Illuminate your abode with these bright ideas
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.
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.