controlling smart lighting presence geo-fencing motion sensors
Alexa returning home from shopping with her smart lighting turning automatically on.

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 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.


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.


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