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Connected lights for the smart home

By Pål Kastnes May 3, 2017

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Connected lights are an entry point to a smart home for many consumers. The integral power supply of a mains lighting system in the home makes it an obvious backbone for a smart home meshed network.

We expect mesh-networked lighting systems to grow substantially in commercial environments, such as shopping malls and factories, in the coming years.

While smart lighting solutions for commercial applications will need to focus on added value to succeed, the benefits within a smart home are more about the system itself.

Home lighting systems

Home lighting systems already come with a degree of flexibility. For years gone by, homeowners have been limited by where the builders decided to install the lighting-specific power cables and light switches, or otherwise face an expensive bill for rewiring.

But now with modern smart lighting systems, all that is needed is generic power outlets. Individual lights can be plugged in to regular sockets and then controlled from a portable switch or even a smartphone app.

The ideal smart home solution depends on many variables including available space and the number of rooms that require lighting. Rather than being forced to use one ceiling outlet to light a room, a smart lighting system could facilitate multiple bulbs in a room, each plugged into an existing power outlet. There need no longer be specific lighting-only wiring systems in addition to regular power outlets.

Smartphone apps can be used to setup the system, but are not necessarily needed to control it. A tabletop switch could easily be configured to control the bulbs. This also creates possibilities for automation, such as the lights creating a set ambience at a specific time of day, or when the homeowner returns home.

The issue with most smart lighting systems currently on the market is that each individual light needs connectivity and a controller. In the case of the Jedi iDual, one remote control will change the colour and brightness of all installed bulbs. The more advanced Phillips Hue system requires a bridge with a permanent internet connection to take advantage of the multifunctional app for smartphones and select smartwatches.

Smart lighting with Bluetooth mesh 

While Bluetooth has struggled to gain traction in the smart home market due to limited range, Bluetooth mesh looks set to change that. Users will be able to control devices no matter where they are in the home, because the message will get relayed between each Bluetooth device in the mesh network.

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One product currently cheaper than the Phillips Hue system takes advantage of Bluetooth in combination with mesh capabilities. The Misfit Bolt requires no hub, and only a very basic setup. That’s because the mesh networking capability links the bulbs together and a smartphone app allows them to be controlled individually or in groups. While most smart bulbs are controlled by just an app, Misfit is looking to bring its wearable devices into play. Tapping the Misfit Flash fitness tracker acts as a simple remote control.

A further benefit of mesh will truly put the smart into the smart home. By allowing each device to share information about its environment, the network becomes more valuable, and more sophisticated proximity services and other context-based applications are the logical next step. This could for example automate lighting depending on the time of day, when someone returns home, or even based on the preferences of a specific person when they enter a room.

Lighting is always powered, which takes away one of the major stumbling blocks of building a connected device. We expect Bluetooth mesh networks in the smart home to thrive, enabling more automation in the home.

 

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Topics: home automation


Pål Kastnes's photo

By: Pål Kastnes

Pål Kastnes joined Nordic in March 2015. He has 18 years of experience from the embedded systems market working in several areas. This includes IC design, system verification, production testing and device specification on the factory side. He spent 6 years as a key account manager embedded within the sales organization for the Asian market based out of Tokyo, Japan. The last years he has been driving training programs globally as well as providing key account support for EMEA. His main focus now Trainings and user experience, focusing on ease of use of all the elements involved in the design process of connected devices.

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