Fun & practical applications for smart lighting

infotec2015

I gave a talk about smart lighting at Infotec in April where I discussed five reasons why you’d want to consider smart lighting in your home or office, various smart lighting technologies available on the market, and some fun things I’ve built with Philips Hue lighting.

Here’s a little recap of my talk, a guide you can use to set up a Philips Hue bridge and lights for live conference demos, and a video interview with Jim Collison from theaverageguy.tv.

Five reasons why you’d want to consider smart lighting

In his talk at Bright Day 3 in Amsterdam last May, George Yianni, creator of the Philips Hue lighting system, outlined the first four benefits to connected lighting and their motivation for developing the Hue lighting system.

I reviewed these four benefits, and included one additional benefit I see to owning smart lighting systems.

Ambiance

This is probably the most obvious reason. Smart lighting allows you to control the color and temperature of your lights. This is a great way to add color to a room and set the proper mood for any occasion.

Imagine preparing for a dinner party in your kitchen. When cleaning and preparing food, you’d want bright white lights to help you see. As the sun sets and your guests arrive, a warmer light would be more relaxing and definitely less harsh. Splashes of color also help create an inviting atmosphere.

Biological

A little less obvious reason for choosing smart lighting relates to biology. Color temperature—cool to warm—has been proven to help people focus, relax, regain energy, and even recover from jet lag.

Subtle differences in temperature and brightness can have dramatic effects on your productivity and mood.

Soft Security

Returning to a dark house in the evening can be a little frightening. Smart lighting allows you to control the lights in your home or office through smartphone apps, geofencing rules, and timer systems. This ensures you’ll never have to walk in to a dark house and fumble for your light switch ever again.

Smart lighting can also be integrated with other IoT technologies—such as Nest thermostats and smoke detectors—to provide visual cues in an emergency situation. This allows you to illuminate your home in the event of an evacuation, or provide alerting mechanisms to people who may be hard of hearing.

Gentle reminders

Hearing your phone chime for every single notification definitely gets old after a while. I’m really interested in the idea of small environmental cues to alert you to helpful information.

For example, many people are using Hue lights in conjunction with IFTTT to remind them to bring an umbrella if the day’s forecast calls for rain.

I’m using a Hue command-line library with some longer-running scripts I use for work to alert me to a completed script or if errors were encountered along the way.

It’s easy to use smart lighting to remind you of calendar appointments, completed timers, or even when your favorite team scores during a game.

Pure geeky fun

The API integrations with Philips Hue are very straightforward and fun to use. I’ve built small apps that allow me to use weather data or my voice to control my lights. I also built a totally silly and completely useless app that grabs dominant colors from a scanned document to change the colors of lights. You can also tweet to @kitchencolors if you’d like to change the colors of the lights in my kitchen.

My demo setup

There are some challenges to using Hue lights in live demos at conferences or other events. Since the Hue bridge needs to connect directly to a router, you’ll want to be sure to bring your router.

I reset an old Airport Express and connected my Hue bridge before setting everythign up. Everything worked just fine when I plugged it in at the event center.

To control the lights, I used the official Hue app on my iPad, which was connected to my Airport Express network. On my laptop I toggled back and forth between my conference WiFi and my private Airport Express network. This allowed me to control my lights using my local network, and also get online to pull up websites and videos using the conference WiFi.

I used Alfred workflows that executed BASH scripts to trigger more complex lighting sequences. Alfred Remote made it easy to trigger these workflows right from my iPad, since my laptop was used for my slide deck.

Watch my follow-up interview with Jim:

After my talk, I had another wonderful opportunity to chat with Jim Collison from theaverageguy.tv

Big thanks AIM for organizing Infotec and for giving me the opportunity to share some really fun things about smart lighting. Also, be sure to check out theaverageguy.tv for reviews, tech tips, and tons and tons of interesting podcasts.