Home Technology Blog

Controlling Your Lights via Smartphone, Tablet or PC

June 18, 2012 | Comments

In today's increasingly connected wireless world, you're probably using your iOS or Android device, along with your computer, to control all sorts of things - media players, music systems, maybe even your TV or surround sound system. But what about your lights?

Lighting Control Apps

There are a number of lighting control solutions on the market that will enable you to dim - and in some cases automate - your home lighting from the palm of your hand (or your lap, or your desktop). It isn't as simple as downloading an app and poking away, though. First you'll need to make sure your phone, tablet and/or PC are able to communicate with your lights. And no, couples therapy isn't the answer.

First things first, you may need to replace your light switches (see Getting Started with Home Lighting Control for more information). Most control apps are also designed to communicate with a specific controller-which can range from a box that attaches to your home network to a USB dongle that plugs directly into your computer-as well as a specific home automation software server installed on your PC in many cases.

Many of these solutions aren't mix-and-match, so when you're shopping for apps and controllers, make sure they're compatible.

The Network

The one thing that smartphone, tablet and PC-controlled lighting solutions have in common is that they all rely on a robust home network (related: 5 Reasons You Need More Than a $50 Router). You may also find that operating your lights from the same PC that you use for gaming, email and browsing the web comes with its own set of headaches. Few things are as frustrating as finding that your lights don't work because of a virus, a random crash or a conflict with a driver completely unrelated to your home automation system.

DIY vs. DIFM (Do It For Me)

The upside to putting together your own smartphone/tablet lighting control system is that you can built it a piece at a time as your budget allows. And let's not ignore the bragging rights.

The downside is that designing such a system on your own can quickly become just as expensive as a dedicated, dealer-installed-and-programmed home automation system. And virtually all of the dealer-installed systems-which used to rely on purpose-built controllers-can now just as easily be operated with your iOS or Android device, or even your laptop or desktop computer. The advantages of such a system are numerous, including better reliability, more flexibility, and much deeper integration with the other automated systems in your home.

Plus, do-it-yourself lighting control solutions are generally limited to WiFi range, from within the home, whereas many dedicated home automation systems now allow you to connect via your cellular network.

A CEDIA home technology professional can discuss different professionally installed and programmed lighting control options with you-including how to best integrate your smartphone, tablet, and/or PC-and work with you to design a system that's not only affordable now, but also much more expandable as your home lighting needs and desires grow.