Google Assistant and Philips Hue: Setup, Review and Voice Commands

In this post, we will configure Philips Hue for Google Assistant. Before we start, we have to say goodbye to multiple Philips Hue bridges and Philips Hue scenes. Finally Google Assistant (Version 1.2.8215) fixes the linking problem to Philips Hue and imports Philips Hue scenes and rooms. I have now updated this post to reflect the recent changes. If you are not so lucky and can’t see the scenes imported yet, you can still find the workaround to control Philips Hue scenes with IFTTT here: Workaround: Philips Hue Scenes in Google Assistant through IFTTT.

For guidelines on how to setup your Philips Hue lights before configuring them in Google Assistant, see Philips Hue –  Smart Lighting needs a Smart Setup.

Setting up Google Home for Philips Hue

With the latest update of Google Assistant (Version 1.2.8215) we no longer need to create rooms before importing our Philips Hue lights. Philips Hue lights, scenes and rooms will be automatically imported. Finally!

Screenshot of Philips Hue App - My Hue Account
Philips Hue App – My Hue Account

A prerequisite for connecting Philips Hue to Google Home is the “My Hue” account. This account will connect to your Philips Hue bridge and enable the communication between Google and Philips. In case you have not already, open your Philips Hue app and tap on Explore / “Log in to My Hue” and then “Log in”. You can create your account here.

Open your Google Home app and go to Settings / Home Control. Alternatively you can open the Google Assistant app and find the Home Control under settings.

Now, we can switch to “devices” and tap the “+” button. When selecting Philips Hue we are guided to link our “My Hue” account with Google Assistant.

Screenshot of Google Assistant - Home Control Devices
Google Assistant – Home Control Devices

After allowing Google to access our “My Hue “account, all lights, rooms and scenes will be synced.

For a better overview, we can switch to the “Rooms” view and review and adapt what has been imported. In my case an “Entertainment Area 1” room was created, which I deleted after moving the contained scenes to the correct room. The rest was imported correctly.

Screenshot Google Assistant - Home Control Rooms
Google Assistant – Home Control Rooms

Like in the Philips Hue app, we can only map one light to one room, which does not give us the option to regroup room segments to larger rooms.

Voice Commands

Here are the voice commands you can use with Google Home to control your Philips Hue lights:

Just a quick note:

  • <…> … fill in your <ROOMNAME>, <LIGHTNAME>, etc.
  • / … Our assistant understands various phrases for the same command. This means either/or, just pick one.
  • ( ) … This part of the command is optional. If you prefer short, snappy voice commands, you can omit this part of the command.

Voice Commands for turning Philips Hue lights ON / OFF

  • Lights off
  • Turn couch on
  • Make the Go lamp in the Dining room go off

OK Google, switch / change / make / set / turn / activate / deactivate (on/off)
[all/my, (the) <LIGHTNAME> / (the) <ROOMNAME> / (the <LIGHTNAME> in/at (the) <ROOMNAME>
(light(s))/(lamp(s)) (go) (on/off).

Voice Commands for setting Philips Hue Scenes

  • Activate office concentrate
  • Activate couch relax

OK Google, activate (<ROOMNAME>) <SCENENAME>

Note, if you omit the room name, all scenes with the same name will be activated. It would be smarter, if only the scene of the room where Google Home is assigned to would be activated, but I am afraid we have to wait a bit for this feature.

Another note, in some cases Google comes back with “Sure, activating 2 scenes”. I am not sure why, seems like a glitch.

Voice Commands for setting the Philips Hue Brightness

  • Bedroom 10
  • Brighten the Kitchen 3 light by 30 percent

OK Google, (make / change / set / turn) ((the) brightness of)
[all/my, (the) <LIGHTNAME> / (the) <ROOMNAME> / (the) <LIGHTNAME> in/at (the) <ROOMNAME>] (light(s))/(lamp(s)) (brightness)
to x (percent) / darker / brighter / less bright

OK Google, dim / brighten
[ all/my, <LIGHTNAME> / <ROOMNAME>] (light(s)) / (lamp(s))
(by x (percent))

Voice Commands for setting Philips Hue Colors

  • Turn the Kitchen to School bus yellow

OK Google, switch / change / make / set / turn
[all/my, (the) <LIGHTNAME> / (the) <ROOMNAME> / (the) <LIGHTNAME> in/at (the) <ROOMNAME>] (light(s)) / (lamp(s))
(to (the color)) <COLOR-NAME>

Note: COLOR-NAME is not documented but many of the color-names here are supported.

Voice Commands for setting Philips Hue Color Temperature

Not supported.

Conclusion

With the latest update (Version 1.2.8215) Google Assistant supports now the import of Philips Hue lights, rooms and scenes. Still, there is room for improvement, like “room-awareness” of the Google Home. This way, we could use snappier commands, by simply omitting the room-name.

Google Home and Philips finally provide a great integration!

In case the scene support still does not work for you, and if you are OK with using a 3rd party service, you can workaround the missing scenes with IFTTT: Workaround: Philips Hue Scenes in Google Assistant through IFTTT.

You can find more Google Home posts here: Google Assistant.

For a comparison with Siri and Alexa, please see: Assistant Showdown with Philips Hue: Who will win? Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant.

If you are interested in smart ideas for your smart lighting, check out:

If you have questions or want to share your ideas and experiences with Philips Hue and Google Assistant, please leave a comment below! You can subscribe to the comment section to receive notifications about updates.

Assistant Showdown with Philips Hue: Who will win, Siri, Alexa or Google?

Who is best with Philips Hue? Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant

Let’s compare the strengths and weaknesses of our assistants in combination with Philips Hue. Since Google finally also supports Philips Hue room and scene import, and some smart home features have been added to Alexa and Google recently, it’s going to be a head-to-head competition.

Now, that we have looked into  Philips Hue – Smart Lighting needs a Smart Setup and we examined the setup of our 3 Assistants, it is time to compare them and draw a conclusion.

If you are interested in the setup, review and voice commands of a particular assistant with Philips Hue, you can find the posts here:

Comparison of the Three Assistants

Please note, that any of the features below can change silently over night, if Philips, Apple, Amazon and Google only decide to improve and update.

Mobile Hint: tilt your smartphone for a better table view!

[table id=1 /]

*Note, for an extensive list of voice commands, see the dedicated assistant posts above.

So, how to draw our conclusions from this table?

In the end, it is a matter of personal taste. How, do you like to setup and configure, talk to and automate your Philips Hue lights?

Configuration

With Google’s recent update all three are very close in ease of setup and configuration. With Alexa and Google, it is more like “plug and play”, everything which you have already configured in Philips Hue is imported. As long as you use only one Philips Hue bridge, this is great! Siri supports larger setups with multiple bridges and this makes up for having the additional effort to configure the HomeKits scenes.

Voice Commands

Incredible what Apple, Amazon and Google have achieved here. I can remember the time when you had to say “turn off something” and were not able to say “turn something off”. These days are over!

One might choose Alexa as winner here, personally, for me she is not. The restriction of having unique names for everything with Siri in HomeKit, makes the voice control much more predicable and solid. Alexa replies too many times “a few things share that name, which one do you want?”, mostly to fail after that. Google has a robust voice recognition, with some room for improvement around the new features, like scene support.

Assistant Features

My personal winner regarding smart home features is Siri. She supports an extensive automation feature set through HomeKit and the Apple Home app.

Alexa made progress by supporting smart home groups and routines.

Google finally also supports routines, but only the predefined ones. The shortcuts are a nice feature to customize up to two actions.

My Personal Conclusion

As you see, only half a year after I initially wrote up this post, many features have been added to Alexa and Google. The assistants provide smart home features in their own distinct ways and it is just a matter of taste, which one you prefer.

For me personally, still Siri wins because she supports multiple bridges, regrouping and automations through sensors. But that are only the features which are important to me, I am sure you have your own preferences!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this “showdown”. You can find more competitions here:

If you have questions or feedback – maybe I overlooked some cool feature – please leave your comment below. You can subscribe to get notifications when I am updating this post.

Assistant Showdown with Nanoleaf Aurora: Who will win, Siri, Alexa or Google?

Assistant Showdown Nanolef Aurora

Have you ever wondered, which of our assistants supports Nanoleaf Aurora better? Well, in this post we will examine the strengths and weaknesses of Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant by comparing their configuration options, voice commands and their smart home features for Nanoleaf Aurora.

After we’ve looked into the setup of Nanoleaf Aurora: Smart Lighting, Living Paint or Smart Art? and the individual assistant setups, it’s time to put the facts on the table and draw a conclusion.

For the dedicated assistant posts covering the setup and the voice commands, please refer to:

Comparison of the Three

Before we begin, let’s not forget that we are comparing features which are provided through cloud services and can change, break or improve silently overnight.

Mobile Hint: tilt your smartphone for a better table view!

[table id=4 /]

*Note, for an extensive list of voice commands, see the dedicated assistant posts above.

So, how to draw our conclusions?

Comparing our smart assistants is mostly a matter of personal taste. Independent of their technical features and different approaches, I’m sure, you have your own reasons why you prefer one assistant to another.

Configuration

Nanoleaf Aurora supports three different scene types: Paint, Dynamic and Rhythm. Good news: all our Aurora Scenes can be activated through our smart assistants.

Siri is quite dynamic and automatically synchronizes any scenes you create in the Nanoleaf app, on the fly. Alexa and Google synchronize the Aurora Scenes during setup and when you explicitly ask them.

Personally, I find the Aurora Scenes equally well supported by all three assistants, a draw.

Voice Commands

It is quite unusual to see so many “YES” in our table. Of course, you can turn Aurora on and off with the assistants, but you can also equally set scenes and change the brightness. Yes, you will find the Aurora Scenes even supported by Google Assistant, which is quite remarkable, as other lighting systems still lack this support. Color support appears a bit more limited with Alexa, but then, she can even change the color temperature of the Aurora.

Sorry, but his looks to me like another draw.

Assistant Features

When it comes to the assistant features, we find the biggest differences. Of course, we would like to control our Aurora Scenes in concert with other smart lighting devices. This works currently with Siri through the HomeKit Scene support and with Alexa through  Smart Home Groups.

Automations are only supported by good old HomeKit. Though Alexa supports Smart Home Routines, we cannot find the Aurora Scenes in there. I guess a little glitch, which will be fixed soon.

Google has announced Smart Home Routines already back in October 2017, but we are still waiting for this feature. Without it, we “only” have Shortcuts to define and combine up to two smart home commands (e.g. Shortcut: “Chill Time”, “Set Aurora Relax and Play Relaxing Music from Spotify”).

Well, this section could be a tie, once the Alexa bug is fixed and Google finally supports Smart Home Routines. Since I’d expect both to happen soon, let’s just call it a draw.

My personal Conclusion

  • Dear Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri (in alphabetical order), you are all winners in this comparison!

You might ask, why do you write a comparison when everyone’s a winner?

Well, honestly, I find it very uncommon to see a smart device equally well supported by all assistants and I think it’s worth the effort to acknowledge that Nanoleaf has implemented an excellent integration with all our assistants.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this “showdown”. You can find more competitions here:

Workaround: Philips Hue Scenes in Google Assistant through IFTTT

Drawing of Google Assistant using IFTTT to talk to Philips Hue

Finally our Google Home supports Philips Hue scenes natively! Still, if this feature does not work for you, here’s a workaround.

Before we start, let me warn you that with this workaround you will need to configure every scene manually. It is a terrible workaround, but if you are new to IFTTT, you might find it enlightening to see how it works and how it connects bits and pieces.

Please make sure you’ve set up Google Home and Philips Hue according to the original post here: Google Assistant and Philips Hue: Setup, Review and Voice Commands.

In this post we will set up IFTTT to connect our Google Assistant with our Philips Hue lights and have our Philips Hue Scenes available in Google Assistant.

What is IFTTT?

IFTTT Logo
IFTTT Logo

Launched in 2011, IFTTT, which is short for If This Then That, provides a free web-service for connecting different services with simple conditions. Back in 2014, when I first started to play around with IFTTT, I tried to connect some WeMo motion sensors with Philips Hue, only to realize, oops, it can take up to 15 minutes that one service gets notified by another through IFTTT. That was a no-go for smart lighting back then, but the time has changed. Some services have improved over time and people like to use it and – why not – if it provides (temporary) workarounds, let’s check them out.

IFTTT Concepts

Services are the different web-services that we can connect together, in form of an action. The Google Assistant and Philips Hue services, is what we need in our case. The trigger would be certain phrases recognized by Google Assistant, e.g. “set the scene …” and the action would be to set the corresponding scene through the Philips Hue service.

The applet we need to create looks like:
If this (Trigger: Google Assistant recognizes e.g. “set the scene couch relax”)
then that (Action: e.g. “set the scene couch relax” through the Philips Hue service).

Setting Up the Philips IFTTT Applet

Head over to the official web-site of IFTTT and either download the iOS or the Android app, if you prefer to configure it on your smartphone/tablet or register on the website, if you want to use your desktop browser.

IFTTT Applet: Tell Google Assistant to set a scene
IFTTT Applet by Philips: Tell Google Assistant to set a scene

Once you have created your IFTTT account, on your preferred platform, navigate to this IFTTT applet link provided by Philips: Tell Google Assistant to set the scene and click “turn on”.

Google Assistant and Philips Hue Services in IFTTT
Connecting IFTTT with Google Assistant and Philips Hue

Depending on whether you’ve already connected any of these services, IFTTT will indicate that it needs the Google Assistant and Philips Hue service for this applet, acknowledge by tapping “OK”.

Enter your Google Assistant account. You will see a notification that IFTTT wants to manage your Google voice commands, you need to click “allow”. The next screen is connecting IFTTT to your Philips Hue account. In case you have multiple Hue bridges, log in with the Philips Hue account which contains the scenes you want to control.

Configuring the Philips IFTTT Applet

Google Assistant configuration in IFTTT
IFTTT Google Assistant configuration

Now we are in the applet configuration and here we can set up, up to three phrases which Google Assistant will recognize. We can specify a response phrase, e.g. “Setting the scene …” which Google Assistant will utter as soon as it activates the action and we can select which Philips Hue scene shall be activated.

Philips Hue configuration in IFTTT
IFTTT Philips Hue configuration

Note, that the 2 dashes, e.g. “–Couch” represent a room and the respective scenes are below that. Pick – for instance – the scene “Relax” under the room “–Couch”. Save the applet and a message “Success – Applet turned on” will indicate that we are ready to test. Utter one of the three phrases, which Google Assistant will acknowledge by saying “Setting the scene …” and Philips Hue will set the specified scene triggered by IFTTT.

Mission accomplished.

Yes, but that’s only ONE scene?

Bummer, if we need more scenes supported, we need to create more applets. Back in the old IFTTT days when applets were called recipes, we were able to duplicate them. Today we need to create an applet from scratch, for every scene, in every room. Don’t tell me I have not warned you.

The “If This”

The "If This" part
Once again: The “If This” part

Under the tab “My Applets” click the big plus sign in the top right corner. Click on the blue “+this” to add the first service, which is Google Assistant.

Picking the Google Assistant trigger in IFTTT
Picking the Google Assistant trigger

Now we see the different triggers Google Assistant provides, we pick the first one: “Say a simple phrase”.

Specifying the Google Assistant Phrase in IFTTT
Specifying the Google Assistant Phrases

A familiar dialog pops up where we can define up to three phrases and the Assistants response.

Let’s fill them with another example, like “Set office concentrate”. Click “next”.

The “Then That”

the "then that" part in IFTTT
And another: the “then that” part

We now need to specify the “+that” service, which is Philips Hue. The following list shows us all the actions we can perform through IFTTT on our Philips Hue lights.

We pick “set a scene in a room” and specify “concentrate” under the room “–Office”. After finishing our configuration, we are ready with this scene.

Specifying the action with Philips Hue in IFTTT
Specifying the action with Philips Hue

Repeat the process above for every scene you would like to speech-enable with Google Home.

Conclusion

Our own IFTTT applet is ready
Our own applet is ready

So this is the “official” workaround by Philips to support scenes in the Google Assistant. I believe we all agree, that it’s rather tedious to workaround this way.

Google has announced better scene support already back in November 2017 and we can’t wait for an automatic way to have the Philips Hue scenes supported in Google Assistant.

Until then, we will have to “workaround”.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post! The original Google Home and Philips Hue post is here: Google Assistant and Philips Hue: Setup, Review and Voice Commands.
You can find more Google Home posts here: Google Assistant.
For a comparison of all assistants in combination with Philips Hue, please see: Assistant Showdown with Philips Hue: Who will win? Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant.
If you are interested in smart ideas for your smart lighting, check out:

If you have any questions or want to share your experience, thoughts and ideas in regard to IFTTT, Google Assistant and Philips Hue, please leave your comment below!

Alexa and Philips Hue: Setup, Review and Voice Commands

Let’s set up Alexa to talk to your Philips Hue smart lighting. You will be surprised, how simple and effective Alexa supports your Philips Hue lights by importing your rooms and scenes, as well as letting you regroup your lights later on.

Preparation

Philips Hue app scene setup
Philips Hue app scene setup

Before going into the Alexa app, we need to make sure, that our scenes are set up on the Philips Hue side in the way we want to use them. Opposite to Siri, where we need to create all HomeKit scenes explicitly, all Philips Hue scenes from our rooms will be synchronized over to Alexa automatically.

Since there are currently 12 predefined scenes from Philips, expect to find at least – 12 x number of rooms – scenes in Alexa plus your own scenes on top of this.

We should remove all scenes which we won’t use for a better overview.

Setting up Alexa for Philips Hue

Now we are good to go:

Alexa App - Devices

  • Open the Alexa app and navigate to the Smart Home section.
  • Search within the Smart Home skills for “Hue” and enable it.
  • Since this Skill requires account linking, you will need to log in with your Philips Hue account.
  • A message will indicate that “Alexa has been successfully linked with Hue”
  • Alexa will switch into discovery mode, quickly press the button on your Hue bridge during the discovery phase.
  • Alexa will get back with all your lights and rooms mixed in the devices section.
  • The scene section contains all your scenes with the syntax “Scene” in “Room”, eg “Read in Couch”.

 

Regrouping Rooms

Alexa - Smart Home - Groups
Alexa – Smart Home – Groups

There was a recent update for the Alexa app, which enables us to regroup our room segments into larger rooms in two ways:

Smart Home Groups

Alexa app smart home groups
Alexa app Smart Home Group – Detailed

With the help of Alexa Smart Home Groups we can combine our room segments into the larger rooms, eg create a group “Living room relax” and tick all the “Relax in …” scenes which should be part of this larger group (Chrome search highlighting on a desktop comes handy to spot the scenes in the list).

  • Alexa turn on/off Living room relax

We can also add all the rooms into a “Living room lights” group to be able to turn them on/off.

  • Alexa turn off Living room lights

Another benefit of Smart Home Groups is the option to assign an Echo to a room. This way we can say “turn the lights off” and omit the room, since Alexa knows in which room are. Smart.

Alexa Routines

Alexa App Routines
Alexa app – Routines, Detailed

With the new “Routines” feature we have a powerful way to combine many Smart Home Devices and Scenes, together with news, traffic and weather information, into one voice command.

The benefit of routines is that we can define our own voice command for the routine and are not bound to a group name, like in the example above.

Alexa, Relax Livingroom

Voice Commands

Just a quick note:

  • <…> … fill in your <ROOMNAME>, <LIGHTNAME>, etc.
  • / … Our assistant understands various phrases for the same command. This means either/or, just pick one.
  • ( ) … This part of the command is optional. If you prefer short, snappy voice commands, you can omit this part of the command.

Voice Commands for turning Philips Hue lights ON / OFF

  • All lights off
  • Turn on office
  • Switch the office desk lamp off

Alexa, switch / change / make / set / turn / activate (on/off)
[all, (the) <LIGHTNAME> / (the) <ROOMNAME>] (light(s)) / (lamp(s)) (on/off)

Voice Commands for Setting Philips Hue Scenes

  • Turn on Read on Couch
  • Activate Energize in Kitchen

Alexa, switch / turn / activate on <SCENENAME> in/on (the) <ROOMNAME>

Alexa, switch / change / make / set / turn / activate <SCENENAME> in/on (the) <ROOMNAME> on

Voice Commands for setting the Philips Hue Brightness

  • Dim all lights
  • Set Office 20
  • Brighten office desk in office by 50 percent

Alexa, switch / change / make / set / turn / activate / deactivate ((the) brightness of)
[all, (the) <LIGHTNAME> / (the) <ROOMNAME>] (light(s)) / (lamp(s))
(brightness) (to) x (percent)

Alexa, dim (down) / brighten (up) ((the) brightness)
[all, (the) <LIGHTNAME> / (the) <ROOMNAME>] (light(s)) / (lamp(s))
(brightness) (by x (percent))

Voice Commands for setting Philips Hue Colors

  • Set bedroom red
  • Turn Iris blue

Alexa, make / change / set / turn
[(the) <LIGHTNAME> / (the) <ROOMNAME>] (light(s)) / (lamp(s))
(to (the color)) <COLORNAME>

Note: Only basic colors are supported

Voice Commands for setting Philips Hue Color Temperature

  • Make the couch warmer
  • Set office cooler

Alexa, make / change / set / turn
[all, (the) <LIGHTNAME> / (the) <ROOMNAME>] (light(s)) / (lamp(s))
warm(er) / cool(er)

Note: This works only when (one of) your lights are set to a shade of white

Conclusion

Alexa imports all Philips Hue room and scenes automatically. She has her very own unusual style when naming scenes, e.g. “Read in Table”. She is picky in regard to voice commands.

Alexa allows us, to regroup smart home devices and scenes within Alexa smart home groups and via Routines. We can change the color temperature with “warmer/cooler”.

Apart of the basic color support, it turns out, that Alexa handles your Philips Hue lights in a very flexible way and imports many settings from the Philips Hue app, thus saving you a lot of configuration time.

You can find more Alexa posts here: Amazon Alexa.

For a comparison with Siri and Google Home, please see: Assistant Showdown with Philips Hue: Who will win? Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant.

If you are interested in smart ideas for your smart lighting, check out:

If you have any questions or would like to share your experience with Philips Hue and Alexa, please leave your comment below.

Introduction to Smart Lighting: A Very Brief History of Light

Siri and Alexa in their cave. Google Assistant explores the surroundings.

Just as light is a vital component of life, smart lighting is a cornerstone of our smart home. In this introduction post (thank you for the feedback, that we need such posts!), we will shed some light on the history and evolution of lighting and how it comes that smart lamps can enlight our home today.

What is light?

Planning on a bigger post about the history of light, from mythology to religion, early optics, art (I got stuck in there), to electromagnetic waves, wave/particle duality, quantum physics etc. I realized soon too late, that this would be a rather huge project.

We need to save this for later, since we need an overview now.

A Very Brief History of Light

With the control of fire, quite some time ago – when exactly, depends on whether we look at Homo habilis, Homo erectus or Homo sapiens – we reached an important point in our cultural development. From cooked food to warm caves and protection, we owe fire many early developments, like tools and weapons for hunting. Yes, for hunting only!

After the torch came the oil lamp, somewhere 4000 B.C. We still use candles today, which were developed in early forms around 3000 B.C., as decorative lights and of course on our birthday cakes (though, I doubt we would put a candle made of whale fat on our cake).

We want our cities illuminated by night. In 1417 the mayor of London ordered to hang lanterns out on dark winter evenings. It was not until we started coal mining, that we discovered that burning coal gas is an effective source for lighting. In 1807 the first public street light was built in London. Late 1813 the whole Westminster bridge was illuminated by gas and by 1858 it could be found all over Britain, soon followed by most cities in North America and Europe.

Electric Lighting and the Light Bulb

Early Days

In 1879 Thomas Alva Edison did not invent the electric light, but he was the first one to create a mass product. According to historians, the light bulb was invented by 22 gentlemen, before Joseph Swan and Thomas Edison built their versions.

Very Rare Drawing of Joseph Wilson Swan, some unknown, handsome inventor, and Thomas Alva Edison.
Rare Picture: Joseph Wilson Swan, pointing the finger at some unknown, handsome inventor (could it be the founder of smartenlight.com?) and Thomas Alva Edison.

The Rise and the Fall of Incandescent Lamps

The effectivity and long-liveness of an incandescent lamp largely depend on the incandescent material (duh), it’s resistance and the vacuum around it. From carbon to platinum, to other metals, back to carbon, Edison’s first successful lamp lasted 13 hours, Swan’s lasted 40 hours. In 1896 Edison bought a patent from Arturo Malignani who found a way to mass manufacture bulbs which last 800 hours. Tungsten was the filament of choice of Sandor Just and Franjo Hanaman in 1904 who added gas into the bulb to improve efficacy. The improvements went on and reached by 1964 the factor of thirty compared to Edison’s initial version.

Around 95% of the power we put into an incandescent lamp is converted into heat, which is actually bad. As we have meanwhile developed more energy efficient lighting alternatives, like Halogen, CFL (compact fluorescent) and LED (light-emitting diode) lamps, governments around the world are phasing out the incandescent light bulbs.

The Age of LED

Replacing our incandescent lamps, which have a typical lifetime of 1000 hours and operate at around 60 Watt on average, but are brutally cheap to purchase, with a LED lamp which costs a lot more, is a no-brainer when we do the math:

A LED lamp has a lifetime of around 15000 hours and operates at around 8 Watt. While an incandescent lamp costs us some $330 over 20 years, a comparable LED lamp costs us only around $60 for the same period. This is for dumb LEDs, but what if we add some smartness? Well, this costs around $15-30 more during purchase, but as we will see, we can operate smarter, saving additional money. We can use sensors to automatically turn them off or dim them, not to mention the added comfort and convenience of light temperature and colors we can control.

What is a Smart Home?

Yesterday

“Smart home” is a term which has evolved over the past decades and keeps transforming into the future. Some 20 years ago, a light timer, which switched our outdoor lights off at a certain time, might have been called smart home technology. 15 years ago, a motion sensor controlled lamp might have been really smart. Around 10 years ago, this motion sensor could have had a daylight sensor incorporated, to switch the light on only when it is needed. Huh, I remember the time!

Today

What we perceive today as smart home are many different, network-connected devices, which help us to monitor and control, automate and optimize various aspects of our home. From lighting to entertainment, security to health. We can do that with our smartphones, tablets or computers and for the past 3 years also with our voice. If we are lucky we can connect all these devices to create a bigger, smarter system: our smart home.

Tomorrow

We are currently being held back by a technological fragmentation, which confuses us with many different smart home standards and makes it difficult to connect them. (Btw. That’s why I’ve created this website!)

We currently see different vendors, creating different “closed ecosystems”, but that’s only a short-term remedy.

Crossing the Chasm: Technology Adoption Curve
Technology Adoption: It starts with some enthusiasts (innovators) who pick up a new technology. A bit more visionaries (early adopters) follow. But then, there is a chasm (OOPS) which needs to be crossed, before pragmatists (early majority) and conservatives (late majority) pick it up. Are we currently in the Smart Home Oops?

Smart home technology will only be widely adopted, when our smart home vendors improve on interoperability of their devices, so we can connect their bits and pieces conveniently to one, really smart home.

What is Smart Lighting?

We have started to look into the energy efficiency aspect of smart lighting. We have also identified smart lighting as an integral part of a smart home. Where do we go from here?

Here are some ideas!

We have The Many Ways of Controlling Smart Lighting, which give us insight into the “smart” part of smart lighting, in which we can look into further improving our energy efficiency, comfort, and convenience. We can Control Smart Lighting with Presence, Geo-fencing and Motion Sensors, hands- and voice free.

Talking about comfort and health, we could use smart lighting for Sleeping Better and Waking Up more Energized. Furthermore, we can simulate Natural Light with Smart Lighting throughout the day.

Here are some devices!

Philips Hue is the smart lighting system we – at our smart home – are using since 2013, and the system evolved into a quite huge setup, with multi-bridge and many accessories.

Nanoleaf Aurora: Smart Lighting, Living Paint or Smart Art? is sticking on our living room wall since end of 2016 and is a quite different smart lighting device.

“Let there be light!”

Though it is kind of cool to be able to “god-like” command your smart lighting with your voice, we are examining here not only the voice commands, but also the setup and capabilities of our smart voice assistants in combination with our smart devices.

For Philips Hue:

For Nanoleaf Aurora:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction to smart lighting. If you have questions or want to share your experience, please leave your comment below!

Other Links

For a 5 minute definition of light, see this Kurzgesagt clip.
Here’s a Wikipedia article with comparison and cost calculation of different lamps (scroll down to the table).
The fall of the incandescent lamps: in this Wikipedia article you can check the current state of the phase-out (search for your region).

Siri and Philips Hue: Setup, Review and Voice Commands

With the Generation 2 bridge, Philips introduced HomeKit support for Philips Hue lights. The Philips Hue app manages to keep your lights and rooms configuration in sync between the Philips Hue app and Apples HomeKit, Home app and Siri.

Preparation

Philips Hue app HomeKit & Siri Settings
Philips Hue app HomeKit & Siri Settings

If you have not setup your Hue lights yet, check out Philips Hue – Smart Lighting needs a Smart Setup.

To configure HomeKit, visit the menu “HomeKit & Siri” in the Philips Hue app settings. When you do this for the first time, you will receive a message, that the rooms are out of sync. Tap “Update rooms” to copy your rooms to HomeKit.

Apple Home app Home Page
Apple Home app Home Page

Wait for a couple of minutes, as the HomeKit update requires some time and then verify in the Apple home app, that all your lights and rooms have been copied over.

 

 

Philips Hue app Creating HomeKit Scenes
Philips Hue app Creating HomeKit Scenes

Creating HomeKit Scenes

To create scenes for HomeKit, tap the “Scenes” menu under the HomeKit & Siri section. Give every scene a unique name e.g. “office concentrate” – or “concentrate in office”, if you prefer Alexa style – and specify the room(s) the scene applies to.

Dependent on how many scenes you would like to control, this process can take a lot of time, you can only speed it up by using Siri dictation for the names (pauses between multiple words help with recognition), but finally, you can control your scenes with Siri.

Note, that Apple HomeKit currently supports only up to 100 scenes per home.

Grouping Rooms to Zones

You can group your rooms into a HomeKit “zone”. Use an HomeKit app, e.g. Elgato Eve and add a zone “Downstairs” in the room tab, specifying which rooms to group. This way you will be able to “turn on/off” your downstairs lights via Siri.

Apart from being able to control your lights with your voice, you now have a fully configured Apple Home app with all your rooms, lights and scenes from Philips Hue. Don’t forget to configure your favorite Scenes and Accessories in the Home app, so you can use them also from the iOS control center as well as from your apple watch.

Voice Commands

Voice Command Syntax

For the voice commands below:
[all caps] means your own light/room/scenes names
/ means either/or – just pick one
() means optional – you don’t have to say that

Voice Commands for turning Philips Hue lights ON / OFF

  • Lights on
  • Switch lamps *
  • Turn off the bedroom lights
  • Switch the Go lamp in the Dining room on

Hey Siri, switch / change / make / set / turn / activate / deactivate (on/off)
[ all/my, (the) LIGHTNAME / (the) ROOMNAME / (the) LIGHTNAME in/at (the) ROOMNAME] (light(s)) / (lamp(s)) (go) (on/off).

*Note: If you omit “on/off” when saying “switch” or “change”, Siri will switch the lights individually from the current state to the other =)

Voice Commands for setting Philips Hue Scenes

  • Office Concentrate
  • Activate Office Energize
  • Set Couch Relax

Hey Siri, (switch / change / make / set / turn / activate / deactivate) (on)
[SCENENAME] (on)

Voice Commands for setting the Philips Hue Brightness

  • Office 80
  • Dim Office
  • Make the Kitchen brighter
  • Turn the Livingroom less dark

Hey Siri, (switch / change / make / set / turn / activate / deactivate) ((the) brightness of)
[all/my, (the) LIGHTNAME / (the) ROOMNAME / (the) LIGHT-NAME in/at (the) ROOMNAME] (light(s)) / (lamp(s)) (brightness)
(to) x (percent) / darker/brighter / more/less dark/bright

Hey Siri, dim (down) / brighten (up) ((the) brightness)
[all/my, (the) LIGHTNAME / (the) ROOMNAME / (the) LIGHT-NAME in/at (the) ROOMNAME] (light(s)) / (lamp(s))
(brightness) (by x (percent))

Voice Commands for setting Philips Hue Colors

  • Office Air Force Blue
  • Set Office Desk to the color asparagus

Hey Siri, (switch / change / make / set / turn / activate / deactivate)
[all/my, (the) LIGHTNAME / (the) ROOMNAME / (the) LIGHT-NAME in/at (the) ROOMNAME] (light(s)) / (lamp(s)) (to (the color)) [COLOR-NAME]

Note: COLOR-NAME is not documented, but many color names from here are supported.

Voice Commands for setting the Philips Hue Color Temperature

Not Supported.

Conclusion

HomeKit and Siri let us import our Philips Hue room settings. We need to recreate the scenes in the Philips Hue app to be available with Siri. Siri supports an extensive voice command set but lacks color temperature support.

Siri is obviously the oldest and wisest of our assistants. She not only handles multiple bridges nicely, HomeKit also supports additional ways of grouping your devices to make controlling them easier.

For a comparison to Alexa and Google Assistant, please see: Assistant Showdown with Philips Hue: Who will win? Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant.

If you are interested in smart ideas for your smart lighting, check out:

Have fun and if you have questions or want to share your ideas and experiences with Philips Hue and Siri, please leave a comment below!

Google Home and Nanoleaf Aurora: Setup and Voice Commands

Make sure you have installed Aurora according to “Nanoleaf Aurora – Smart Lighting, Living Paint or Smart Art?”. In this post, we will setup Google Assistant to talk to your Aurora.

Preparation

Nanoleaf Settings – Nanoleaf Cloud

To support Alexa and Google Assistant, Nanoleaf has created the Nanoleaf Cloud. If you have not already created an account, navigate to “… More” in your Nanoleaf app, tap the settings and on top of the screen, you will find the “Nanoleaf Cloud” settings. Tap “username” and register. Tap the “Sync” button to synchronize your configuration to the Nanoleaf cloud.

Setup

Google Home – Add Devices

Open your Google Home app and navigate to Home Control. In the devices tab, tap on the “+” to add a device. Select Nanoleaf Smarter Series from the list of supported devices and you will be guided to log into your Nanoleaf Cloud account. From there “allow” Google to control your Nanoleaf devices.

You will be guided back to assign rooms to the devices, you can cancel this, since its much easier to assign devices from the “edit room” page.

Google Home – Nanoleaf Devices

Voice Control

Here are the voice commands you can use with Google Home to control your Nanoleaf Aurora:

  • OK Google, turn on/off <Aurora-name>
  • OK Google, set <Aurora-name> to x percent
  • OK Google, dim/brighten <Aurora-name> (by x percent)
  • OK Google, turn/set <Aurora-name> (to) <color>. Check out this external link for an amazing list of color names Google Home should recognize.
  • OK Google, activate/turn on <Aurora scene>

There are many voice command alternatives you can use with Google Assistant and smart lighting. Pick the ones which work best for you from the overview in this post: Google Assistant and Philips Hue: Setup, Review and Voice Commands.

Conclusion

Google Assistant’s Aurora support is quite extensive and surprise, surprise, we see that Google Assistant does support scenes (seems Philips missed that in Google Assistant and Philips Hue initially, however it is now supported since 2018-04-27).

You can find more Google Home posts here: Google Assistant.

For a comparison to Alexa and Siri, see: Assistant Showdown with Nanoleaf Aurora: Who will win, Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant?

If you are interested in smart ideas for your smart lighting, see:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post! If you have questions or would like to share your experience with Nanoleaf Aurora and Google Home, please leave your comment below.

Siri and Nanoleaf Aurora: Setup and Voice Commands

In this post, we are looking into the HomeKit and Siri support for the Nanoleaf Aurora. If you followed our post “Nanoleaf Aurora – Smart Lighting, Living Paint or Smart Art?” and Nanoleaf’s “Get Started” instructions, you have mastered the HomeKit setup already.

Setup

Let’s look into the steps which connect Aurora to HomeKit.

Nanoleaf Aurora – HomeKit Home Data

When starting the Nanoleaf app for the first time on an iOS device, it will request access to your Home Data, which is your HomeKit database. You have to specify the HomeKit Home, in which you want to add your Aurora and scan/enter the HomeKit ID, which you can find on the bottom of your Aurora controller (good we took a picture before glueing to the wall!).

Nanoleaf Aurora – HomeKit Home

When you check your Apple Home app, you will find your Aurora accessory added, plus all the scenes you have created/saved to your Nanoleaf App dashboard. The synchronization between your Dashboard scenes and HomeKit happens automatically. Every time you save or delete a scene in Nanoleaf, the change is mirrored in the Apple Home app.

Voice Control

As with other smart lighting devices, Siri understands following commands for your Aurora:

  • (Hey Siri,) turn on/off <Aurora-name> (lights).
  • (Hey Siri,) set <Aurora-name> to X (percent).
  • (Hey Siri,) dim/brighten <Aurora-name> (by x percent)
  • (Hey Siri,) set <Aurora-name> to <color>. Check out this external link for an amazing list of color names Siri could recognize.
  • (Hey Siri,) set/turn on/activate <Aurora scene name>.

There are many voice command alternatives you can use with Siri and smart lighting. Pick the ones which work best for you from the overview in this post: Siri and Philips Hue: Setup, Review and Voice Commands.

Grouping Rooms and Scenes

By assigning Aurora to a room in the Apple Home app, it becomes part of the room commands, e.g. turn on/off living room.

Nanoleaf Aurora – Editing Group

To add an Aurora scene to your existing HomeKit room scenes, you need to add the Aurora Scene in the Nanoleaf app dashboard under the Groups tab. Swipe the desired HomeKit scene – e.g. “living room energize” – to the left and tap the edit button. Under “Manage” you can add Aurora to the devices and specify which Aurora scene should be activated, e.g. “Aurora Energize”.

Note, Apple HomeKit supports only 100 scenes per home.

Conclusion

Nanoleaf has implemented a rock solid HomeKit support. Additionally to the generic light commands, you can control your painted, dynamic and rhythm scenes with Siri and add them through the Nanoleaf app to your existing HomeKit scenes.

For a comparison to Alexa and Google Assistant, see: Assistant Showdown with Nanoleaf Aurora: Who will win, Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant?

If you are interested in smart ideas for your smart lighting, see:

What is your experience with Nanoleaf Aurora and HomeKit/Siri?

Sleeping Better with Smart Lighting: Smarter “Go to Bed” and “Wake Up”

Siri Falling Asleep with Smart Lighting

We spend 36% of our lives asleep, and while the average sleep period has decreased over the last 60 years, neuroscience is discovering more and more how important sleep is for our well-being. Can smart lighting help us to sleep better and wake up more energized?

For a general introduction to smart lighting, see: Introduction to Smart Lighting: A Very Brief History of Light.

Why do we sleep?

Amongst many theories which are heavily debated, there seem to be some no-brainers: We restore our brains during sleep, clearing out the waste which has accumulated over the day between our brain cells. We save energy during our rest, and last but definitely not least, we are consolidating what we have learned throughout the day and become more creative.

Our body-clock works independently from our work-schedules and sleep deprivation is nowadays a common phenomenon in huge parts of our society, leading to accidents due to fatigue.

Smart Lighting and Sleep

With smart lighting, we can finally support the process of falling asleep and waking up, making up for the sleep-damage the dumb light bulbs in our homes have created over the past century. Light is deeply connected with our body-clock. Reducing our exposure to light for at least half an hour before going to bed will make us feel tired. Increasing light in the morning will make us feel more energized for the day.

There are many ways to configure wake up and good night routines with smart lighting. Let’s examine those options with Philips Hue to schedule routines for going to bed and getting out of bed more easily, supporting a healthy sleep.

Philips Hue Routines

Philips Hue Routine Settings
Philips Hue Routine Settings

The Routines tab of your Philips Hue app already contains “wake up” and “go to sleep” routines, waiting for your configuration. For both routines, we can specify the time, the weekday as well as the rooms. Additionally, we can define the fade-in time for waking up (up to 30 minutes) and the fade-out time for going to sleep (up to 60 minutes).

Note, that the “go to sleep” routine starts with a brightness of 56% and make sure that the scene which you are fading out is not brighter. Otherwise, you will see your lights brighten up, just before fading out, which is counterproductive for preparing to go to bed.

Philips Hue – HueLabs

Philips HueLabs Go to Sleep formula
Philips HueLabs Go to Sleep formula

Taking these features a bit further, you can find the “Prepare me to go to sleep” and the “Personal wake up” formulas in your Philips HueLabs.

The first one offers activating nightlight at the press of a button (dimmer or tap) and additional configuration whether the lights should fade into off state or stay at the nightlight recipe.

The latter allows you to specify whether you prefer to wake up with a relaxed light setting or an energized power wake up.

Other apps

iConnectHue Nightlight Timer
iConnectHue Nightlight Timer

With iConnectHue, you are a bit more flexible when scheduling wake-up and go to sleep routines. You can additionally:

  • specify the groups (rather than rooms) you want to dim/fade in
  • configure conditions on who is present
  • set longer fade out time (120 minutes) and
  • use animations in timers.

Conclusion

Smart Lighting can support us to sleep better by preparing us for a good night sleep and waking up with the right light setting.

For more ideas around smart lighting, see:

If you are interested in some background on sleep, see following TED talks:
Russel Foster: “Why do we sleep” and
Jeff Iliff: “One more reason to get a good nights sleep“.

Have a good nights rest and if you want to share your experience with smart sleeping and wakeup routines, please leave your comment below.

The Many Ways of Controlling Smart Lighting

Smart lighting offers various ways to be controlled. Some initially appear traditional, like a simple light switch, but the options we nowadays have to switch to our preferred lighting scenes, go way beyond only turning lights on and off.

For a general introduction to smart lighting, see: Introduction to Smart Lighting: A Very Brief History of Light.

In this post, we look into the different options of controlling smart lighting, taking Philips Hue as an example. We will cover programming schedules and rules, as well as apps and switches and of course voice control.

Automated Control

Everybody has different preferences when it comes to controlling lights. The easiest way to interact with smart lighting is not to interact with it at all. Once we have programmed our routines, smart things will happen automatically.

For location-based programming with geo-fencing and motion sensors, see the Presence controlled Smart Lighting post.

In the posts Sleeping Better with Smart Lighting and Natural Smart Lighting, we look into programming schedules and timers, which work automatically and don’t need any additional interaction from your end.

Manual Control

Apart from initially setting your lights up and occasionally tweaking your settings, smart lighting does not need manual control. However, it’s always good to have a fallback, in case you occasionally want to deviate from the programmed routines.

Control Smart Lighting with an App

We associate the “smartness” of devices with our ability to pull out the smartphone, open an app and control our lighting by selecting scenes in configured rooms, changing color and brightness to our liking. Though this approach still gives you the most flexibility in what you can control, it is by far the most inefficient. Anyway, we have to become familiar with these apps, to program our smart devices to work automatically.

Apple Home Control Center

Some apps offer widgets – e.g. Apple Home app even offers a control center integration – to reduce the swipes and taps required to activate a scene or control a smart device.

Still, having to pull out your smartphone or fumbling with an Apple Watch app to control your home, wears off pretty quickly and works mostly only for you and not your family and guests.

Use your smart home apps only to program your lights to the maximum extent. There are more efficient ways to control smart lighting.

Control Smart Lighting with a Switch

iConnectHue Dimmer Settings
iConnectHue Dimmer Settings

Resembling traditional light switches, smart taps and dimmers offer you, your family and guests traditional control over your smart lighting.

Additionally, you have the option to program what happens when you click multiple times or press and hold a button as well as defining time slots in which a button click triggers a specific lighting scene.

You can switch through your “energize”, “concentrate”, “read”, “relax” scenes by repeatedly clicking a button or you can program that a click between 6:00 and 11:00 triggers “energize”, between 11:00 and 16:00 “concentrate” and so on. For a full configuration, see our Natural Smart Lighting post.

Last but not least, if your switch is HomeKit compatible – like the Philips Hue Dimmer in our example – you can control any HomeKit device with it. In this case, you need to create the automations in your Apple Home app.

Voice Control

There is a good reason, why we are focusing on voice control in our Assistants posts. There is no need to look for your smartphone or head over to a smart switch to control your smart lighting. Our quickest and most natural way to control smart lighting is to tell Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant, to which scene of the many it should switch to. In case you feel like you need that too often, make sure you optimize your automations.

Conclusion

A combination of programmed automatic control through schedules, which run throughout day and night, together with voice control, in case you occasionally prefer something different is definitely the most efficient setup for you and your smart home. Having taps and dimmers programmed and in place, gives you, your family and guests a traditional fallback in case your assistant is on strike.

An ideal setup requires some planning and preparation, but it quickly pays off, once the system runs the way you have envisioned it.

How do you control your smart lighting? Share your experience or drop your questions below.

Natural Smart Lighting: Feeling Better With Smart Light

Natural Smart LIghting

We have already looked into the impact of light on our sleep in the “Sleeping Better with Smart Lighting” post. But what about the rest of the day? Can smart lighting help us to “feel better”, maybe by resembling natural light?

For a general introduction to smart lighting, see: Introduction to Smart Lighting: A Very Brief History of Light.

In this post, we are examining a concept Philips names “Feel better with light”, which you can find in the Philips HueLabs section. Let’s use the app iConnectHue to reprogram this concept, so you can follow along and tweak it to your liking with your favorite app and smart lighting system.

Here Comes The Sun

In October 2017 the 108th Nobel prize in physiology and medicine has been awarded to three American scientists for their research on circadian rhythm. Back in 1984, they identified a “period” gene which controls the daily rhythm of fruit flies. Their work has been substantial for understanding basics of life: every living organism on earth responds to the suns day and night cycle.

As the sun crosses our sky throughout the day, the color temperature is changing. From around 2000K (Kelvin) during sunrise/sunset up to 5300K average during noon, or even 12000K with a clear sky. These color temperatures, which range from warm light to cold blue light, help to synchronize our inner body-clock to the natural progress of day and night. If we do not get enough natural daylight, or spend too much time in front of blue light emitting LEDs in the evening, we bring our inner clock out of sync and that has a negative effect on our health.

Philips has defined “recipes” with different color temperatures, from “relax” with 2237K, to “read” at 2890K, “concentrate” with 4291K and “energize” at 6410K. If we combine these different recipes with different schedules, we can simulate the natural progress of the sun throughout the day, supporting the accuracy of our inner clock.

Scheduled Smart Lighting

Every smart lighting system allows us to define the time when a certain scene should be turned on or off. This scheduled smart lighting in combination with motion activated lighting is the most efficient lighting automation approach. No voice commands, no switch, no app needed to control our lighting. We specify the time when a certain recipe should be turned on/off and we are done.

iConnectHue Sunset Timer Settings
iConnectHue Sunset Timer Settings

Here is an example from iConnectHue for a sunset timer. It fades every weekday into the “relax” recipe in the living room, starting half an hour before sunset, but of course only if somebody is at home.

iConnectHue "Nightlight" Timer Settings
iConnectHue “Nightlight” Timer Settings

Additionally, we can create a “nightlight” timer for the living room, set up to fade in at 9 p.m. every day, serving as “go to bed” timer.

The “natural” effect these two rules create, is a slow fade in of the “relaxed” scene half an hour before sunset and a slow fade into “nightlight”, preparing you for bed. Both of course only if somebody is at home.

When splitting between workweek and weekend, make sure that you don’t change your go to bed and wake up time too much, as this supposedly causes a “social jet lag”. But that’s a different topic and a different post.

Up to now we only covered the evening and night schedule, what about the rest of the day? If you do not get enough daylight indoors, it makes perfect sense to create timers for “energize”, “concentrate” and “read” as well.

What about dimmer and motion sensors?

iConnectHue "Natural" Dimmer Settings
iConnectHue “Natural” Dimmer Settings

We can program our dimmers to integrate following schedule, in case we need some light (when it’s not scheduled):

  • 6:00 to 11:00 energize
  • 11:00 to 16:00 concentrate
  • 16:00 to 19:00 read
  • 19:00 to 22:00 relax
  • 22:00 to 6:00 nightlight

Pressing the “on” button of the dimmer, will trigger the proper recipe for the time of the day. Holding the “on” button of the dimmer could trigger the “energize” recipe, for the brightest light independent of the daytime.

iConnectHue "Natural" Motion Sensor Settings
iConnectHue “Natural” Motion Sensor Settings

If a motion sensor only triggers on/off for a certain room, you can copy the above schedule from the dimmer. But if a motion sensor should activate just a part of the room to be brighter, we can program it slightly different. Here is an example of Kitchen LEDs which serve as task lights and use a brighter recipe, because you want to see what you cook, even during the night:

– from 6:00 to 16:00 energize
– from 16:00 to 19:00 concentrate
– from 19:00 to 22:00 read
– from 22:00 to 6:00 relax

Conclusion

These were just some examples of how you can automate your smart lighting to your liking, in a natural way. Light “recipes” for different activities, at different times throughout the day and night, fading slowly from one scene to another, can mimic natural light, hence make you “feel better”.

If you are interested in other smart ideas for your smart lighting, see:

Which “recipes” do you prefer? Share your experience with “natural” smart lighting by posting your comments below.

Control Smart Lighting with Presence, Geo-fencing and Motion Sensors

controlling smart lighting presence geo-fencing motion sensors

You can control smart lighting in different ways through your presence, or even during your recreational absence. Motion sensor activated lighting is definitely not a novelty. Samuel Bagno invented the first motion sensor already back in the early 1950s, but today’s options  go way beyond switching your lights simply on or off.

For a general introduction to smart lighting, see: Introduction to Smart Lighting: A Very Brief History of Light.

In this post, we are looking into different approaches to program your smart lighting -taking the industry-leader Philips Hue as an example – to work automatically based on where you are. If you have not already, you can explore an overview in The Many Ways of Controlling Smart Lighting beforehand.

Geo-fencing

Geo-fencing defines virtual boundaries for a geographic area. When your smartphone enters or leaves an area, a location-based activity can be triggered.

Philips Hue app Home & Away Routines
Philips Hue app Home & Away Routines

By entering your home location in the Home & Away routines of the Philips Hue app, you can specify which rooms should be turned off once you leave home and which turned on once you are back. For support of family members, check out the multi-user geofencing formula in the HueLabs section.

iConnectHue Location Settings
iConnectHue Location Settings

iConnectHue offers an in-app purchase to make use of geo-fencing for all smartphone household members. It triggers “coming home” actions for the first person arriving home and “away” actions when the last person has left. Additionally, you can personalize your lighting by activating different scenes depending on who just arrived home.

Apple Home app People Arrive / People Leave Automation
Apple Home app People Arrive / People Leave Automation

Apple’s HomeKit supports multiple household members with geofencing through its iOS 11 updates. If you want to also control other HomeKit devices when entering/leaving your home, this is the perfect place to create your automation.

Motion Sensors

iConnectHue Motion Sensor Sensitivity

Smart motion sensors usually include a variety of sensors and features around them:

1. You can measure the brightness in their surrounding, only turning lights on, when it is as dark as you specified.

2. You can specify motion sensitivity to e.g. exclude your pets from activating your smart lighting.

3. Motion sensors can first dim before turning off the lights, so you get a heads up in case you are still around and can move a bit to turn them back “on”.

4. Smart motion sensors also allow to specify a fade-in and -out time to smoothen the light up and dimming.

5. As with the dimmers and taps, you can program motion sensors to trigger different scenes within different time slots, e.g. “energize” in the morning and “relax” in the evening.

6. Most motion sensors nowadays contain a temperature sensor, which allows you to monitor (and optimize) the temperature around your house.

7. Last, but not least: If your motion sensor is HomeKit compatible – like the Philips Hue Motion Sensors – you can control any HomeKit device with it. Just make sure to create the automation in Apples Home app.

Smart motion sensors work perfectly in areas where you move through, like entrances, corridors, stairways etc.  In rooms where you stay longer, like bathroom, kitchen, restroom etc. you need to increase the period of inactivity which triggers the power off, or move from time to time. We have not found any smart way of using motion sensors in the living room or bedroom yet.

Presence Mimicking

Philips Hue HueLabs Presence Mimicking
Philips Hue HueLabs Presence Mimicking

Smart lighting can help to increase the security in your home during your vacation. Randomly switching the lights on and off within a programmed time-window or mimicking with your lights that your TV is on, simulates you are at home while you are enjoying your vacation miles away. Check out the HueLabs formulas “Presence and TV mimicking” for more information.

Conclusion

Presence controlled smart lighting is an important concept to fully automate your lights. It involves a bit of planning and preparation, but once set up, you will never again need to ask yourself, whether you left your lights on or stumble in the dark searching for the light switch. Hands-free, easy and energy efficient.

If you are interested in other smart ideas for your smart lighting, see:

Do you plan or already use presence controlled smart lighting? Tell us about your experience or drop any questions you might have below.

Nanoleaf Aurora – Smart Lighting, Living Paint or Smart Art?

Nanoleaf Aurora provides a personal smart lighting experience which is indeed unlike anything I have seen before. It is a smart lighting device, consisting of triangular LED panels which you can plug together in any artful shape the triangles allow. You attach the panels to your wall, power them up and paint your wall with colorful animations. So yes, we can call it smart lighting, living paint and smart art in one product.

And with the Rhythm module, the Aurora visualizes the music you are playing. Here is a post dedicated to the Aurora Rhythm: Nanoleaf Aurora and Rhythm: See your Music in 14 Trillion Ways!

For a general introduction to smart lighting, see: Introduction to Smart Lighting: A Very Brief History of Light.

In this post, we are examining how you can create your individual design and literally picture it on your own wall, for free. Then we will look into how you can mount your design on your wall and the options you have with the Nanoleaf app to fill your Aurora with different animations. In the assistants posts, we will set up Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant to control our personal smart light art.

Who is Nanoleaf?

Nanoleaf App - Welcome to Smarter Living
Nanoleaf App – Welcome to Smarter Living

Nanoleaf was founded 2012 by Gimmy Chu (CEO), Tom Rodinger (CTO) and Christian Yan (COO). With offices in Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Toronto, Nanoleaf manufactures smart lighting based upon their patented technology for sustainable manufacturing and energy efficiency.

If you are interested what Nanoleaf is up to, you can even find their roadmap on their website.

Nanoleaf Product Range

Nanoleaf One was the companies first product released on Kickstarter 2013. The dimmable Nanoleaf Bloom followed in 2014 and their bestselling product Nanoleaf Gem was released in 2015. Nanoleaf Ivy released end of 2015 supports HomeKit and is listed as the world’s most energy efficient bulb. In November 2016 Nanoleaf released the Aurora as first color changing product with Siri, Google Home, and Alexa support.

Find Your Design

Before we ordered our Aurora – almost a year ago – there were some creative hurdles to overcome. The Aurora inviting empty wall was there, but how many panels do we need, which shape are we going to build, how will it look on our wall? Since we knew we had to attach the Aurora with adhesive tape to the wall, we wanted to do it right, from the very beginning. I will spare you our lengthy (but fun) process which led to our Hexagon shape because with today’s Nanoleaf app, it is much easier: Yes, we can use Augmented Reality.

Nanoleaf Aurora App – Layout Assistant

Before buying, download the free Nanoleaf Smarter Series app. You can skip the setup process and head over to the “…” More tab. Under “Aurora Layout Assistant” you will find a panel, where you can play around and construct your own design. If you need more tiles you just add them at the top of the screen. Once you have something which fits your taste and your budget, you can click the little eye in the center of the bottom screen.

Nanoleaf Aurora – Augmented Reality – original Aurora with QR Code and virtual Aurora next to it

A dialog guides you to download a QR code which you can directly send from your smartphone to your printer. You stick the printed page on the wall where you would like to mount your Aurora and point your smartphone at it and your design appears on your wall. You can now rotate and position your design more precisely where it should be on the wall, the initial size of the tiles is quite accurate. You can walk around, take screenshots and once you are happy, you know exactly what to order and how it will look like.

Note, that Nanoleaf has meanwhile developed a screw mount kit which includes screws, anchors, and flex linkers as well as a flex linkers only kit. You can use them to build your shapes around corners and mount them with screws rather than with the adhesive tape.

First Contact

A couple of days later, when you receive your Aurora, you will find that there is surprisingly little documentation coming with it, except for some nice words. This is because all the information you need is online. I just checked out their updated “Getting Started” page and have to admit a lot has changed over the last year. They have developed brand new tutorials covering all different aspects of mounting and dismounting (spoiler: dental floss helps) your Aurora including their new mounting kits.

It is recommended that you check the panels and pair your Aurora before mounting it. Lay your tiles on a flat surface, plug into the power and then connect the controller to the panels. If you have not downloaded the Nanoleaf Smarter Series app yet, it is a good time to do so. Aurora takes up to 2 minutes to boot and indicates being ready by loading the Northern Lights scene. Don’t let Aurora’s initial brightness confuse you (100 Lumen per panel!), you will be able to configure this and much much more with the app.

Nanoleaf Aurora – Get Started Screen

Nanoleaf’s app has received a complete redesign a couple of months back. Start with adding a new Aurora device and follow the instructions. Don’t play too long with the many features in the app, we will examine them later.

Mounting Your Aurora

Take a picture of the back of the controller. It contains the serial number and the connection codes for the assistants, which we will need later on. So we better have this info handy, before glueing the controller to the wall.

The one tutorial which helped me most is missing now on Nanoleaf’s page. Understanding the general process of how to put the tiles together, which is straightforward and easy, I was still super nervous. What if I make a mistake and peel off the paint from our wall when having to remorsefully remount it? Though the adhesive stripes are supposed to come off without paint, I did not really want to try it.

So I searched the Nanoleaf Page for some inspiration and found a clip of their marketing guy standing there with a Ukulele. Two minutes later I learned it was his bosses Ukulele and he was using it instead of a level because he could not find one.

No, seriously?

I grabbed my level and the first part of my tiles (I split up the hexagon into 4 parts for easier mounting) and minutes later it was good.

Exploring the App

Assuming you have gone through the app built-in tutorials, we will focus here only on an overview of the many features you can find in the app.

Nanoleaf app – Dashboard

The initial screen is your Aurora dashboard, which on the top provides you an overview of the status of your Aurora, on/off, brightness and which scene is loaded. Below you can find the three scene tabs:

  1. Colors, for your “painted” or “dynamic” scenes
  2. Rhythm, for your Aurora Rhythm scenes and
  3. Groups, which reflect your HomeKit scenes (check out our Siri & Nanoleaf Aurora post for that)

Swiping any scene to the left allows you to edit, share or delete it.

Painted Scenes

Painted scenes are static. You see the shape of your Aurora, and you can select or create a palette of colors and paint every panel to your liking. Since the dynamic scenes are much more impressive, we use a painted scene only as nightlight.

Dynamic Scenes

Dynamic scenes are animated based on: the selected palette, 6 different algorithms and a couple of parameters. Sounds complex, but it isn’t (you should have seen the previous version of the app).

Nanoleaf Aurora – Dynamic Scene Settings

Apart of brightness and speed, which you can always set, the availability of other parameters depend on the type of animation:

  1. Random: Colors your panels randomly with the palette colors. You can specify the color transition: Block (colors pause briefly) or Curvy (colors transition smoothly) squiggle.
  2. Flow: Each color of the palette flows into the direction you choose. You can additionally choose the color transition and whether the animation should run once or loop continuously.
  3. Wheel: Displays a moving gradient created from the palette colors. You can choose the color transition and how many of your palette colors are displayed at once.
  4. Highlight: Works like random but highlights the colors left in your color palette.
  5. Fade: Cycles through your palette colors. You can then chose color transition and whether the animation should play once or loop through.
  6. Burst: Displays palette colors bursting from the center of the Aurora. Color transitions and repetitions can be additionally configured.
Aurora Energize Animation

Since your preferred animation types will very much depend on the shape of your Aurora and your very personal mood and taste, it is a good idea to spend some time playing around with the different settings.

Our preferred scenes for different times of the day (remember the “Natural Smart Lighting” post), are mainly based around the “Random” type with different speed and brightness settings.

Social Light

I almost forgot one additional feature of the app: you can share your favorite scenes and download the presets from Nanoleaf and the Nanoleaf community (tribe =). You can find our SmartEnlight scenes under the “Discover” Tab, where you can preview all scenes on your Aurora before downloading them to your dashboard. Hope to see your favorite scenes soon there as well!

Smart Assistants

Having our Aurora configured so far, we can finally speech-enable her with

For a comparison of all assistants with Nanoleaf Aurora, see: Assistant Showdown with Nanoleaf Aurora: Who will win, Siri, Alexa or Google?

If you are interested in smart ideas for your smart lighting, check out:

If you have any questions or would like to share your experience with your Aurora, please leave your comment below.

Alexa and Nanoleaf Aurora: Setup and Voice Commands

Nanoleaf Aurora and Alexa

In this post, we will set up Alexa to talk to your Aurora. If you have not already set up your Aurora in the Nanoleaf app, refer to our “Nanoleaf Aurora – Smart Lighting, Living Paint or Smart Art?“.

Preparation

Nanoleaf – Settings – Nanoleaf Cloud

To support Google Assistant and Alexa, Nanoleaf has created the Nanoleaf Cloud. If you have not already created an account, here is how to: Under “… More” in your Nanoleaf app, tap “Settings” and on top of the screen, you will find the “Nanoleaf Cloud” settings. Tap “username” and register yourself. Click the “Sync” button to synchronize your configuration with the Nanoleaf cloud.

Setup

Alexa – Nanoleaf Skill

In your Alexa app, search for the Nanoleaf skill and enable it. You will be guided to enter your Nanoleaf Cloud account for linking Alexa with your Aurora, click “allow”. Ask Alexa to discover your devices and give her some time until she comes back.

You will find your Aurora under Smart Home Devices, as well as your Aurora Scenes under Smart Home Scenes.

Voice Commands

Now we are ready to control Aurora with Alexa:

  • Alexa turn on/off <Aurora name>
  • Alexa, dim/brighten <Aurora name> (by x percent)
  • Alexa, set <Aurora name> to x (percent)
  • Alexa, set the <Aurora name> to <color>. Note, the colors are a bit limited.
  • Alexa turn on <Aurora scene>.
  • Alexa, make the <Aurora name> warmer/cooler. Note, this will switch to a shade of white.

There are many voice command alternatives you can use with Alexa and smart lighting. Pick the ones which work best for you from the overview in this post: Alexa and Philips Hue: Setup, Review and Voice Commands.

Conclusion

Nanoleaf and Alexa provide an excellent integration. Additional to the scenes, brightness and color control, color temperature can be set. To further streamline scene control, you can add the Aurora scenes to Alexa Smart Home Groups and Alexa Routines and make them part of “larger” scenes.

For a comparison to Siri and Google Assistant, see: Assistant Showdown with Nanoleaf Aurora: Who will win, Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant?

If you are interested in smart ideas for your smart lighting, see:

What is your experience with Nanoleaf Aurora and Alexa?

Philips Hue – Smart Lighting needs a Smart Setup

Philips Hue is a personal wireless lighting system, enabling you to control and automate your lights from your smartphone and digital assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant.

There are many smart lighting vendors: Osram with Lightify, LIFX, Hive and lately IKEA with TRÅDFRI, just to name a few. Philips Hue has been a pioneer in this area developing a broad product range and third-party app ecosystem throughout the years.

For a general introduction to smart lighting, see: Introduction to Smart Lighting: A Very Brief History of Light.

In this post, we will shed some light on the Philips Hue product family and generations. We will look into efficiently setting up and grouping (many) lights within the Philips Hue app to bring this setup to Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant.

Who is Philips?

Royal Philips is headquartered in the Netherlands and was founded 1891 by Gerard Philips and no, he did not invent the Phillips screwdriver. Today, Philips is one of the largest electronic companies in the world focussing on healthcare, electronics, and lighting. Already back in 2008 Philips demonstrated the future of lighting with the LivingColors LED lamps mood lights, before stepping 2012 into the smart lighting era.

What is Smart Lighting?

Smart lighting is about energy efficiency. We consume a lot of energy for our lighting and by using optimized LEDs, which are programmable and controllable through sensors, we can not only streamline and minimize our energy consumption but also increase comfort and convenience.

Philips Hue Generations

Philips Hue App Splash Screen

Philips Hue was introduced in October 2012 and over the years received updates in October 2015 and 2016. Dependent on when you obtained your bridge and bulbs you might have Generation 1, 2 or 3.

  1. Generation 1 features a round bridge,
  2. Generation 2 comes in a square shaped bridge and adds support for Apples HomeKit and Siri, as well as brighter bulbs and LED strips. You also need the Gen 2 bridge for Alexa Scene and Color support.
  3. Generation 3 is an update of the Color Ambiance bulbs with an improved color presentation.

Philips Hue Product Range

Apart of the Hue Bridge, which serves as the central hub for all the devices, the Philips Hue product range covers spots and bulbs in white, white ambiance and white and color ambiance, light strips, lamps, and controls, like the tap, the dimmer and the motion sensor. The product range covers all aspects of smart lighting: task-, accent- and general lighting.

Basic Setup

Philips Hue App Home Screen

The setup process as documented by Philips are 4 simple steps:

  1. Power your light sources
  2. Set up your bridge
  3. Download the Philips hue app and connect to your bridge
  4. Play around and experience light in ways you had never imagined

Chances are, that you are beginning with a starter pack and your lights will be preconfigured. Following above steps will quickly lead you through the process. If you, however, plan to add (many) additional lamps to your existing system and want to voice-enable your setup with Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant, here are some concepts which can save you time and nerves.

Extended Setup

Let’s start with some vital information, especially for larger setups: According to Philips, you can connect up to 50 lights to one bridge. Furthermore, you can connect up to 25 Hue taps and up to 7 dimmers or a combination thereof. Last but not least you can connect up to 12 motion sensors, but only if you do not have any taps and dimmers connected (otherwise its less).

What does this mean?

This cryptic information basically tells us that the storage on the bridge is limited. Behind the curtain, every time you create rules, add sensors, schedules, and lights, or try a new animation, all of this consumes memory on the bridge. Even worse, some apps leave their configurations on the bridge and never delete them, filling up your bridge over time. When the bridge hits its limit, which is defined by your personal configuration of the restrictions above, you get a notification that your bridges memory is full and you cannot save additional rules, sensors or schedules anymore.

When do you need multiple bridges?

iConnectHue Bridge Resources Monitor
iConnectHue Bridge Resources Monitor

You might end up having to split a setup of fewer than 50 lights, because of e.g. the many rules which were saved per dimmer on your bridge. Extending to a second hub does not only add overhead during the setup, it adds complexity and limitations when setting Hue up for Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant. Since there is no way of monitoring the memory usage of your bridge in the Philips app, we recommend using one of the third-party apps to avoid running unconsciously into the bridge-memory-limitation-wall.

Hue Lights Bridge Resources Monitor
Hue Lights Bridge Resources Monitor

In case you require two or more bridges for your setup, you will need to split up your rooms in a way, where lights, dimmers and motion sensors belonging together, are on the same bridge.

Unless you are using a third-party app with multi-bridge support, you will need to manually switch between the bridges on the Philips Hue app before you can control the other rooms.

 

Take a Note of your Serials

Before powering your light sources, make sure you note down the six character serial numbers of each of your lights, especially the ones which are difficult to reach. The Philips app offers a search function to find your lights, but if this fails, the serial numbers are the most reliable way to add your lights. You don’t want to carry a ladder around during the setup process to look up the serial of every undiscovered light. In case you plan to move the lights from one bridge to another, you will definitely need the serial numbers to migrate.

Creating Rooms

Philips Hue App connecting to the bridge
Philips Hue App connecting to the bridge

After connecting to your (first) bridge, the Philips Hue app will guide you to create your first room. Rooms are an important concept in Philips and HomeKit. You can create multiple scenes per room, which will control the light settings of all the lights within this room.

The Philips App does not support grouping one light into more than one room, which would come handy if you have a larger e.g. living room and would like to create multiple groups within this room, to be able to “read” at the table and “relax” on the couch.

Since there are ways to later re-group your Philips app rooms into a larger room for Siri and Alexa, you can segment your large rooms at this point into smaller rooms, eg create a couch, table, shelf room instead of one large living room. Note, that there is another restriction here: You can only group up to 4 rooms later on to HomeKit/Siri scenes with the Hue app.

Step by Step

Dependent on how big your setup is, it makes sense to add your lights in iterations, so you don’t have to run around your house identifying the lights. Start with powering on the lights that are in the room where your bridge is located and search for them. After a minute the app will return with (almost) all the lights you powered on. You do not need to wait for the process to finish, as new lights are dynamically added to the list.

Adding and Naming Lights

Philips Hue app light setup
Philips Hue app light setup

The Philips Hue app names your lights as type and number, eg “Hue Color Spot 17”. By tapping on the light, it will blink so you can locate/identify it. Rename your lights in a way which you can remember and which works for you as voice command if you want to control the lights individually, the digital assistants will recognize these names.

A combination of the location of the light and a number is usually easy to remember, eg Ceiling 2, Center 3, Shelf 5, etc. You can run the search again to find any light, which was not found during the first search. If all lights are connected the app will come back with the message “no new lights found”.

From here you can start the next iteration, turn on the lights in the next room and search for them. The app will come back with the newly found lights (on the bottom of the list), you can identify them by their default names and the green tag “New”. Rename them like you did in the first step and move on to the next room.

Mapping Lights to Rooms

Philips Hue app room setup
Philips Hue app room setup

Now that we have our rooms and lights named, it is time to map the lights to the rooms in the Room Setup. If you are using spots, the location of the spot and the room/section it points to might differ, eg the spot in your entrance named “Entrance 5” points to the kitchen, hence make it part of the Kitchen room.

Defining Scenes

Philips Hue app scene setup
Philips Hue app scene setup

Scenes – which define the state (color/hue, brightness) – for a group of lights, are saved in the Philips app per room.

Philips comes with pre-configured scenes to “energize”, “concentrate”, “relax”, “read”, as well as a “bright”, “dimmed” and “nightlight” scene.

Grouping your lights into rooms will make these preconfigured scenes automatically available in the app. This is a good time to create your own personal scenes.

Digital Assistants

Having our lights configured so far, we can finally speech-enable the setup with

For a comparison of the assistants in combination with Philips Hue, please see: Assistant Showdown with Philips Hue: Who will win? Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant.

For smart ideas around smart lighting, see:

Let me know about your Philips Hue setup experience by posting below!