Does anyone have recommendations for smart lighting?

(Jon) #1

I’ve a Raspberry Pi that has sat somewhat dormant on my desk at work. My original use case was to run a key project at work, but I found that some of our post-2038 date calculations rely on 64-bit timestamps, and at the time of my tinkering, the Pi only had 32-bit operating systems available. Interestingly though, I have just noticed that situation has now changed!

Anyway, one of my alternative projects I have in mind is a “gentle wake” light-based alarm clock for the bedroom. Rather than my usual angry buzzer, I thought it would be nice to try an alarm that slowly warms up a ceiling lamp and a table lamp over a slow period.

The big name in the area of “smart lighting” is Phillips, and they seem to offer a kit, though this is rather expensive, and I am not looking to set up the whole house with smart lighting anyway. I am therefore thinking of going for stand-alone bulbs that contain either BlueTooth or Wifi chips (advice on which is better e.g. in terms of range is welcome).

There are a range of them here, and since that is a UK site, those devices should be available here. (Some are said to be available from Amazon UK, but I don’t use Amazon - hopefully they will be available elsewhere).

Has anyone paired smart lighting with a Raspberry Pi and found their bulb to be friendly to Linux? I won’t be using a phone-based app or proprietary software - I’ll probably create a simple web app on the Pi plus whatever is needed in the background to control the device. I am leaning towards Bluetooth for its simplicity (no router/hub required) despite its limited range.

I like this Bluetooth bulb, £30 for full colour control.

This range of Chinese devices look OK, and are developer friendly, but UK availability or quality is not clear. Their website does not really inspire trust and although they have a UK subsidiary office, no UK address is listed.

Has anyone tried both colour and white smart lighting and found there to be a difference in practical brightness? I like the idea of playing around with RGB units, but wonder if “boring white” will have a better ability to light up a room. I want the lamps to have a reasonable chance of waking me, and if they are too weak they may not do that.

One thing that worries me is the replacement cost of LED bulbs that fail - the price range looks to be between £20 and £70. Ideally I’d like a Wifi/Bluetooth module that a bulb plugs into, so if the bulb fails I don’t need to replace the whole thing. However, no manufacturers seem to do this.

Belkin gave up with their Wemo SDK, but of course enterprising hackers have fixed that with a Python API. I would expect Belkin to be of good quality, so may be less risk than a no-name cheapie import. However, reviewers have given them a right kicking on the Maplin website… hmm.

I like the look of this open source home-automation-in-a-box package, and it seems to support quite a lot of lighting systems. Once I have bought a lamp I may try this.

Another approach would be to see if I can obtain CREE surface-mount high-power LED devices and pair them with a driver/dimmer module that might be controllable via USB. One dimmer option is here, though it still needs a low-voltage input, so the Pi would need some sort of hardware controller, and it needs soldering. These devices may be better as they appear to be supplied assembled. I expect I’d have to forego RGB capability with this option.

Does anyone have any recommendations or warnings of what not to buy? I’ve read of some devices requiring association with an internet account, which of course I’ll be happy to avoid.

(Stuart Langridge) #2

Basically, read Matthew Garrett’s Amazon reviews…

(Jon) #3

Ooh great @sil, thanks! Will have a nosey.

(Richard Cunningham) #4

I have the Lumie bodyclock starter 30 ( - also available from Amazon. It doesn’t connect to your phone, the internet or anything like that, though it will slowly increase the light when you want to in the morning and can do it when you go to bed if you want it to. I think it works pretty well, though wish the light stayed on longer than 30mins. It tries to set the clock by radio, which of course doesn’t work reliably, but you can set it manually.

To me, most “smart” things have very limited lifetime, expiring when the app does get updated or the cloud service is discontinued etc. (See also

(Jon) #5

Thanks Richard. I’ve seen the all-in-one slow wake clocks, but thought it would be interesting to rebuild it from components. I tend to think of the displays as quite small on those things as well - I generally put my alarm on the other side of the room, and want the numerals to be visible.

To me, most “smart” things have very limited lifetime, expiring when the app does get updated or the cloud service is discontinued

True, but if I can interface with things at the Wifi/BT level, and using F/OSS components, I won’t need to worry about apps no longer being available. I’ll be writing the app myself :slight_smile:

(Andy Wootton) #6

Wilco sell a range of Smart bulbs. I got one with a light and motion sensor.

(Daniel Hollands) #7

If you’re looking to build something yourself, then Mote by Pimoroni might be up your street.

I’ve not used it myself (although I have been looking for an excuse to do so), but they’re designed to be easy to use, and if you’re looking to run them directly from a Raspberry Pi, they even have the mote pHAT which lets you help keep thigs a bit more compact.

If even Mote is a bit too off the shelf for you, then it’s pretty simple to control WS2812 LED strips (otherwise known as Neopixels) from a raspberry pi. I’m sure I’ve posted about the UnicornHAT before, and while this is a tad reductive, that’s made up of nothing more than the aforementioned WS2812s, and a library which makes it simple to control them.

For my own part, I’m also looking for an excuse to use with these WS2811 “fairly lights”.

In any case, if you find yourself going in this sort of direction, please do let me know as I’d love to tag along and help where I can :slight_smile:

(PS, slightly related, I picked up one of these for my girlfriend this week, depending on how receptive to it she is, I may get one for myself)

(Jon) #8

Thanks @Woo - I guess that would be these. However I am generally suspicious of built-in speakers. I don’t think they can be very good at that size, and I’d be paying for something I won’t use. I’d rather the cost went to additional lumens instead :flashlight:

@LimeBlast, cheers. That Pimeroni looks very cool, and I did wonder about getting some LED strips for some mood/effect lighting. I think they would not wake me on their own (perhaps there is a special frequency around 8Hz that has special powers!) so it’d be in addition to more powerful lights.

I will certainly let you know if and when I start on the project - I have a career break coming up in a month or so, so maybe then…

(Steve Jalim) #9

They do look fantastic for scaring the bejeezus out of your family members / housemates in the dead of night, though

(Daniel Hollands) #10

This is something I can get behind.

(Daniel Hollands) #11

I wonder if this might be of some interest?