• “Smart lights” typically comes in three variations:
  • A “smart” bulb that has an onboard Wi-Fi, Bluetooth mesh (BLE), Z-Wave, or Zigbee radio,
  • connects to a central hub or router, and is connected to a regular wall switch that controls the power
  • A regular bulb that is controlled by a “smart” switch with built-in Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, or Zigbee that connects to a central hub, router, or becomes the hub, and takes the place of an old switch on the wall
  • A series of bulbs across several rooms all controlled by a central processor(s) that support both wire and wireless connections to individual bulbs, requires professional programming, and is controllable over the local area network
  • There are even more variations involving built-in microphones and speakers on the bulb or switch itself, but for the purpose of illustrating strictly lighting control, we will stick to the most common types of smart lighting

The efficacy and response times of smart lighting depend on multiple factors:

  • Number of smart bulbs being installed — the more there are, the more network traffic there is, causing lag and delays
  • Positioning of smart bulbs / switches — if the bulb / switch is in a Wi-Fi deadzone, or if it runs on a mesh network (Z-Wave, Zigbee) and is too far from the last device or over the limit for a sustainable network, commands fall through
  • Wi-Fi is the most common and easiest connection protocol but can pose security risks
  • Z-Wave and Zigbee require an additional hub to connect to all devices and oftentimes have a
  • limit to how many they can effectively control before requiring additional hardware to extend their reach
  • Serial vs parallel connections — a command to “turn on all the lights” will take much longer if lights are connected in serial versus in parallel

For most folks, buying into smart lighting means a couple rooms outfitted with smart bulbs or switches by brands like Philips Hue, Svarochi, MI and others. This is a common use case where complexity is limited to turning on and off a set of lights across one or two rooms, and occasionally changing colors if the bulbs support it.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are houses with lighting loads (a “load” = a set of lights represented as one entity, i.e. “living room ceiling lights”) in the hundreds, each with their own unique set of properties. Some lights are binary on/off, some are dimmers, some are dimmers with temperature control, and some are dimmers with near-full spectrum color. Even more advanced setups feature bulbs with the ability to intensify or desaturate a certain range of the color spectrum. This is particularly useful for showcasing pieces of artwork in a home. Such setups are commonly controlled by Lutron, Ketra, Crestron, and Control4.


  • All of these lights can be controlled via physical switch, voice, sensors, and of course, a graphical user interface (an app). No longer is it enough to just display a simple “on/off” toggle. A modern and competent lighting control interface must:
  • Adapt the control interface to fit the wide range of capabilities of smart lights (turn on/off, adjust brightness, set hue/saturation/brightness, apply chosen setting across several lights, retain last on state, save presets)
  • Accurately track and display the current states of all lights in a home
  • Provide equally quick access to a single light, a group of lights, or all the lights in a home
  • Respond to the user if an action was successful, failed, or is taking longer than usual to finish
  • Introduce options to link lighting controls to other aspects of home automation, such as circadian lighting, scenes, and conditional logic (if a motion sensor is triggered, turn on the lights)

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