Huh, you think. Looks like a light. Well, as Dirk’s writeup will make clear- it’s more than just a light. This is a mil-grade, no-kidding, Austin Powers mood altering smart gadget that will change how you approach lighting in your love crib. Whoa- you can alter the colors in your pad with a swipe of your phone.
I will hand the floor over to my resident tech master, Dirk. He’s a lot more qualified than I to address this topic.
A small class on Domotics
Domotics are a part of the landscape with the title Internet of Things. In essence it means that via an internet connection devices can talk to each other. You can make that as elaborate as you want. Let’s take an example.
Say you are part of a modern couple. You and your partner are living somewhere in bourgeois suburbia, both have a paying job and have a home whose roof is plastered with solar panels. Normally washing would either be in the evening or in a weekend, or handled by some service. With domotics you could fill up the washer (don’t forget the detergent, but in the near future a feature that warns you that you haven’t will probably be incorporated as well) and switch on sleep mode depending on your preferences. Something like: Whatever happens, be ready at 5:30 PM.
Then the fun starts. While you are away, the system works out a moment to start and stop the cycle. When your panels give x amount of juice at 11.30 and your power wall or neighborhood-battery is at 95+% charge, it starts then. Or it communicates with the system and joins a queue after Ms. Jones ’s dishwasher has finished. If economy is your thing, you will come to love IoT.
So the possibilities are theoretically endless. Adding an assistant will enhance that even further because then you add brains to the operation. Until 18 months ago, though, a lot of the interoperational communication was locked down. And with stuff from Apple – and I say this without malice – it mostly still is. So choose your biosphere wisely in choosing an assistant. With the battle of the assistants raging (Hi Alexa, Hello Siri, Hey Google, hoi Homey!) I was looking around to see what is on the market at the moment. And let’s start simple by locking in a light bulb.
50 shades of lighting
When it comes to “smart lighting” there are a few options. Most commonly sold at the moment over here in the Netherlands are the Phillips Hue (US), Klik Aan Klik Uit (overseas better known as Trust) and the IKEA Tradfri systems.
They work on the basis that you need (mostly) to use a proprietary hub. Also, you have to hook onto your home network. This hub works with 433 MHZ radio signals to communicate with the different devices. Why 433? Well, it is an older frequency that punches quite nicely through walls. And the datastream it has to send to the lamp is small; in essence “lamp 1 on” and “lamp 1 off”. The hub also makes a 2.4GHZ WiFi connection to your network. Punch an app on your smartphone or hook the hub up to one of the assistants, and everything flies.
The hub also has the advantage that you can use different kinds of sockets. For example; a GU10 bayonet sockets in spots, or a small E14.
So why didn’t I ram in a Hue, stuff from KaKu or Ikea? First off, I hate extra hubs, especially when they are proprietary (yes KaKu I’m looking at you!). Secondly, I wanted a light that could do color. So there went IKEA. Trådfri only comes in white. Hue does color, but a hub and a set of lights will set you back around a € 160,- over here. In the US they charge about $ 145 w/o shipping.
So I went on the slippery slope to find an alternative for a E27 connection. And I found one made by Xiaomi. Never heard of that? Well, I can imagine that. The company is only 8 years old and was at first only aimed at the Chinese and Indian markets. That’s 3 billion customers and counting. They are dipping their toes now into the US and EU markets.
The good, the bad and the ugly.
I bought myself a Yeelight Smart LED Color Bulb in the EU standard E27/230v configuration. They also make them in E26. But look carefully at which one you buy. They come in different flavors.
The older model is grey and its serial marking is YLDP02YL. That one puts out 600 Lumens; roughly the output of an old 60W bulb. Nice for scenary lighting but not enough oomph for an avid reader as myself.
Since last June, however, there is a second version with 800 Lumens. They come in shades of white (YLDP05YL) and a color version (YLDP06YL).
The set-up is simple. You screw the bulb in a socket that is off. Fire up the app, and turn on the juice to the lamp. Register it to an email account, select the lamp you want to add, and voila! Let there be light. You can use the app also to make it work with Alexa, Google or If This Then That.
It’s a heavy bulb, though, and the design on it needs a little work if you want to screw it into an open sconce. But in a floor lamp or a covered ceiling construction they are fine.
Where can you get one?
Well, mail order will probably be your best option. The Beast in the US carries them for $19.99 for the white one, and $29.99 for the multi colored bad boy. Or if you don’t mind paying customs, you can go via AliExpress or a similar service.
Would I screw in one in every available socket? Eh, no. I like redundancy in my lighting. Were my internal internet connection to fail, I wouldn’t be able to fire up the lamp. I don’t need the internet for a normal bulb.
What’s next on the shopping list? Well there is a Google Home on it’s way, so I’ll see if they talk to each other. First in English, as el Goog will be speaking Dutch probably around Christmas. And I am keeping my eye out for a socket thing, so I can switch a fan off and on. After that? I don’t know yet. Maybe a nice little beamer in the bedroom powered by a Chromecast? I’ll keep you posted.
If you have any questions, punch them into the comments below or get in touch with the proprietor of this humble website. He will know where to find me and forward my mail.
And that’s all that Dirk had to say for this installment. Keep an eye peeled for future technical bits by him.