How to control your home lights with your phone
Smart lighting is a fun way to change up the way you light your home, letting you adjust brightness (and sometimes even colour), schedule your lights to come on at certain times and, of course, control the whole thing from your phone.
Smart lighting is a great entry way to the world of smart home automation, which can then expand to home security with smart cameras and even connected versions of smoke detectors, thermostats and more.
So smart bulbs are a great first step, but to do this you need special smart lighting products and a home Wi-Fi network for them to connect to. The good news is that most manufacturers have starter packs that are simple and easy to set up, getting you up and running in no time.
We'll look at a few options below, but the basic system will be very similar for each: you'll get a couple of smart lightbulbs and possibly a device that connects to your Wi-Fi network and lets the bulbs communicate. This is often called a bridge or a hub.
Set-up will involve installing the bulbs in the areas of the house you want to have access to smart lighting and getting the bulbs up and running on the network via a smartphone app.
Once you're set up, you'll use the manufacturer's app to set how bright you'd like a room; you can even set the colour of the lighting with some products. You can automate the switch on and off and, as you get more confident, unlock other ways to control your home lighting.
The Hue range from Philips is versatile and well established in Australia and was actually one of the first off the block when it came to smart bulbs. Hue bulbs can display a range of colours at different brightness levels. The starter pack comes with three Hue bulbs and a bridge. The bridge can sync 50 different Hue lights, so you can easily add to your network as you need.
Philips makes a variety of Hue branded products, including lighting strips and even physical switches you can stick to walls. These can be programmed with a range of settings, letting you use the Hue even when you're not holding your phone.
LifX is a little bit different: it doesn't use a bridge as it has the Wi-Fi connectivity built right in. The controls on the app are intuitive and it can display 16 million different colours! If you're security-conscious you can even set it to infrared, letting any night vision security cameras you might have see even better in the dark.
This bulb, from the well-known maker of networking gear, also has the Wi-Fi built in, meaning no bridge. One particularly nice touch is the ability to save your settings as scenes for quick access: think dinner, movie, getting dressed and other scenarios that require different lighting options.
Like the rest of its Wemo range of home automation products, Belkin's Wemo light bulbs work through its Android or iOS apps for integration into your smart home. Wemo bulbs don't support multiple colours but sell themselves on their low energy usage, although they're rather tricky to find for online purchase in Australia.
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