Smart Light Basics – What is smart lighting

Don’t be overwhelmed by smart lights. By the end of this smart light basics guide, you will know how smart lights work, the types of smart lights and whether you need one.

 

What is smart lighting

Traditional lighting is simple; either you turn it on or off. Smart lighting enables you to do more than just turn on/off your lights.

When we talk about smart lighting at home, all of them have one thing in common; wireless connectivity. This means you do not have to physically walk to the light switch. Instead you control it via an app on your mobile device (phone, tablet).

Due to the popularity of WiFi smart lighting, this article will only focus on WiFi smart lights and not bluetooth smart lights.

 

How smart lighting works

You will come across the term ‘wireless’ or ‘smart’ when browsing smart lights. This simply means these lights can connect to a WiFi network. Below is a simple diagram on how this works.

Phone connects to the lights via the WiFi network.

When your lights are connected to a WiFi network (i.e. your home network), you have the ability to control the lights wherever you are – as long as you have Internet connection.

Example 1: You can be anywhere at home –  kitchen, toilet, living room or bedroom. As long as both your phone and lights are connected to the network, you can control lights.

Control the lights anywhere in your home

Example 2: You can be at a restaurant, the office, or even holidaying overseas. As long as your lights are connected to the network, and you have Internet on your phone, you can control the lights.

Control the lights outside (as long as both are connected to the Internet)

 

Hub or Non-hub

The next thing to know is whether the smart lighting works with a hub or without a hub.

Hub

With a hub (bridge), what happens is this:

Your phone : "Hey hub, please turn on the lights in the living room"
Hub        : "Ok, I will locate the lights and turn it on"

You can think of the hub as the control centre – where it receives a command from your phone,
and sends that command to the lights. In this setup, the hub contains the WiFi component and not the lights.

Examples of smart lights: Philips Hue
Non-hub

With a non-hub (standalone), what happens is this:

Your phone: "I will turn on the lights in the living room myself"

In this setup, the WiFi component is built directly into the lights itself. This enables the app on your phone to communicate directly to the lights without needing a hub.

Examples of smart lights: Yeelight, TP-Link, LIFX

 

Dimmable, Tunable, Colour

When shopping for smart lights, you will come across words like ‘Dimmable’, ‘Tunable’ and ‘Colour’. These words are used to describe their basic capability.

Adjust brightness level
Adjust shades of whites
Adjust colour
Dimmable
Yes
Tunable
Yes
Yes
Colour
Yes
Yes
Yes
Dimmable

Smart lights that are labeled as ‘dimmable’ only allow you to adjust your preferred brightness. For example, if you think the lights are too bright (100%), you can bring it down to 50% using the app.

Tunable

Tunable smart lights have the added capability to select different shades of white. For example, you can set it to be ‘warm white’ (like an incandescent bulb) or ‘cool white’ (like daylight).

Colour

With colour smart lights, you can adjust the colour of the lights. For example, if you want it to be blue, just tap on the blue colour. If you want red, select red.

 

Do I need smart lights

To consider smart lights, you first have to realise there is a problem that smart lights can solve. Do not get smart lights if you do not understand how it can improve your lifestyle.

Consider the scenario below:

It's in the evening and you finally get to relax.
You plonk yourself on the couch and start browsing your phone.
After a while you feel the living room lights are too bright.
Without smart lights

A person without smart lights can do two things; bear with the discomfort or turn off the lights. Both options are not wrong. It’s perfectly fine if you feel you can carry on with your daily activities.

With smart lights

If you think the lights are too bright, lower down the brightness. All you have to do is launch the app, and select your preferred brightness. It could be 50%, 25% ,5% even 1%.

Adjusting the brightness is just the basic feature of smart lights. Other more capable ones allow you to select the your preferred whites (warm white, daylight, etc) and also change the colour.

Bottom line

Do not get smart lights just for the sake of getting it. If you proceed without understanding what it offers, then you will be disappointed.

 

Smart lights considerations

Change of habits

With traditional lighting, to turn it off, you have to physically flick the switch. If you do that with smart lights, the smart lights will be completely inaccessible (‘dead’). Why? Because smart lights require a small amount of electricity to stay connected to your home network.

Instead, you have to use your app to turn it off. By doing this your smart lights are ‘sleeping’ but also ready to receive commands from your app.This method of turning on/off the smart lights may require some getting used to.

Price

Most readers will agree that the price of smart lights is a concern. For a quick and fast comparison:

Say your home has 24 light points. 
A pack of 24 standard LED bulbs will cost USD$30.00 
The same amount of smart bulbs will cost USD$470.00

Is it expensive? Definitely yes. But if you understand the value smart lights bring, then it can be considered an investment. Again, it comes down to necessity – you may not want to fill your whole house with smart lights. To be prudent, start small. If you feel your living room can do with smart lights, just start with the living room and slowly expand from there.

 

Well Done

You now have an understanding of smart light basics! Now you can be at ease and even shop with confidence the next time you come across smart lights. Stay with jumpadevice as we share more advanced features of smart lights in the upcoming guide.