The digital revolution is transforming outdoor lighting designs just like everything else in our lives. Smart lighting is trending up across the board. The term “smart lighting” is a broad one which refers to two related paths of innovation. Lighting systems and system components that can be controlled from the owner’s smartphone are one approach, the other being components that manage themselves. Both have a lot to offer, independently and together.
The “smart” in smart lighting has to do with the way the system delivers the goods. Lamps (LED, of course!) and groups of lights can be switched on and off, made dimmer or brighter, and some bulbs support changing colors. Smart switches and bulbs can be wirelessly networked and controlled from a household hub, which itself can be connected to the internet to provide the owner with remote access through an app from a smartphone or tablet.
People have long used simple timers to turn lighting on and off automatically on a fixed schedule. Smart lighting systems can implement fixed programs, too, but can do much more. Sensors provide a smart system with the ability to adjust itself in response to changing environmental conditions, turning on selected fixtures as darkness approaches, turning them off in the morning. Motion sensors can turn on path lighting in sequences which not only promote safety but are pleasing to the eye, or turn on area lighting arrays to create scenes in activity centers of the yard as people as people put them to use. Audio sensors backed by software provide voice command capability. Some home systems ( and more will undoubtedly follow) are now compatible with IFTTT (If This Then That) services that allow owners to program complex rules for controlling the lighting. Integration with digital personal assistants like Siri and Alexa is spreading quickly.
Lighting systems with wireless networking and internet connections have brought forth a new generation of lighting fixtures that are also security cameras and intercoms, enabling owners to monitor their grounds remotely and to interact with visitors verbally. Smart outdoor lighting systems, in short, are part of the connected home concept, the “internet of everything.” The security benefits of even the most basic smart lighting are undeniable: an unoccupied home that really looks there are people inside is much less likely to be broken into. The conveniences and quality of life enhancements made possible are impressive and, like with everything in hi-tech, getting better, more diverse, and cheaper all the time. A homeowner can get his or her feet wet with a few smart bulbs or smart switches, and scale up to whatever level of sophistication budget and the state of the art make possible. At least some of this technology is in everyone’s future.