smart light­ing

Il­lu­mi­nate your abode with these bright ideas

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There’s a plethora of smart light­ing sys­tems avail­able these days, some of which of­fer weird and won­der­ful fea­tures such as built-in speak­ers, or mo­tion­sen­sors that can turn on the lights to scare away would-be in­trud­ers. How­ever, the main ad­van­tage of smart light­ing sys­tems is that they can save you money. The LED tech­nol­ogy used in mod­ern smart bulbs is very en­ergy-ef­fi­cient and long-last­ing, and the apps that con­trol these bulbs al­low you to in­stantly turn the lights on or off in any room, dim the lights to watch a film, or set daily light­ing sched­ules to suit your rou­tine.

Many LED bulbs also al­low you to choose dif­fer­ent colours, rather than plain old white light, which is good for creat­ing at­mos­phere in the evenings, say. Most of­fer some sort of re­mote con­trol op­tion when you’re away from home, and some even of­fer Siri voice con­trol, too – which is kind of cool, even if it’s not ab­so­lutely essen­tial.

Back To The Light

Most man­u­fac­tur­ers make a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent smart light­ing prod­ucts, rang­ing from in­di­vid­ual light bulbs to lamps and flex­i­ble strip light­ing that you can use in a gar­den. But, when you’re get­ting started it’s eas­i­est just to buy one or two ba­sic bulbs that you can use in ex­ist­ing light­ing sock­ets.

There are a num­ber of op­tions here. The sim­plest smart bulb we’ve seen is the Avea from El­gato (£40), which uses an iOS app and a Blue­tooth con­nec­tion to con­trol bright­ness and colour set­tings. You can con­trol up to 10 sep­a­rate lights with the Avea app, but Blue­tooth’s lim­ited range means the Avea lights will work best in one par­tic­u­lar lo­ca­tion, such as a bed­room or din­ing room.

If you want to con­trol the lights all over your home then a Wi-Fi con­nec­tion will pro­vide greater range, as well as ad­di­tional fea­tures such as re­mote con­trol over the in­ter­net. To han­dle that ex­tra com­plex­ity you’ll find that most Wi-Fi–con­nected light­ing sys­tems re­quire an ad­di­tional net­work adap­tor, or bridge, that must be con­nected to your router. For­tu­nately, it’s pos­si­ble to buy starter kits that con­tain a num­ber of bulbs along with any re­quired adap­tor for quite rea­son­able prices, and you can add ad­di­tional bulbs to that as needed.

These kits start at around £80 for the Nanoleaf Smarter Kit (two bulbs and an

adap­tor) and go up to £150 for the Philips Hue Starter Kit (three bulbs and an adap­tor). Un­for­tu­nately, Os­ram’s Light­ify Starter Kit isn’t avail­able in the UK, so you need to buy its Light­ify bulbs and ‘gate­way’ sep­a­rately, for about £30 each. One ex­cep­tion to the need for an adap­tor is a com­pany called LIFX, which packs the nec­es­sary Wi-Fi tech into each bulb. They are quick and easy to set up, but they’re a bit more ex­pen­sive than some of their ri­vals, so the LIFX bulbs are per­haps best used se­lec­tively in just one or two rooms where you want to show off and make an im­pact.

Light Work

As you’d ex­pect, the apps that con­trol these smart light­ing sys­tems all al­low you to turn your lights on and off from your iOS de­vices, and you can also dim the lights with­out hav­ing to in­stall a spe­cial switch on a wall. Most of them also al­low you to group lights to­gether to cre­ate cus­tom light­ing schemes for dif­fer­ent rooms and ac­tiv­i­ties. How­ever, there are quite a few dif­fer­ences be­tween these light­ing sys­tems too.

El­gato’s Avea app is big on multi-coloured mood light­ing, but has lim­ited sched­ul­ing

Some smart light­ing sys­tems pro­vide op­tional re­mote con­trols that en­able you to con­trol them even if your iPhone or iPad isn’t to hand.

Most smart light­ing

sys­tems al­low you to cre­ate cus­tom schemes to suit dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­i­ties

Not all smart light­ing net­work adap­tors are as eye-catch­ing as Nanoleaf’s do­dec­a­he­dron, but they’re of­ten dis­creetly com­pact.

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