Much has been said about smart homes and you probably have come across countless videos showing you how cool it would be to live in one.
Although the size of most homes in Singapore does not make home automation a necessity, that does not mean we cannot have some fun while enjoying the convenience of a technologically enhanced flat or condo.
While most smart home vendors will be all very keen to offer you the entire range of smart devices that includes wall switches, controls for air conditioning, curtains/blinds, and digital door locks, the most basic and perhaps also the most practical appliance to "zhng" would be the lightings. Moreover, it guarantees instant gratification with very tangible results.
For a start, one should not confuse Smart Lighting with Home Automation, although the latter encompasses some control of the lighting systems.
We like to see Smart LED Lighting as a subset of Home Automation, a first step into the journey towards an ultimate Smart Home.
The good news is also that the cost of implementing a smart lighting for a home in Singapore may only be portion to that of a Home Automation/Smart Home system.
Some practical uses of smart lightings are:
- Preset Timing for Routines- toggles on/off during sunset, and during bedtime
- Preset Scenes for specific tasks- changes the mood depending on the task e.g dimming the lights ready for movies
- Prevent Intruders- Triggers the lighting on/off automatically when you are out, creating the illusion that someone is home thus would be intruders will cease targeting your house
- Sensors placed cleverly at the right places will smartly trigger on/off only when there is someone around
- Voice Activated functions to bring out the lazy side of you. Or just remember the last time your spouse climbs into bed and asked you to go switch off the kitchen lights because he/she has forgotten to do so?
So,thinking now to inject some intelligence into your home lighting?
While there are many ready off-the-shelves solutions available in the market now (most notably the ever popular Philips Hue and the Hue compatible Innr family of products, the up and coming YEELIGHT), finding the right one to fit into your lighting plan may not be so straight forward after all.
Since we are in the lighting business, we thought we should highlight some things you need to look out for when trying to implement even the most basic of a smart lighting system.
1. Finding the right fitting
Most lighting products in the market now are plain LED. Do not expect the $5 downlight you grab off taobao or Lazada/Qoo10 to be inherently smart. Home Automation specialists will have to convert your home switches in most cases to make the lamp appear "smart". It's actually in the switches, and the underlying system behind it.
Most of the shelves Smart Bulbs products like Philips Hue do not work directly with your existing wall switches. U mainly use the mobile app to control them. It features the use of E27 which are ideal for table lamps, floor lamps.
If you need to install them on a false ceiling, you will first need to find the right type of recessed fittings that holds the E27 or GU10 type bulb. Although Philips does offer the Hue recessed downlights, but be ready to pay well above $99 per piece. Now imagine you have 10 downlights just for the living room.
The same goes for Philips Hue surface mount LED ceiling lights (if you only have a concrete type ceiling). Each Hue enabled ceiling LED light is well above $550 per piece at the point of writing (this article).
Look for us, if you have problems getting those light fittings to support the Hue bulbs.
2. Smart wall switches
Talking about switches, remember we mentioned that most systems "smarten" the switch, and not the lights directly. If you are keen to go down this route, be prepared to deal with electrical works a little as there usually will be a need to run extra wirings (neutral wiring is usually a pre requisite) and some provisions in order to accommodate these switches. If you are not a techie, hands-on person and have no interest in electrical stuffs, we respectfully suggest you leave it to the experts.
3. Hub/Bridge or Hub/Bridge-less
Many brands, many types. More advanced solutions come with a hub or bridge, which allows you to add on more devices or upgrades or even integrated with another party's devices along the way. Then there are also some WIFI enabled ones that works pretty much within its own network ecosystem. The obvious disadvantage of a WiFi based system is without the Internet they are basically just your normal on/off switch control but on the other hand, they are easier to setup for use. These are pretty much a standalone system. Some will have support for Apple Homekit, and various 3rd party products like Amazon Echo and Google Home.
A good example of a hub-less solution is the YEELIGHT range of smart lighting which are feature rich from an established brand that guarantees good support and decent products at an attractive price. They are also part of the Xiaomi ecosystem which ensures compatibility with many other 3rd party products.
4. Plug and Play?
Take note some devices requires power from a AC source (3 pin plug). Which is ideal if you resent the idea of changing batteries. So be prepared to have cables running around or the need to provision for a power point.
5. Talk to Alexa or Google Home
Why not add in some voice assistant while you are at it. Amazon's Echo and Google Home devices are 2 notable examples of what will make us hands free in the near future. Once you have come to terms with the fact (which we all will have to) these devices could be constantly keep taps on our conversations, you will find some fun in getting to know them better.
It has been reported that by year 2020, half of all searches made by consumers online will be by voice.
So, if you are looking to add this feature into your lighting plan, be sure to look for a product that supports at least one of these 2 voice assistants.
Starting your smart home journey need not break the bank, but putting some thoughts into what you need will go a long way to not ending up with redundant purchases. Besides, a smart home is not purely a technology driven concept, it can just be as simple as having the right switches and power points at the right places, and implementing the right type of lightings that produces the right effects that enhances your lifestyle.
Here are some other smart automation devices you may consider after you have decided on your smart lightings, all are voice control ready:
1) Smart Air Con Controller - Turns On/Off even when you are away from home.
Works with almost any major brands of Air Conditioners here in Singapore.
2) Smart Ceiling Fan - No need for external device as the "smartness" is built into the fan. Controls the optional light kit as well.
3) Smart Door Bell - Records Video and also notifies you via your mobile phone when someone is at your door. Integrates with your smart lightings too! e.g. when someone rings the bell, your light blinks or changes colour.
4) Smart Curtains - Let's you program when time your curtain draws open and close. Runs on battery and no need for extra power point! Coming soon!
For more advanced home automation solutions beyond lighting, you may catch up with more here: