Rethinking the love affair between lights and switches

Bonnie … and Clyde.  

Hanzel … and Gretel.  

Lights … and switches.

Why do we have switches?  Think about it – what is a switch without a light? Nothing.  What is a light without a switch?  Something.  A light by itself is still useful (like a clock which is broken, it tells the correct time once per day), the only downside is that you cannot turn it off, or on.  But at least it is a light and still serves its main purpose.  What happens if we break that link between switch and light?  What happens if we rethink the gift that Edison bestowed upon us?  What if the light could be the switch and somehow know when and what to do?

I purchased some Lifx bulbs recently, and have had a really good experience in setting them up and using them from the smartphone app.  I previously used LiightwaveRF sockets and switches, but somehow they didn’t seem to satisfy what I was looking for.  I think one of the reasons is that the Lightwave system makes the switch intelligent rather than the other way around, so in the marriage of switch+light both parts of the pairing have to remain, whereas the Lifx system makes the light intelligent and makes the switch redundant.  So the divorce can be complete, and lights can stand alone without the limitations of switches.

Am I making too much of this?

We all assumed that houses should have telephone numbers, and dutifully called a house and sub-addressed the occupants of that house.  Nowdays of course we call people, and discard the need for sub-addressing the responder to the call with the assumption that if we’d wanted someone else, then we would have called their phone number instead.  So it goes.

Do we assume the same thing with lights+switches?  Do we assume that one needs the other simply because, well, they always have?  What happens when the light becomes intelligent and does what we want (switches off, changes colour, turns on at certain times, dims) without the use of a switch?  I think this liberates lights to become really, really useful.  For example, I am wiring up NodeRED, the Node.js module ‘suncalc’, Lifx bulbs all in my WiFi router and Raspberry Pi so that my lights switch on the in mornings, change to bright cool light (colour team 6500K), then change to warmer lighting in the evenings (3000K) and dim before bedtime.  A lot of this is due to colour and circadian biorythyms which mean that we expect morning light to be cooler, and evening light to be warmer (essentially bluer in mornings and yellow in evenings).  It actually works really well and the house feels a lot more ‘natural’, whatever that means!

I love this setup so much that I’ve purchased 6 Lifx bulbs, and mean to purchase another 10 GU10s to fit in my main living space.  Now I’m looking for a trigger system such as a multi-button keyfob to replace all the light switches in rooms where I’ve placed Lifx so to trigger ‘events’ such as going to sleep, leaving the room and the like.  I wonder if systems of independent motion detectors as well could provide similar intelligence to really make my system act as a whole?

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