Using IoT to Automate Lighting



In Q4 we challenged our Sigfox USA team to develop a Sigfox low power wide area connected IoT use case that would solve a challenge they have at home and write about it. David Baughman, Field Sales Engineer in the midwest accepted the challenge with spirit. Without further ado, here’s David’s use case.

December brings cold temperatures, early sunsets, and snow in many parts of the United States. It also brings holiday parties and decorations including elaborate light displays. With the advent of programmable LED strips, holiday lighting displays have become quite an extravaganza. Simple outdoor displays are typically managed by timers or light sensors that turn lights on at dusk and off after a few hours, or at sunrise. While this works fine for outdoor displays there is no dusk indoors. My use case was to automate turning my indoor holiday lights on using an IoT lumen sensor and low power wide area network (LPWAN) connectivity.

The Tools

Available at Digi-Key, Sigfox Sens’it is a handheld, low-power, programmable IoT sensor that comes with Sigfox LPWAN connectivity. With Sens’it, light, motion, vibration measurements, and push button events can be captured, logged, and acted upon using the Sensit.IO application. For this project, I used the Sens’it lumen detection mode to measure the darkness level in the room where my indoor lighting display resides. My thought was to have the Sens’it monitor light level and trigger an event to turn on my holiday lights using a WEMO Smart Plug, a brand of smart home devices from Belkin that can be connected over WiFi.

Connecting The Dots

To get all of this working automatically without the need to involve Alexa, I created a cloud-to-cloud connection between the Sensit.IO web portal and my WEMO smart plug using a free cloud service known as IFTTT (if this then that).  I created my own custom applet which comprises both if and then applications. WEMO smart home devices are already pre-integrated into IFTTT’s web portal, so it turned out to be a simple matter to connect Sensit.IO to using a cloud-to-cloud connection. Events are monitored by the IFTTT cloud automatically using the if applet component, and when an event occurs the then applet component is triggered.

To turn lights on with the Sens’it, I selected webhook if option to trigger cloud-to-cloud communications, which generated a unique URL address that is recognized by the IFTTT cloud. Since Sensit.IO supports HTTP post notifications, I simply needed to populate the URL in the app. Provisioning the then event for WEMO was as easy as selecting from a drop-down menu to “turn on smart plug”.

The final step required registering my WEMO smart plug device on the WEMO app by navigating to the remote access menu and enabling the IFTTT cloud option. Once the URL web-hook relationships were established between the Sensit.IO notification and the IFTTT applet, the cloud-to cloud-communications links were complete. Tahdah… let there be light!

Getting The Lighting Just Right

To turn the lights on based on the darkness level, I set my Sens’It to an event-based trigger using lumens dropping below a threshold. Determining the correct lumen intensity to detect darkness required some trial and error to figure out that 3 lumens was the perfect threshold. Once the threshold was set on the web app, I updated the Sens’it by requesting a download from the web portal using the Sens’it button. A few presses later and the Sens’it was updated to the 3 lumens threshold I set. Let the lighting automation begin!

Ready… Set… Light!

Once I had everything set on the application side, I simply set my Sens’it on the room window sill and waited for the sun to set. My efforts were rewarded a short time later as my indoor holiday lights came on… just before sunset!

The real beauty of this use case project was how easy it was to integrate Sigfox low power wide area connectivity and a Sens’it device into the home automation ecosystem. Looking beyond, this use case can be applied to commercial facilities, building construction, and corporate offices that are looking to reduce energy costs and carbon footprint, using a simple device and IFTTT to trigger lights on/off upon occupancy, door open, and more.


Interested in a Sens’it? Get one here.