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Smart Homes: IoT and Home Lighting

The light bulb revolutionized the American home life, bringing all-new levels of safety (no need for dangerous candles), security, and usability. While there have been advances over the years (energy-efficient bulbs, motion sensor lighting, timers), not much has significantly changed since home lighting became widespread. Now IoT promises to create another revolution in lighting, bringing previously impossible efficiencies and capabilities to every home, apartment, and commercial building.

Timing is everything

Home lights with timers have been around for decades, and they perform basic functions designed to save energy and improve security. IoT takes those abilities and optimizes them via machine intelligence. As before, lights can be preprogrammed to go on and off at set times. But they also can adapt instantly to external weather factors, such as immediately activating during a sudden thunderstorm.

light 3.pngSmart Lighting Opportunities

Like their analog predecessors, smart lights can mimic human patterns. Rather than simply turning on and off at preset times to give the impression someone is home, IoT-enabled lights can literally act human. Different rooms, exterior areas, and even light-generating appliances (televisions, computers) can power up or down as they normally would if residents were using them. Patterns can be preprogrammed based on occupants regular behavior or randomly created routines. While not an absolute deterrent, such mimicry can act as an effective first line of defense against would-be thieves, especially those casing a house for several days (and realizing a traditional timer is in place versus the occupants being home).

An integral part of everyday life

Smart lighting offers even greater benefits when residents are at home. Random timing can be used to give the appearance of multiple occupants if a single person is staying alone. Advanced motion detectors can turn on/off lights when people enter/leave a low-traffic room (study, unused bedroom) and know when someone is in the room but motionless (such as someone reading a book). This eliminates the annoying need to constantly wave arms to reactivate the system every few minutes. Lights can be preprogrammed for each occupants arrival or use based on time of day, activated from a smart phone or an IoT-enabled door lock. Todays systems even can detect a specific car entering the property. Power levels can be adjusted automatically depending on needa romantic diner versus doing work at the kitchen tablevia a combination of fine-tuned motion sensors and predefined parameters. The system also can learn new patterns and adapt in real time, as with a party or a childs sleepover, or raise the alarm if a non-standard pattern emerges (an intruder) not confirmed by other behavior patterns or occupant presence.

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Lets go outside

Traditional exterior lighting, featuring analog timers and motion detectors, often is wasteful in its various applications. Areas that dont need light are lit, using unnecessary energy. Motion detectors cant discriminate between humans, animals, and weather factors like windand end up constantly in use and negate their intended purpose of saving power. Timers never take into account changing seasons or weather conditions unless a human intervenes, and the result is chronic deployment of unneeded daytime lighting. And non-programmed lights (those manually activated, such as a porch light) frequently are left on when not needed, wasting millions in energy dollars annually.

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Smart exterior lighting changes all that. An IoT-enabled system ensures only areas that require illuminations are lit, and the lighting system can be finely tuned down to a single bulb. For example, an occupant doing some last-minute gardening in a specific area would not need the entire backyard bathed in light. Area and individual lights can be programmed based on patterns and time of day, or simply react to motion inputs.

And these motion sensors are nothing like their predecessors. Smart sensors can distinguish between humans, animals and weather, thereby saving significant energy by working only when needed. If a specific goal is desired, such as tracking nocturnal animals, sensors can work in conjunction with smart cameras to capture the visitors. And when applied to solar lighting, smart systems can maximize their sun-generated use as with traditional lights (shut down when not needed or after a preset time) and even reverse-feed any stored energy back into the homes power grid.

The result of all these improvements is longer bulb life, optimization of every watt used, better and more intelligent security, plus dramatically lower energy costs. That makes the micro-niche of interior/exterior smart lighting a perfect opportunity for service providers.

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