Automation of smart lighting advances to the next level

Automation of smart lighting advances to the next level
Today smart lighting is at the connected stage where consumers are testing it using mobile apps. Upon us is responsive lighting where lights at home may soon reacts to our habits and lifestyle automatically.

Smart lighting can potentially bring much convenience. People love being able to walk into the house late at night while the lights automatically turn on, or walk into the entryway with arms full of groceries without having to flip the light switch.

There are more light bulbs in a home than other appliances like thermostat and speaker, which makes lighting a prime connection point for unlocking additional smart home opportunities.
 
Tom Stimac, Chief
Innovation Manager of
GE Lighting

There are challenges, however. Upfront cost and installation work are the main hurdles of greater adoption. Often times a gateway is required to relay signals of various communication protocols like Zigbee, Z-Wave and Wi-Fi. Signal transmission could be unstable and may lead to system breakdown.

“The smart home space can still be confusing. Consumers want devices that are interoperable and allow them to connect features together vs . having many different stand-alone devices with individualized offerings,” said Tom Stimac, Chief Innovation Manager of GE Lighting.

“They also hope for connected experiences that are easy and where there is little to worry about post the initial set-up,” Stimac added.

Rebecca Töreman, Product Developer at IKEA Home Smart at IKEA of Sweden, concurred. “We asked our customers in home visits and surveys what they thought about smart lighting, and they said that it was too expensive and too difficult to understand,” she said.
Rebecca Töreman,
Product Developer at IKEA
Home Smart, IKEA Sweden
 

Solutions to address complex setup

One possible solution is to use control devices compatible with various eco-systems and technology platforms. Leviton, a global automation solution provider, claims to offer such devices. Its Decora Smart with HomeKit Technology allows for customizable lighting control using an Apple product like iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch.

“We cater to each homeowner’s preference and create dedicated, pure products that tie into other ecosystems. For example, we began with the Z-Wave technology, and then also moved into the Wi-Fi and Apple HomeKit spaces,” said Greg Rhoades, Director of Marketing for Leviton’s Energy Management Controls & Automation Division.

The company’s Decora Smart with Z-Wave Technology features two-way feedback, scene capability, and Z-Wave enabled hub support, like Samsung SmartThings and Wink HUB, to provide remote access and scheduling.
Greg Rhoades,
Director of Marketing,
Leviton Energy Management
Controls & Automation Division


Another solution is to simplify the connectivity, according to Gunitech Corp., which makes a Bluetooth-based smart products, including LED lamps. With Bluetooth, the gateway device to translate different communication protocols is no longer required. Users can control the lighting at home directly from their mobile app, said Ray Shiu, Associate Vice President of Gunitech Corp.

Imagine a scenario where homeowners don’t need to switch on and off lights manually. When you enter a room, be it a living room, dining room or bedroom, the lights will turn on automatically. And they will also turn off on their own when you leave the space.

This, according to Shiu, can be accomplished via Bluetooth mesh networking. Just embed sensors, lighting and other home appliances with Bluetooth technology and link them together, so that actions like turning on lights can be triggered automatically when motions are detected.

Bluetooth mesh networking is ideal for this type of deployment. The technology will lower the hurdles of smart lighting adoption, namely higher costs and complex installation, Shiu said. “Bluetooth can cut down hardware and maintenance expenses.”
Ray Shiu, Associate Vice
President of Gunitech
 

Big companies hold sway

In the viewpoint of manufacturers in the upstream supply chain, greater adoption of smart lighting will depend very much on big companies’ efforts.

“Global brands have the ability to influence the general public’s use habits, and they are pushing hard for greater adoption of smart lighting,” said Chen Wei-lun, Sales Director of Beautiful Light Technology Corp., a Taiwan-based retrofit lamp manufacturer that has made Wi-Fi, Zigbee and Bluetooth-compatible light bulbs.

Home builders and appliance makers also hold major sway. “Construction companies and major appliance brands have rolled out TVs, refrigerators and air conditioners that can be automatically switched on before users arrive home. And now they are turning the attention to lighting automation,” Chen said.
Chen Wei-lun, Sales
Director of Beautiful Light
Technology


Fred Chuang, General Manager of Fleda Technology Corp., that makes Apple HomeKit-compatible smart light bulb adaptor, says the DIY market in Taiwan is different from that in the U.S., and therefore, cannot be relied on to advocate and push for smart home adoption. The “environment” is very important, he said. It is more feasible to rely on favorable government policies and the push by telecommunication and real estate developers, Chuang said.

Companies in general believe that voice control will become a main control mechanism. Voice compatibility is huge right now. Consumers are growing more and more accustomed to using their voice to unlock additional opportunity at home, so there is demand for voice-controlled smart bulbs, according to GE Lighting.

“We believe that as voice integration continues to become more sophisticated, the associated challenges will lessen and lead to higher adaptation rates of smart home technology, including smart lighting,” Rhoades from Leviton said.

Evolution of smart lighting

The main functionalities of today’s smart lighting entail app control to switch on/off the lights and to change color temperatures. There is also “scene control” to turn on multiple lighting devices at once to create a desired atmosphere. The third and final application is automation, where the lights will be turned on and off by themselves per users’ preference.
Fred Chuang, General
Manager of Fleda
Technology


Today lighting is really at the connected stage where homeowners are beginning to test smart lighting that’s connected to apps. “Upon us is responsive lighting where we are using things like voice to control lighting and soon where lighting reacts to our habits,” GE Lighting’s Stimac said. Lights may be turned on when users arrive home, or shift to sleep-enabling light one hour before bed, for example.

Leviton plans to introduce similar automation products. “We also see a pipeline in the future for devices that are good at anticipating and understanding people,” Rhoades said.

Also, IKEA is rolling out “systems that don’t require you to change too much of your general behavior,” Töreman said, adding that this is why the company has physical controllers to complement app control.

Fleda’s Chuang offers another use case, that is, to enable automation by linking users’ mobile phone and router at home. By measuring the distance between the phone and the router, a mechanism may be created to turn on the lights and air conditioner when the user is within 100 meters of the home radius.

One application is using IFTTT (if this, then that) integration. As the use becomes more prevalent, smart lighting can trigger automation activity based on events in the home using third-party devices. For example, if a motion is detected on a surveillance camera, then turn on Porch Light.

One of the smart home categories GE Lighting see really rising right now is the wellness category. Part of that is a new focus on sleep and consumers are looking for solutions designed to help them get a better night’s sleep, Stimac said. A warm light is used to help increase melatonin before bed, while a cool, vibrant light helps people get energized in the morning.

IKEA is doing something similar. “Small changes in the lighting at home and at work can have a great impact on our well-being,” Töreman said, adding that this is why the company has made available devices that correspond with humans’ circadian rhythm.


Product Adopted:
Energy Efficiency


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