With every technology there comes a tipping point, a moment when it ceases to be a hobbyist/early adopter plaything and it makes the leap into the mainstream. For smart lights, the tipping point might prove to be the arrival of the IKEA Smart Lighting collection.
The collection, available in UK stores from April 2017, features controllable energy-efficient TRÅDFRI LED bulbs, lighting panels and doors. Using either a remote or the companion app (iOS and Android), these ZigBee Light Link-equipped lights can be dimmmed, turned off/on and switched from warm to cold light.
IKEA says that the app will also be updated with an ‘Away from Home’ function, which will enable users to “set lights on timers, check to see if they remembered to turn off lights, or remotely turn lights on if their plans change.”
It might seem a strange move for a company that sells ready-to-assemble furniture and does a good plate of meatballs. But IKEA has already departed from the norm with its BEKANT sit/stand desks and a range of lamps, bedside tables and pads with wireless charging built-in. As with most of IKEA’s products, the key differentiator is price.
Affordable smart lighting
“Our research told us that the existing smart lighting technology was perceived as being too expensive and difficult to understand,” said Helen Akinsete, Lighting Sales Leader at IKEA UK and Ireland. “With this in mind, we set out to make our smart lighting solutions easy to use and affordable.”
How affordable? A TRÅDFRI LED bulb with a dimmer remote starts at just £15. A kit with a motion sensor is £25, while the app-controlled Gateway kit includes two bulbs, a remote and an Ethernet hub for £69. It’s worth noting, however, that the Philips Hue Starter Kit (also featuring two bulbs and a Hue Bridge) is actually cheaper at £60.
Philips Hue is easily the front runner when it comes to plug and play smart lighting solutions with a range that includes bulbs, LED strips and lamps. It uses the same Zigbee Light Link technology, but thanks to an open API, Hue products also integrate with the likes of Apple HomeKit and Amazon Alexa.
Hive also sells wireless bulbs in the UK, as do LIFX, OSRAM, Elgato and Belkin.
Easy home automation
Whatever product you choose, smart bulbs are the easiest way to add some automation to your lighting, taking the first steps towards a more advanced smart home. The bulbs themselves might be pricey compared to their dumb equivalents, but smart lighting systems allow you to start small, expanding your setup as you need it or when you can afford it.
By integrating these systems into larger smart home platforms, such as Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings, Belkin WeMo and Panasonic Smart Home, you can make smart lighting part of a larger home automation project. Ultimately, adding smart assistant devices like Google Home and the Alexa-powered Amazon Echo, enables you to control your lights with voice commands.
For IKEA, it seems that wireless charging and smart lighting is only the beginning. “We’re busy exploring new ways of implementing technology in the home,” says Akinsete, “and will continue to develop ranges in the years to come.”