rsz_img_6238.jpgI’m all about smart lighting these days.  I love the freedom of being able to control every aspect of the lighting in my home, from the brightness, to timers, even to adjusting colour. There’s just so much you can do with smart lighting to really change the look of your home, and you manage it all from your smartphone.

I recently got my hands on the Osram Sylvania Lightify line of smart lighting and I love how versatile it is.

Lighting where you need it: 3 different kits
I tested out a few different kits from the line; the light bulb starter set, the Flex light kit, and the outdoor GardenSpot mini set. The versatility of the Lightify line is staggering.

The Belkin WeMo Osram Lightify Flex kit is a set of thin, flexible strips of lighting with adhesive backing. Tiny LED lights are imbedded into the strip, which is about as thick as a piece of cardboard. You stick the lighting up where you need it, plug it in and you’re ready to go.

The Belkin WeMo Osram Lightify GardenSpot Minis are meant for outdoor use.These tiny LED lights come on small plastic posts, meaning you can stick them right into the ground in your garden, by your walkway, or anywhere you need outdoor light.  The genius of this kit is the lights themselves will also come apart, and the tiny LED heads pop off the posts, and can be screwed down to a wooden surface, allowing you to adhere them to a deck, post, fence… the possibilities are really endless. Particularly because you can also change the colour of these lights.

The smart Osram Lightify LED Light Bulb Starter Set allows you to control lights inside, dimming them even if your fixture doesn’t have a dimmer installed. You can also set timers for them to turn on and off if you’re away, or awake at odd hours.

Make sure you have a hub/Link/Gateway
You’re going to need to make sure you have one thing to get you started. You’ll need some kind of hub, which is what connects to your home’s wifi and acts as the go-between your smartphone and the lights. Osram has the Lightify Gateway, or you can now use the WeMo hub, called the “Link,” too. One of these devices is included in starter kits, or you can get them separately too.

WeMo Home Automation Integration
While you don’t need to have a WeMo hub to use these bulbs, if you’re already on the smart lighting and home automation bandwagon with WeMo, this lets you streamline your set up, and only use one app; WeMo’s.

Aaron Ganick, head of LIGHTIFY North America told me, “The new WeMo-enabled Lightify sets include: WeMo + Osram Lightify Gardenspot Mini RGB Starter Set, WeMo + Osram Lightify Tunable White Starter Set and the WeMo + OSRAM LIGHTIFY Flex RGBW Starter Set,” and, “the expectation is that a majority of the Lightify lighting products are or will soon be integrated with WeMo.”

What’s WeMo?  In a nut shell, it’s a connected system for smart home automation that’s very easy to set up and use, and gives you full control via your smartphone or tablet.  The full WeMo line is available at Best Buy. (Read Matt’s blog for more in-depth info on the Belkin WeMo line.)

Testing/Using the Lightify Flex
osram flex kit.jpgThe Osram Lightify Flex kit comes with three two-foot-long LED lighting strips, a power pack, and a ‘controller’ which helps the lights connect to wifi, via your above-noted hub/Link/Gateway.  Each strip will connect to the other one, giving you a full 6 foot run of lights wherever you need them, or you can use just a shorter two or four-foot length if you prefer.
It’s obvious under counter lighting is going to be a hugely popular use for this product, but you could see getting really creative with it too: lighting around a mirror, a headboard, under a glass table top, or stone bar. There are endless possibilities because this lighting is ultra thin and completely bendable.
Installation was quite easy and took less than 10 minutes, including getting the app set up.
On the app, you can control colour temperature (warm yellowish light for subtle warm lighting and relaxation, or cooler bluish light for work and tasks ) plus you can adjust brightness and dim the lighting strips from your smartphone, or you can change the colour of the lights to pretty much any hue of the rainbow.
rsz_osram_flex_colours.jpgThe colour aspect is one of the things I love the most about smart lighting. No longer do you solely need to rely on paint and fabric to bring a dose of colour or brightness to your home. Now you can adjust lights for dinner parties, special occasions, holidays, and even your mood, or what kind of work you’re doing inside the home. While it may seem frivolous, don’t underestimate the power of coloured light in your home. For me, turning my light bulbs orange or pink in winter really makes me feel warmer, and similarly, cool blue or turquoise light on a hot summer day makes me feel cooler.
If I have one complaint about this set up its that sometimes it appears to disconnect from the app and needs to be reset, by pulling the plug briefly.  Usually that’s enough to get control of the lights again.  But it is a bit annoying.  That said, the timers I have set up on the light continue to work even if my smartphone has lost the ability to control them temporarily. I have little doubt this will be addressed in upcoming updates.

Testing/Using the Lightify GardenSpot Minis
Take the same colourful decorating applications noted above, and think outdoors. The GardenSpot Mini kit means you can have outdoor lighting for safety, to liven up your yard, or just for fun. The lights took a bit longer to install (about 10-15 minutes) but that’s primarily because we popped the tiny LED light heads off the garden spike and screwed them down to our deck. We also took time to make sure the lights (and the flat wire that connects each light bulb) were even and straight.  Even so, the installation was easy, and we had our yard beautifully lit up in no time.  This kit comes with specialized outdoor rated electrical components, so it’s well suited to many weather situations. The whole kit is waterproof, and weather proof. My only beef with this kit is that the included screws were very tiny and just didn’t bite into the wood well.  I’ll be monitoring the lights to make sure they stay put, and may upgrade to longer screws in the future.

The other thing that surprised me was that even though my Lightify Gateway was inside the house about 20 feet away, it still connected easily, and I was able to control the lights from both inside the house and out.
One more thing that’s worth mentioning: before you spend an hour installing these lights, make sure they wirelessly connect to wherever you’ve chosen to put your Gateway or WeMo link, and do a quick check that they’re in working order. It would be pretty frustrating if you spent all that time installing, only to find out they were too far away to connect to the wifi.
Osram app lightify.jpg

Testing/Using the Lightify Tunable Bulbs
This starter kit integrated easily with my existing WeMo upon first set up. The bulbs are simple to use; just screw them in anywhere you’d want more lighting control (lamps, overhead fixtures) and they’re ready to go instantly. This kit is also a perfect starter set for those new to home automation. It comes with two light bulbs and a Gateway, meaning you can add on to the set up as you want to grow it. After a couple days using the bulbs, however, the WeMo system stopped seeing one of them, and I wasn’t able to get it reconnected. The other one worked fine.

Problems Pairing WeMo with Osram
It’s worth noting I had some difficulty pairing my Osram Flex and GardenSpot lights with my existing WeMo set up. Initially, the problem was that the WeMo hub couldn’t “see” the lights to link to them, and rebooting or resetting the lights didn’t work.
WeMo and Osram were both great about working with me over several days to try to troubleshoot this problem. We tried several times to reset, but nothing seemed to work. Eventually I was able to reboot the lights by using a different reset method sent to me by the Osram folks (HERE) and they finally showed up in the WeMo app, however while the app could finally “see” the Flex, it still wouldn’t pair and allow me to control the light using my WeMo App.

Again, WeMo has been great about helping me with this, but as of deadline time, I was not able to use WeMo to control my Flex or GardenSpot. The WeMo app also only worked intermittently with the light bulbs I tested. I’m sure this will get worked out, but for now, I’d recommend relying on the Osram Gateway, and Osram app to control your lights.  I’m still in touch with Osram and WeMo about this integration, so I’ll post any updates if they help get everything working smoothly.

UPDATE 30/08/15: Osram/WeMo sent me replacements for both the Flex and the GardenSpots I was testing. In each case, I was able to connect the lights immiediatley to my WeMO hub, and use the WeMo app to control them. It appears the two units I had just didn’t function with WeMo for some reason (though they worked just fine as I noted with the Osram app). Whatever the problem was, they were replaced quickly with fully functioning units. I got great customer service from Osram and WeMo, and I’m confident you will too, should you encounter the same problem.

Watch my video to see how the GardenSpot kit works

The Verdict
While I think there’s still a couple bugs to be worked out with the WeMo integration, the Lightify sets work just great on their own with the Osram Gateway.  All three kits I tested were super easy to set up and use. While there are a couple minor bugs, they’re not detrimental to the kits as a whole. For example, I relied more on having my new Flex under-counter lights come on and turn off on their timer than I did by turning it on or off using the phone/app as a switch, so some of the connectivity issues didn’t affect my day to day use of the lights.

Same for the GardenSpots; I set them up on a timer and left them alone, and they performed perfectly day in and day out, so any disconnection issue from the app wasn’t a deal breaker for me.
I liked these lights a lot, and think that once some of the kinks get worked out though software or firmware updates, they’ll be very reliable, particularly since all my other WeMo components work very well for me, and since the Flex and GardenSpots work well within the Osram app.