What is smart lighting?

Smart lighting is a more advanced way to light your home.



In this article...

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How do smart lights work?

Smart lights have a chip inside them so that they can communicate with other devices wirelessly. Every light can connect to an app, smart home assistant, or other smart accessory, so you can automate your lights, change their color, or control them remotely. 

So, how are they different from regular lights? Conventional can only turn on or off. You can dim them but only with a wired switch. 

Smart lighting technology

There are multiple technologies that can make a light smart. Zigbee, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi are the most popular.



Zigbee lights

Zigbee is a type of wireless communication protocol that allows smart devices to "talk" to each other. It's common in smart home technology because it's very secure, low power (your smart switches won't drain their batteries!), and works even when the Wi-Fi is down.

Wi-Fi lights

Wi-Fi is a popular technology for smart lighting because it's familiar. Your lights use your home's Wi-Fi network to communicate with each other. There are downsides to using this tech, though: your Wi-Fi may get overloaded, the lights don't work when the router is down, and the range is limited to your Wi-Fi signal.

Bluetooth lights

Bluetooth is a wireless communication technology that uses RF signals to send data. It's easy, requires no other hardware, and is accessible by almost everyone. But Bluetooth only stores limited data per device, and it's only usable within short distances.






Requires a hub

Control lights from anywhere

Doesn't slow down Wi-Fi*

Works even when Wi-Fi is down**

Control lights with app

Automate lights

Set timers

Sync lights to TV, music, games

Voice control

Add and customize any smart accessory


Add outdoor lighting

*Zigbee and Wi-Fi use the same frequency band (2.4 GHz), but Zigbee does not use any Wi-Fi bandwidth to control the lights.

**Lights can be controlled via smart switches and automations, but app and away-from-home control are excluded.

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What is a smart hub?

Zigbee smart lights need something to create the Zigbee signal. Things you would normally have in your house, such as routers and smartphones, don't create this signal, which is why you need a hub.

Once the signal is established, the lights build a mesh network. This is why you can add lights everywhere in your home, and they all "just work" — because each light is a repeater that extends and strengthens the Zigbee network. 

In the Philips Hue system, this hub is called the Bridge.

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LED technology

Why are smart lights LED? A few reasons:

1. They don't heat up like other types of lights, which would damage the chip that makes them smart. 

2. LEDs already have internal electronics, so it's easy to include the smart chip.

3. They can produce millions of light colors.

4. They're the current standard in home lighting, due in part to LED energy efficiency.

So, that's one acronym out of the way. There are a few others, like RGB, IC, WW... these acronyms refer to the colors of the LEDs. 

Did you know? Signify, the company behind Philips Hue, is also behind Color Kinetics, which focuses on "dynamic architectural lighting systems" (that means fancy professional lighting for arenas and light shows, stuff like that). One of their biggest research areas is color — that means we've got access to the best of the best in color lighting.  

RGB lights

Stands for “red, green, blue”.

RGB lights mix red, green, and blue LEDs (the primary colors of light) to create a wide variety of colors — over 16 million, to be a little more precise. RGB lights do not have white LEDs, but they can still produce a shade of white by mixing red, green, and blue. These lights can only produce one solid color at a time. 

RGBIC lights

Stands for “red, green, blue” and “independent controller”.

You might also see "independent control" or "independent chip," but they all mean the same thing: you can control the different LEDs individually, so it displays multiple colors at the same time.

RGBA lights

Stands for “red, green, blue, amber”. 

RGBA lights use amber in addition to red, green, and blue so that they can display a wider range of yellow light, including orange and gold. 

RGBW lights

Stands for “red, green, blue, warm white”.

RGBW lights (also sometimes called RGBWW lights, confusingly enough) also feature a warm white chip to include thousands of additional shades of white light. This is how you get a range of warm-to-cool white light.

RGBWW lights

Stands for "red, green, blue, cool white, warm white”.

The two different white LEDs mean that the light can produce even richer colors. Most Philips Hue color lights feature this technology. 

RGBWWIC lights

Stands for “red, green, blue, cool white, warm white” and “independent controller”.

This is the technology that most Philips Hue gradient lights have. You get all the colors of light you want, and you can set multiple colors at the same time. With our gradient lights, you control groups of LEDs rather than single LEDs at a time — this helps create seamless blends of color.

Why would you need smart lighting?

The benefits of smart lighting don't stop at controlling your lights remotely.


Lights that do what you want, when you want. Walk by, and the lights turn on. Bedtime? The lights dim automatically. Hands full? Tell your smart home assistant what to do. Smart lighting isn't just smart — it makes life a little bit easier.

Voice control

One of the most sought-after features of smart lighting, voice control lets you adjust your lights with a command. "Alexa, turn on the lights." "Siri, make the living room cozy."


Schedule your lights to go on and off at certain times — and at certain settings. Plus, special automations like Wake up and Go to sleep give you even more advanced functionality.

Easy dimmable light

Traditional bulbs need a special dimmer switch that wires into your home's electricity. With smart lights, dimming is built in — the app, smart switches, and even your voice can dim your lights instantly.

Surround lighting

Sync your lights to your TV or computer and watch as they dance, flash, dim, brighten, and change color along with its content on the screen.

Get cool light effects

Make your lights sparkle, mimic a fireplace, or twinkle like the stars. You can even let your lights cycle through colors.  

Connect with other devices

With communication protocols like Matter, creating an entire smart home is simple. Use your smart lighting system with other connected devices, such as cameras, speakers, thermostats, and home assistants.

Questions & Answers

Who invented smart lights?
Should I choose a smart bulb or smart switch?
What are individually addressable LEDs?
What is the difference between RGBA and RGBWW?
How does Philips Hue ensure that all the lights display the same color?
What makes Philips Hue color lights different?

*When a bulb displays "Up to" a certain number of lumens in its specifications, it displays the maximum lumen output of the bulb. It shows how bright the bulb can get at 2700 K (White bulbs) or 4000 K (White ambiance or White and colour ambiance bulbs). Learn more about brightness