Living Experiments #001: Smart Lights – a bright idea in a tussle with muscle memory

I’m a sucker for the smart home…at least the idea of it anyway. Now I have a home of my own (complete with a somewhat under-planned wiring layout) I wondered whether a smart kit could help me solve a couple of sticky switch situations.

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Ikea aren’t doing anything groundbreakingly new with the tech and functionality of their Trådfri range of smart bulbs, panels and remote switches…except (and it’s an important except) that they’ve made this category just that little bit more affordable. A dimming kit for £15, a motion sensor and bulb for £25, a cold-warm control kit for £29 and replacement bulbs from £9. And what’s more – you DON’T HAVE TO get a hub/brain, or what’s called a Gateway in Ikea’s range (for £25) to get involved. This range does what Ikea does best – lovely little design interventions made afforable for all. Enough to encourage you to try out a couple of little living experiments…

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I went for the cold-warm remote to get me started. A dimmer and temperature change option has eventually settled as a nice addition to my bedroom, helping me dodge the classic cold dash scenario at lights out. It’s pretty easy to get setup (although admittedly I’m syncing one bulb here and not doing anything too complicated). I love it and I use it every single night.

One thing, and it’s a bit of a broken link for all smart home lighting I’m afraid, is the tussle with muscle memory. If you want your bulbs to work with your remote or app – you have to remember to keep your main switches on – and that’s hard when the flick of a wall switch is quite literally hardwired into behaviour when you leave or enter a room. It’s at even greater jeopardy when you live with others too! Maybe that’s the disappointment to the dream – adapter kits really are a bit of a sticking plaster to a pretty archaic infrastructure. Maybe that’s where Ikea could get better, the remote can be magnetically wall mounted if you want…but what if that mount could clip over your existing switches so you can’t accidently switch them on or off?

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(excuse the dodgy GIF – turns out my wordpress stingy-ness doesn’t support video)

Don’t let that disappointment be a turn off though (every pun intended), my solution is to stick the bulb in a lamp instead. Especially good if you happen to have a lamp that’s got one of those silly switches that gets too hot or is inconveniently tucked away.

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