What is a smart light?
For anyone new to the smart lighting world, trying to even understand the basics can be overwhelming and confusing. Lists of endless capabilities that are controlled by this, that, and the other don’t actually clarify what a smart light is, how it works, and why you should care.
So, let’s change that by breaking it down into the nitty gritty.
Defining a smart light.
We can clarify what a smart light is by starting with the basics.
Picture an average light bulb. You screw it into a lamp, pendant, or recessed light fixture. It turns off and on via a switch on your wall. It brightens a space in your home. And that’s it. It doesn’t do anything else. Let’s call this average light bulb a “dumb light.”
With a “dumb light” as our starting point, we can pretty easily move on to assume a “smart light” does all of those things – you screw it in, it turns on to brighten a space, etc – but, because it’s smart, it can also do much more if you want it to.
And, more importantly, a smart light can do all of those extra things remotely. Think: voice control, on/off scheduling, color changes, and more, just through an app on your phone.
But more on that later.
How do smart lights work?
Before we dive into the "how” of smart lights, let’s back up a little bit. It’s important that we start with the bigger picture by answering the question: what is the Internet of Things?
What is the IoT?
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to physical objects (or “things,” as it were) that are connected to each other technologically in order to share data with one another through the internet.
This network of billions of devices around the world can include any type of object, like something as simple as a motion sensor that opens your garage to something as intricate as a commercial airplane.
With sensors and software that allow all of these devices to communicate with one another, the IoT provides a system that lets “things” enact processes without specific human mediation.
What that means in laymen's terms is: your tech objects can talk to each other through the internet to do a lot of different actions automatically that make your life easier (and cooler).
Smarter lights through IoT connection.
A light bulb that’s controlled with an app on your smartphone is just a single example of the billions of physical objects that can be an IoT device. But it's the reason we’re here today, so let’s keep chatting about light bulbs.
Smart lights are essentially Wi-Fi light bulbs when you get down to it. By connecting to the internet, a smart light bulb can be programmed to do endless combinations of things automatically throughout your day.
What’s an example of an automatic process?
Recap: smart lights use the internet to do a bunch of things to improve your home lighting through automatic processes. Got it.
But what does that actually look like?
Here’s an example: studies have shown that different types of lighting can improve your day depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. Bright blue-white lights are great for the mornings because they make people feel awake, but that also means they aren’t great for night as they’ve been proven to hinder sleep.
By using an app controlled light bulb, you can program your lights to automatically use bright whites in the morning so that you can feel invigorated and active as soon as you wake up. Then, as the day continues, your lights can slowly dim to warmer amber shades so that you’re eased into a relaxing evening and able to fall asleep easily.
And that’s just one example of an automated process that can be created with the use of smart lighting. There are endless possibilities, truth be told.
How do I control smart light bulbs?
Most smart light companies require you to purchase a hub in order to use your lights wirelessly. However, LIFX lights don’t require a hub and instead you can simply connect your lights to Wi-Fi through the LIFX app.
Alternatively, many people choose to use a smart home system like Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, or Google Nest. Systems like these allow people to control their lights as well as countless other smart devices in order to create an entire ecosystem of automated processes.
The benefits of a smart bulb.
On their own, smart lights provide an assortment of lifestyle enhancing features. One example is the option to change the color of your lights to create a specific ambiance or environment in your home.
Because LIFX smart lights use LEDs (light emitting diodes), they’re able to change into billions of different colors. As stated before, these colors can be different shades of white to enhance how you preform throughout your day; vivid bright colors like purple and green to create a party vibe; a light pink to promote calm feelings; and more. And that’s just the beginning of smart lighting’s color changing capabilities.
Smart lights can also meet your needs in ways you never expected, like by disinfecting objects in your home or providing infrared vision for night-time security.
Plus, smart LEDs are currently one of the most energy efficient solutions in the market. The estimated energy use of a LIFX smart light is $1.32 per year (based on 3 hours a day at 11¢/kWh). And who doesn’t love energy savings?
To top it off, by connecting LIFX smart lights to other devices in your home you can create a wide variety of interconnected processes called “Scenes.” Think: a movie night with the perfect shades of lighting to match the genre of the movie you're watching. Or playing your favorite video game with epic visual effects.
It sounds corny, but it’s true: when it comes to smart lighting, the only thing limiting the benefits is your imagination.