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Why smart lighting will play a starring role in the smart home revolution

In some ways, smart home technology still seems like a futuristic concept ripped right out of “The Jetsons,” the animated sitcom that originally aired in the early 1960s. But the smart home revolution is well underway — and smart lighting plays a starring role in this contemporary reality (show).

“After home security systems and thermostats, lighting is the third-most frequently installed smart home technology, accounting for up to 50 percent of use cases,” said Bryant Bilal, PE, marketing manager at Eaton’s lighting division. “Some people assume smart home technology is designed for only the edgiest, most forward-thinking consumers, but the reality is that 90 percent of the population could likely benefit from connected lighting right now.”

Smart lighting offers something for everyone.

Today, tech enthusiasts are still the primary users of smart or connected lighting and other smart home technologies. “Eaton’s Halo Connect® product is the perfect solution for people who already own smart home hubs,” Bryant said. “Halo Connect makes existing smart home hubs even smarter by integrating lighting, and it’s easy for homeowners to install. Just replace your existing recessed light trim and bulb with the Halo Connect recessed fixture with trim and smart chip.”

But when it comes to connected lighting, other groups are gaining ground on the early adopters.

“Home curator types come in a close second,” Bilal said. “These people crave ease of use, and they love smart home solutions because of their ability to make life simpler. Instead of running around the house turning off lights as they’re trying to get their family out the door, they’d rather control everything from their phone.”

A third group — traditionalists — is also starting to warm up to a world of possibilities.

“Traditionalists are usually the last to adopt new technologies, but it’s easy for them to get excited about the health benefits of a smart home,” Bilal said. “They aren’t necessarily interested in the technological aspect —the so-called cool factor — or even ease of use; instead, they’re drawn to these products’ potential to help them age in place or address physical disabilities. They understand smart home technology can better their lives in ways that weren’t previously possible.”

Smart lighting provides extra security and peace of mind.

Connected lighting technology like Halo Connect enhances home security with vacation mode and remote access features. For instance, owners can select settings that activate lights to make it appear as if they are in the house, even if they are thousands of miles from home. And with remote access capabilities, owners can turn their lights on and off using their smartphone, whether they’re at the office or on the beach.

“Halo Connect also allows users to select ‘if this, then that’ (IFTTT) settings,” Bilal said. “Using my Halo Connect downlights and Arlo smart home hub, I can set the downlights in my kitchen to turn on if my security system detects motion outside.

“No technology will completely deter all would-be criminals, but connected lighting is an easy way to make a big difference.”

Smart lighting saves energy and money.

Geofencing offers a way to save energy using a connected lighting system. For example, geofencing employs a GPS network, Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth technology to draw virtual boundaries around a location. This virtual fence is paired with an application that recognizes and responds to the boundary. While geofencing technology is not new, earlier systems were cost-prohibitive for individual and residential uses.

“With connected lighting, any homeowner or resident can set up their system such that the lights are on when they’re at home and off when they’re away,” Bilal said. “It’s not only simple to do, it also saves energy and money.”

Smart lighting improves quality of life and physical health.

Smart, connected lighting gives users the ability to program scenes and moods. Whether you’re hosting a party or curling up with a good book, the right lighting will help you entertain your guests or wind down in your favorite chair after a long day.

The flexibility of connected lighting helps users set the right mood, but this technology can also have an impact on physical health. Many studies published by Sleep Medicine Clinics and others corroborate the link between lighting and circadian rhythm. Programming lighting to mimic the arc of the sun, from sunrise to sunset, improves sleep patterns and improves emotional well-being.

“Most people are familiar with dimmers, but these systems also make it easy to change the color temperature of the lighting,” Bilal said. “Warm light mimics candlelight or sunset, and it helps many people relax or get ready for bed. Cooler light, on the other hand, helps people stay alert and focus on specific tasks.”

Installation is do-it-yourself simple.

Regardless of which option is right for you — smart lighting fixtures like Halo Connect or complete smart home hubs that are compatible with connected lighting — installation is easy, even for owners who don’t see themselves as do-it-yourself types.

“Halo Connect® installation is as easy as installing the non-connected product, which in this case consists of the recessed light fixture with trim and smart chip,” Bilal said. “Once you connect it to power, it provides quick instructions to complete installation.

“At that point, a Wi-Fi connection is all you need to start enjoying the benefits.”

Smart lighting is easy for everyone to use.

Bilal said Eaton opts for simple in-app screens to ensure even the most tech-wary users never get lost. Users can set up favorites for one-button control. Because it's so simple, homeowners don't have to worry about how to automate home lighting.

“Imagine being able to select ‘dinnertime’ for warm, relaxing lighting or ‘movies’ for dim lighting — just enough to assist with simple wayfinding,” Bilal said. “The options are broad, too; for example, Halo Connect allows users to schedule common preferences, toggle between warm and cool lighting and dim products to as low as 5 percent brightness.”

But smart home technology isn’t for everyone — yet.

Smartphone app usage is at an all-time high, yet the average person only uses about one-third to one-half of the apps installed on his or her phone (TechCrunch). And like apps, the potential benefit and actual benefit of smart home technologies often look a little different.

“Smart lighting products, like Halo Connect, can absolutely add value — but only if you use their features,” Bilal said. “As a whole, we aren’t ready for 100 percent adoption of smart home technology. But that will change someday — and it will happen much more quickly than we once believed possible.”

Tomorrow starts now.

As recently as a few years ago, connected lighting and other smart home technologies were realistic only for a small group of users. “The technology existed, but it carried a price tag that most people couldn’t accept,” Bilal said. “But today, falling manufacturer and component costs have made it much more affordable.”

To that end, many homebuilders are beginning to incorporate smart home technology into new construction (TecHome Builder). DIY enthusiasts are putting it into their own homes. And as ease of use and accessibility continue to improve, the adoption rate will accelerate even more.

Much of this technological transformation has to do with the rapid advancement of cell phones, which have both contributed to advancements and made average consumers more comfortable with them.

“Think about it,” Bilal said. “Most of us already have a really powerful piece of technology on our person at all times. We can make phone calls, answer emails, watch movies, diagnose car trouble and analyze heart health—all using a device that fits in the palm of our hand.”

Connected lighting and other smart home tools are a natural piece of the modern puzzle. And while the flying cars and emotionally sensitive robot assistants of the Jetsons’ imaginary world may never come to be, it’s clear that a real-live technological revolution is already well underway.