Choosing connected luminaries

Connected luminaries have long been the domain of professionals or technology enthusiasts. Things are starting to change, and we see solutions arriving that are simpler to install, better adapted to the needs of individuals and more practical to use. Everyone can now consider benefiting from them.

What is the principle of connected luminaires?

The general idea is to be able to control its lights from a distance. The command usually comes from an application on a mobile or tablet, or a remote control, or even switches attached to the walls. The wall switches are obviously connected, but they are connected by radio rather than wires: the benefit is that you can put them where you want on the walls, without drilling holes or cabling (many of them can be simply stuck on the wall).

These systems generally allow to increase or decrease the intensity, to vary the temperature and the colour when the bulbs are capable of it, and to add timers (to extinguish after 1 hour …). They also allow grouping lights, to manage them together (e.g. “turn all the lights in the kitchen”). New features are constantly developed, and you can now often control your lights by speaking to your phone or a Google or Alexa speaker, or the system can turn on your lights when you approach your home, or you can install motion or brightness sensors …

Until quite recently, the development of affordable solutions was hampered by the proliferation of standards. Equipment manufacturers failed to agree common standards (for technicians, we do not talk about protocols like Zigbee, but of plug-and-play compatible equipment), so what you bought from X had no chance to work with the equipment of Y.
This was the same syndrome than for the home cinema, where we need 5 remotes to control devices from 5 different manufacturers.

Solutions like Philips Hue have nevertheless developed, and have shown that relatively simple solutions can find a market with consumers.

How do the connected luminaires work?

This is where things get a little complicated.

We will not speak here of professional systems, but of those systems that can be considered by consumers without a particular appetite for DIY. As a result, it also disqualifies the so-called systems of traditional “home automation”, which require the installation of servers and interfaces of all kinds. Obviously, these professional or semi-professional systems are more powerful than the ones we will describe here, and are also more versatile: they can also manage your shutters, your heater, the dog’s kibble dispenser and nearly any piece of equipment. If that is what you are looking for, you should contact an installers specialised in home automation.

The simpler systems that we will describe here are based on the following elements:

  • Lamps (usually LEDs), each connected to a radio receiver. These receivers can be housed in the base of the bulbs are then installed on any luminaire; it can be housed by the manufacturer of the luminaire in the foot of the lamp, or it can be fit by Osram, Philips or another equipment manufacturer, in the “driver” the lamp (this small white plastic case which is often installed in the false ceiling, and which converts the high voltage AC into low voltage).
  • A radio transmitter, which will receive the commands from the controls (remotes, switches or phones), and talk to the lamps’ receivers. This radio transmitter can be housed in a special box (the “hub”) which is usually connected to the 110/230V and to your Ethernet network. This is the model adopted by Philips for Hue: the hub speaks via WiFi to fixtures, and receives commands from your phone or remotes via the Ethernet network (assuming they are connected to your Wifi network).

These systems work well, but require a little installation: one should position the Hub in the center of your home so that all fixtures are within range, connect it to an Ethernet network, connect all control devices to the Wifi of the house (never as simple as you would like), and power it by plugging it into an electrical outlet (because the radio device is relatively power-consuming). In addition, these hubs are generally offered by equipment manufacturers and are rarely compatible with each other, which limits their development.

The recent development of Bluetooth 4.0 and its Low Energy and Mesh functions has allowed the emergence of alternative solutions, which we believe are easier to set-up.

The Bluetooth solutions

We will take the example of a solution that we like, from Casambi.

This solution takes the Hub away. All the control devices (your phone, the remote control, the connected switch …) speak directly to the lamps (and other connected objects if you have them: motion sensors, luminosity etc …) by Bluetooth Low Energy. Of course, this assumes that your phone’s Bluetooth is enabled. The advantage however is that the consumption is very low (0.01 to 0.5W), which even allows some “connected” switches without battery: the pressure action generates the electricity necessary to emit the control signal. The range of Bluetooth is limited, but this system uses the principle of Mesh Network: each lamp relays the information to the following lamps, so that it will work as long as each lamp is within range of another that is within range of your phone.

The Casambi Network
The Casambi solution

Casambi is a Finnish company, which provides its software for free, and sells the radio transmitter and receiver modules. We were impressed at the 2018 Frankfurt Lighting Show, to see how their solution was adopted by manufacturers of light bulbs, drivers and sensors. Many of our luminaire manufacturers are also evaluating this solution.

This is currently the solution we would recommend for consumers: it requires no infrastructure or IT, it is compatible with more and more equipment of many brands (including with Hue equipment, if you have a Hue hub), it is compatible with quality equipment, and it works well.

Connect your luminaires with Casambi

logo Casambi

The best way to start with Casambi is to download their free application, for Iphone / IPad or Android (you can also try it before buying any equipment, or with your Hue lamps if you already have some):

link to Casambi App on App Store
Link to Casambi on Google App Store

Then you can connect your Casambi compatible lights or lamps: the application will recognise them immediately. The application will then guide you step by step, unless you prefer to download the user guide from the Casambi website, or see the questions and answers here.

At Vraiment Beau, we can tell you if the luminaire you are interested in is available in a version compatible with Casambi. Otherwise you can also find in our Bulb category, our selection of Bulbs directly compatible with Casambi. We particularly recommend Carus’ LED bulbs, a German manufacturer that offers LED bulbs with a CRI higher than 95 (which is already quite excellent for bulbs), with good brightness, and that you can drive directly with your Casambi application (ignition, extinction, brightness and color temperature).

Finally, if you have a luminaire with a little internal space (typically a suspension), we can also offer a small Casambi module (the CBU-TED), that can be housed in the ceiling cone of your suspension or in the foot of your luminaire. Once this module is connected on one side to the 110/220V power supply of the luminaire and the other to the dimmable electronic transformer (or to the dimmable LED module, or directly to the dimmable LED or to the lamp, if they work with 230 or 110 VAC), you can control your luminaire with Casambi. The module measures 40.4 x 36.3 x 14.0 mm, and weighs only 15 grams. It is compatible with fixtures that consume less than 50 X (in 230V, 25 W in 110V).

Casambi also offers a remote control (Xpress). Many manufacturers also offer, as well as sensors, wall switches, LED drivers etc … EasyFit (from EnOcean) for example, offers wall switches compatible with Casambi and which work without battery: stick on the wall anywhere, and you have a new switch!

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You can find further guidance in the following page:

You can also find below our advice to choose and install the various types of lighting you can find in our catalogue:

And to finish, if you want to start looking for a lamp, our product category catalogue, with all our lighting ranges. Or you can browse our illustrated catalogue of luxury brands.