filaments. LED lamps don’t only consume way less energy than their predecessors but also allow changing light colours without changing the bulb by using a mobile device and an internet connection. Like portable brick phones that evolved into smartphones, light turned into smart light.

Smart bulbs come with a built-in chip that allows wireless signal exchange with a Wi-Fi router. If the chip uses Wi-Fi protocols smart bulbs can directly communicate with the router. Bulbs using ZigBee or other standards require a box wired to the router, to act as an interpreter.

If you want to switch on or change the colour of the lights you can do this for all bulbs in one go. As the system operates based on radio waves there ’s no need to change any of the electrical wirings. Means installing smart lighting is done the same way than changing a light bulb: just screw it into the socket. That’s pretty much it.

Easy and flexible control

Using Wi-Fi routers to control lighting settings over the internet comes with a range of advantages. It gives you to access to all bulbs at the same time, and that both from home and when you’re out and about. Forgot to turn off the lights? No prob at all. Just do it from wherever you are at the moment. Moreover, interconnecting bulbs with motion detectors and CCTV cameras allows setting up complex automated lighting routines.

Philips Hue
Philips Hue WiZ

However, the first step is completing the smart lighting set-up using a smartphone or tablet app, hooking up the bulbs to your smart home system. What follows is either choosing one of the available colour presets, or designing your own pattern by assigning a different colour to each of the bulbs to add some nifty finishing touches to your lighting scenario.

There are different ways of activating your set-ups including app buttons or voice control via smart speakers such as Google Home and Amazon Echo. Moreover, you can sync lighting set-ups with battery-powered smart switches and keep them close if you don’t want to fiddle around with your phone or shout at a speaker. Another option is getting yourself a smart RC, such as a Logitech Harmony, that not only allows you to pick radio stations but also to lower the light intensity if you are using dimmable smart bulbs.

What’s more, you can’t really call your home smart if it’s still you who needs to do everything yourself. If you sync your automation system with your GPS whereabouts the lights will turn off when the last occupant left, and turn on again when the first occupant returns home. Goes without saying that you can run the same set-up using motion detectors.

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Comfort. Mood. Safety. What smart lighting can do.

The right type of lighting does contribute to home comfort to a far greater extent than most people think. Smart lighting allows you to adapt light conditions to your everyday life. Using the app’s colour selector dial and a bit of swiping turns you into a lighting designer. Start the day more efficiently by waking up to cold white light, and increase the warmth of the light in the eve after you return home and want to relax.

If you opt for smart bulbs that support the RGB colour model the number of possibilities skyrockets. For instance, use the app to reproduce one of 16 million colours to get precisely the tints and shades you are after. Employing more than one bulb lets you create impressive mood lighting scenarios that perfectly suit home cinema nights, romantic dinners, relaxing in the tub, birthday parties, gaming sessions or outdoor barbecue events.

Moreover, smart lighting may be easily used as a visual alert system. If, for instance, the air quality sensor in the room goes off, the light changes colour to tell you it’s time to open the windows and let some fresh air in. Synching room lighting with a CCTV camera when you are away, allows you to simulate occupancy to deter home intruders. And connecting lighting and fire alarms helps boost the safety of your home by triggering a colour change to red in the case of a fire.

Home automation made easy: ready-to-use lighting projects

Above shows how interconnecting smart lighting with other smart devices boosts the range of uses immensely. And since everything’s automated you don’t need to lift a finger. Creating home automation projects is pretty straightforward thanks to our browser-based rule editor that lets you determine the time settings, devices and triggers you want to use.

Before you get cracking, maybe check out some of the project shared by our community members first. If you like what you see, just pick the respective project, import it by clicking it, and adapt it to your smart home system if necessary. Below a selection of shared projects centred around lighting:

    Smart lighting retrofits

    A light bulb is just a light bulb, right? Wrong. Smart bulbs come in all shapes and forms. And the overwhelming amount of choice makes picking the ones you need a bit of a gamble. So, why not check out the guidelines below that help you make an informed decision.

    Bulb shapes: Retrofitting standard smart bulbs is a sensible move if you just starting out. Smart bulbs also come in candle- or pear-shape. Looking for more sophisticated solutions? Opt for LED strip lights that smugly fit plinths, cupboards, door frames, or balcony railings. What about modular LED panel lights that may be used to form patterns, to add an individual touch to your home interiors?

    If you intend to switch entirely to LED lighting, why not look into what’s available when it comes to ready-to-use solutions? The main difference to single bulbs is that the LEDs are built-in and cannot be changed. However, their extraordinary long lifespan makes them as feasible as their counterparts. What’s more, ready-to-use solutions allow more compact and sophisticated set-ups.

    Tech specs: White? Colour? Not a trivial question. Colour bulbs can reproduce any shade and warmth of white. On the other hand, white bulbs may do warm and cold light but won’t do colour. Moreover, make sure that your purchase actually fits the bulb holder. Luckily, nowadays there’s plenty of choices when it comes to the E27, E14 and GU10 base standards. Last but not least, think about the brightness levels you require. For instance, 90 lumens are more than enough for setting accent colours. However, you’ll need something in the ballpark of 600 lumens or more if you want to light a room well. Also, not all bulbs are suitable for outdoor use, so check the label. Choose an IP65 or higher rating to play it safe.

    Voice control: Like most other home automation products, smart lighting appliances support voice control. Means if you own a Google Home or Amazon Echo, using your voice to change settings or activate lighting scenarios is as easy as it gets. And don’t worry. Our platform works with both voice assistants.

    Gateway: Depending on the wireless standard they use, some bulbs require a gateway (aka access point, hub or bridge) that connects them to the Wi-Fi router. If no gateway is needed, you save space and router slots. However, gateways aren’t necessarily a bad thing: Philips Hue, Osram Lightify and Zipato hubs allow smart lighting incorporating products from other brands – something that you can’t do without a gateway, or that would necessitate setting up separate gateways.

    Price: As the benefits of smart lighting only fully unfold if you use multiple smart bulbs, set-up costs tend to be a major factor. Trad-shaped white LED bulbs come at €20 to €35 a pop. Their colour counterparts hit your wallet at about €40 to €70 apiece. And if you need a gateway, too, that’s another €40 to €100. The way around eye-watering set-up costs are starter kits that include a gateway and a set of bulbs. However, as soon as you look at designer features, be prepared to see prices skyrocket.

    Using smart bulbs on Conrad Connect

    Operating your home automation via our platform does not require choosing and sticking with one product line or system. Conrad Connect allows you to pick device and services from a variety of brands to create our own oasis of comfiness. As of January 2019, we support a wide range of smart lighting products and suppliers, including LifXmyStromOsramPhilips HueSmartwares and Wiz. Besides, CloudMatic, Osram, Philips Hue, Wiz Connected and Zipato systems enable hooking up even more smart devices from additional manufacturers.

    Ikea Tradfri: Ikea Tradfri smart lighting products link to Conrad Connect home automation projects via Osram Lightify, Philips Hue and Zipato gateways. Moreover, for anyone who likes to operate things manually, there is an iOS/Android app as well as voice control support for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. The product line comprises both white and RGB bulbs.

    HomeMatic: HomeMatic doesn’t supply smart bulbs for retrofits. The product line comprises flush-mount wireless switches that can be synched with Conrad Connect via the CloudMatic service.

    LifX: LifX E27 smart bulbs are probably the most compact among currently available products, being also suited for lights with very narrow enclosures. What’s more, LifX supplies BR30-rated bulbs that produce invisible IR light to boost the sensitivity of CCTV cameras after sunset. As LifX bulbs have Wi-Fi built-in, you don’t need to spend money on a gateway. Set-up and changes are made using an app supported by iOS, Android and, guess what, Windows Mobile. Goes without saying that LifX bulbs also respond to Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

    Philips Hue: Signify’s Hue smart lighting products come in a vast variety of types and forms, including traditional shapes as well as LED panel and strip lights suitable for both indoor and outdoor uses. Signify’s pear- and candle-shaped bulbs fit standard E27, E14 or GU10 sockets. Most Philips bulbs are dimmable. Besides its own iOS/Android app, Philips Hue supports apps from a wide range of other providers, as well as voice control via Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. As Philips devices use ZigBee communication protocols, the gateway also allows setting up Conrad Connect projects that incorporate smart lighting products from brands like Ikea Tradfri, Paul Neuhaus, Tint and Trust Smart Home.

    myStrom: Das smarte LED-Leuchtmittel mit E27-Sockel deckt den vollen RGB-Farbraum mit 16 Millionen Schattierungen ab. Lichtszenen lösen Sie mit der App für iPhones, Apple Watch und Android-Smartphones aus. Alternativ erfüllt ein WiFi-Button von myStrom sozusagen als Fernbedienung den gleichen Zweck. Das Smart Light von myStrom kann ohne Gateway direkt mit dem WLAN-Router Kontakt aufnehmen.

    Osram: Ob Sie die Produkte aus den Osram-Serien Lightify oder Smart+ in Ihre Projekte bei Conrad Connect einbinden, steht ihnen frei. Beide sind kompatibel. Wählen Sie zwischen Leuchtmitteln in klassischer Kolbenform oder LED-Streifen. Letztere sind gemäß IP65-Standard so gut gegen Wasser und Staub geschützt, dass sie sich für Außeneinsätze eignen. Viele Leuchten sind dimmbar. Lichtszenen steuern sie manuell per App oder Sprachanweisung an Alexa. Über das ZigBee-Gateway von Osram können Sie weitere Lichtsysteme mit Conrad Connect verwenden. Das gilt für Produkte von Ikea Tradfri, Paul Neuhaus und Trust Smart Home.

    Osram Smart

    Paul Neuhaus: Opting for a Philips Hue and Osram Zigbee hub lets you use the entire Q product line series on our platform, including an eclectic selection of stylish free-standing, wall and ceiling lights. Paul Neuhaus products come with an app and support Amazon Echo.

    Smartwares: Smartwares’ product line includes a E27-base HW1600 white bulb and its HW1601 RGB counterpart, covering a wide range of smart lighting needs. Both bulbs come with an Android/iOS app that allows setting lighting times and activating scenarios. If you like to keep things tangible, the company’s SH4-99550 white LED bulb isn’t app-enabled which means you get a proper remote control as part of the package. The remote is also compatible with the two other products but needs to be ordered separately if you opt for the HW line.

    SmartWares

    Trust Smart Home: If you centre your smart lighting system around an Osram Lightify, Philips Hue or Zipato Zigbee hub, Conrad Connect also supports Trust Smart Home products, including trad-shaped white and RGB bulbs that fit a variety of sockets. Trust Smart Home products are app-controlled.

    Wiz: Wiz’s product line comprises a large variety of white and colour bulbs across the E27, E14 and GU10 base range. The company also supplies desk and ceiling lights. If you don’t want to fiddle with the iOS or Android app, use voice commands via Google Assistant or Alexa to activate a lighting settings. Moreover, Wiz products come with built-in Wi-Fi means you don’t need a separate gateway to sync them with a router. Also, signing up for Wiz Connected, a cloud-based service and alternative to a gateway, allows you to interconnect bulbs from other manufacturers, such as AEG, ATOM, Brillant, Esto, Fischer & Honsel, iDual, LUTEC, SLV, Trio and Wofi. Looking at their high connectivity levels, Wiz products are a great choice for system designers and network engineers.