Saturday, September 23, 2023

Home Lighting’s Tech Makeover

Beyond large-scale and specialised smart lighting implementations for achieving the right ambience and energy savings lies a market that captures the hearts of home owners -- Janani Gopalakrishnan Vikram

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With the mobile app, users can adjust, customise, program and schedule one or multiple iLumi bulbs. An iLumi bulb can recognise whether you are in the room or not and adjust lighting accordingly. It can also waver in sync with music or alert you of important information such as weather, news updates, stock price movements, phone calls or email messages!

LIFX: Colours life bright
Sometimes you just want something like, say, the good-old phone. Less features, but good at what it does! If that is what you expect of your smart bulb too, then LIFX is likely to be your choice.


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The diodes in each LIFX bulb are capable of achieving a full spectrum of natural tones at up to 1000 lumens. ‘16 million colours at your fingertips,’ is what the company claims. Generally, in coloured bulbs, the peak brightness is achieved by white, while the colours are much dimmer. With LIFX, you can add white light on top of the coloured light, which results in a full spectrum of tinted light to work with. LIFX bulbs consume 17 watts of energy and have a life of around 27 years. It is a bit heavier than its counterparts because it has a built-in heat sink.

Each bulb comes with in-built Wi-Fi capability, so it can communicate directly with your smartphone and be controlled with the LIFX app. You can comfortably control around 50 bulbs with the app, so LIFX can be considered for ambient lighting in larger spaces, too.

Professional reviewers laud LIFX for its great hardware, but claim it is not smart enough yet, as the app has minimal features. While you can remotely control the bulb, vary the hue and brightness, and achieve all the basics comfortably, the app supposedly lacks advanced scheduling and other such features. That said, the company does seem to be updating its offering with features like automatic brightening and dimming of light when you wake up or drift-off to sleep.

WeMo smart LED bulbs: From home-automation experts

WeMo smart LED bulbs
WeMo smart LED bulbs

Coming from Belkin, which has a strong background in easy-to-use home-automation products, WeMo smart LED bulbs are rich in features, as expected. The setup is very similar to the Philips system, with Zigbee-powered LED light bulbs, a WeMo Link hub that mediates between the bulbs and your Wi-Fi network, and a smartphone app.

Like the products seen earlier, the app lets you remotely control, schedule and program your bulbs. One of the interesting features of the WeMo app, which stands out from others is the ‘simulated occupancy’ option, which randomly switches lights, music, etc, on or off automatically, to make it appear like you are at home, when you might be away on a vacation.

Since WeMo has a broad range of home-automation products, it is possible to club your bulbs with more bulbs—WeMo switch, WeMo Motion, WeMo light switch and WeMo Insight switches. WeMo also proposes to include IFTTT in the near future.

GE: Link and Wink
One more interesting product set for launch this fall is the GE Link smart LED bulb, which works with GE’s emerging smart home platform. Like other Zigbee based light bulbs, Link requires an intermediary hub. While this sounds cumbersome, there are two things that work in its favour. One is the relatively low price of the bulb, at $15. A kit of two bulbs and a hub would be just around $50, which is much cheaper than other brands. The other advantage is the compatibility with Wink, a platform that is so well-accepted in the market that most popular home-automation products, including those from Quirky, Dropcam, Philips, TCP and Honeywell, work with it.

This is not an exclusive list of smart lights. There are many more smart lights, and a great choice of automation platforms, like Infineon and Connect4, that broaden the scope of smart lighting. As the market picks up, surely we will see more products coming up, and as adoption improves, prices are likely to drop, too. The technology, however, is more or less stable. So, if you want to buy an interesting New Year’s gift for yourself, unmindful of the price, a smart light bulb might be a good choice! Just make sure you visit online stores to check who delivers in India and find a good price deal, too.

The author is a technically-qualified freelance writer, editor and hands-on mom based in Chennai


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