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How Do Smart Bulbs Work? A Guide to Smart Lights

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How Do Smart Bulbs Work? A Guide to Smart Lights
April 27, 2020
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How Do Smart Bulbs Work? A Guide to Smart Lights

What are smart lights? Learn how these gadgets work and add

comfort, convenience, and security to your life

You’ve likely at least heard of smart lights by now. Maybe a friend has described their new smart home setup. Perhaps you’ve even seen a demonstration of how they work. Or you may have read that several major cities are converting their streetlights to smart lights. But how, exactly, do smart bulbs work?

This article presents the simple facts about these products, explains how they work, and details the many ways they measurably improve quality of life and safety.

How do

smart lights work?

A smart light is any light that communicates with some sort of control interface and can be operated wirelessly in numerous ways. You might manage one with an app on your smartphone or tablet. Alternatively, you could use voice commands through a smart home assistant like Amazon's Alexa or Google Assistant. But essentially, you can switch bulbs on and off or dim or brighten them without physically touching the light fixture or a wall switch—and without even being home.

Smart bulbs look and function quite similar to regular LED light bulbs. Where they differ is the built-in wireless technology that allows them to communicate with a central smart home hub. The best of them use Z-Wave, a wireless communication protocol that uses less power than Wi-Fi and has a more extended range than Bluetooth. To learn more about Z-Wave, check out this blog.

Z-Wave does not link your smart bulbs directly with your phone or other control devices. Rather, it connects the lights to a central hub, a sort of electronic “middleman” that links up all of your smart home devices. This is important because it allows the hub to combine the functions of your smart light bulbs with those of the other devices. Why would you want to do that? Well, you might be surprised at all the things you can do with an integrated smart home network.

Picture of the Frontpoint Smart Light BulbPicture of the Frontpoint Smart Light Bulb
Frontpoint’s Smart Light Bulbs look just like regular bulbs and fit most standard fixtures.

The

benefits of smart bulbs start with convenience—but they also enhance security

Let’s say that you buy a gorgeous vintage floor lamp and position it in a corner of the living room, right behind a large, sectional sofa. It looks great and provides precisely the right quality of lighting for the space. The only problem? To turn it on or off, someone has to climb on the sofa, lean way over, and fish around under the shade for the switch.

Smart bulbs put a stop to that. Now it just takes the tap of a smartphone screen or a few words spoken to a virtual assistant from anywhere in the house, and the lamp is on, off, dimmed, or brightened, as needed. Precise control is the most basic convenience benefit of smart lighting. But there is a lot more that they can do.

Smart

bulbs can make your house more secure

Everyone knows the old trick of leaving lights on when you’re not home to make the house look occupied. For decades, we’ve even had mechanical timers that switch the lights on and off to improve the illusion. But experienced burglars are quite familiar with this generations-old security tactic and can easily spot the repetitive on-again/off-again pattern. If someone is “casing” your home for just a day or so, this pattern can make it clear that the lights are on a timer and the coast is clear.

Smart bulbs take this tell-tale repetitiveness out of the equation. You can set lights in various rooms to turn on and off in more random patterns. Or you can use your remote app to turn them on and off yourself from wherever you happen to be, in any pattern or combination.

Smart bulb

rules, schedules, and scenes

A Frontpoint smart home Hub and the App and online Customer Portal allow you to program smart lights in several different ways. We refer to these as methods as rules, schedules, and scenes.

Specific events or conditions trigger rules

Rules are instructions that tell your smart hub to activate your smart bulbs in a certain way in tandem with your other smart devices under certain circumstances. For example, we've all had the experience of stumbling to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Leave the lights out, and you risk tripping. Turning the lights on will hurt your eyes and blast you awake.

Frontpoint users solve this problem easily with a simple rule. First, they install a wireless Motion Sensor and one or more Smart Light Bulbs along the path to the bathroom. Then they program their system with the following rule: If the motion sensor is triggered during overnight hours, switch individual lights on at half brightness or lower. This provides a sufficiently lit pathway without blinding lights or any effort from the sleepy traveler.

You can also set similar rules that illuminate clear pathways to the exits if your Smart Smoke and Heat Sensor or Carbon Monoxide Sensor goes off in the middle of the night. And if you want to save money on your electric bill, set a rule that automatically switches off the lights in any room where a motion sensor has not detected movement for a specified period.

Schedules

let you tell smart bulbs when to switch on and off

Smart light scheduling can make your life easier and safer. Your Frontpoint Hub can set a schedule for lights to turn on and shut off at specific times.

Are there certain evenings when someone gets home late from work? You can set a schedule that leaves a few lights burning for them until a particular hour. Need to wake up at a very early hour and need some extra motivation to get out of bed? Set a wake-up schedule that turns the lights on in your bedroom.

You can program your smart lights to turn themselves on and off in any combination you want, on any schedule, at whatever brightness level you prefer. And if a set schedule shuts a light off while you still need it? Simple. Turn it back on using the physical switch, your smartphone app, the Frontpoint Touchscreen, or a voice-control device. Frontpoint even offers a small, handheld Keychain Remote that lets you control the lights from anywhere within 100 feet of your hub.

Scenes combine rules and schedules to customize your

home lighting for different situations 

Your Frontpoint Hub and App can also combine various rules and schedules to create “scenes.” Smart bulbs can work alongside other smart devices—including home security devices like Door/Window Sensors or Glass Break Sensors—to fine-tune your home automation and security. For instance, you can create a scene labeled “Bedtime.” This scene might activate at the same time every evening—perhaps later on weekends—or be activated by a voice command. Whenever it’s triggered:

  • The Door/Window Sensors and Glass Break Sensors arm themselves to protect the perimeter of the home.
  • All Smart Locks are locked.
  • Most or all of your lights shut off.
  • A smart thermostat lowers (or raises) the room temperature a few degrees.
  • And that Motion Sensor-activated lighted path to the bathroom starts working.

Going on a trip? Create an “Out of Town” scene. You can set room lights to turn on and off in random patterns, as if someone were naturally moving from room to room. Plug a television into a Frontpoint Wireless Light Control, and the TV can switch on and off as part of the scene, too! 

And, of course, your security and environmental sensors will be fully armed the whole time you are away. Your house will seem full of activity to anyone trying to decide whether it’s a good target for a break-in. And if they do, they'll be in for an unwelcome surprise when the alarm goes off, and professional monitors quickly dispatch the police after attempting to confirm there is an emergency.

Picture of the Frontpoint Wireless Light ControlPicture of the Frontpoint Wireless Light Control
Frontpoint’s Wireless Light Controls can make any plug-in device “smart.”

Smart

bulbs are also an eco-friendly way to make your home safer and your life a

little brighter

In addition to the benefits we’ve already discussed, the best smart bulbs also use less energy and last longer than traditional light bulbs. Don’t take our word for it. The U.S. Department of Energy states that LED bulbs—the type used in Frontpoint Smart Lights—use only 20-25% of the energy of standard halogen incandescent bulbs. They also last 15 to 25 times longer. After you install your smart bulbs, it should be quite a while before you have to replace them.

Smart bulbs are a whole lot more than just a high-tech way to switch a lamp on and off. They can make your life easier by giving you fine-tuned control over your home’s lighting. They can even make you safer by working in harmony with your other smart home components to discourage intruders. And every smart bulb you install can help lower your monthly utility bill.

Increasing the IQ of your home lighting is a very smart choice.


Frontpoint keeps families safer and more connected in their everyday lives. We've been revolutionizing the home security industry for over a decade. And we're just getting started. For smart light systems and other smart home components, check out our Security Packages. If you have questions or would like to discuss a quote, contact us at 1-877-602-5276.

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