LightwaveRF is a relatively new (first appeared at Gadget Show Live in April 2011) entrant into the budget home automation market. The LightwaveRF proprietary protocol is capable of two-way communication, but to keep costs down most devices use one-way communication only. The product set is aimed at those wishing to retro-fit automation into their existing home. It was introduced by JSJS Designs, who were also behind Byron and the B&Q HomeEasy products.
JSJS Designs have released this (17 minute) video in December 2012 and it provides an introduction to the LightwaveRF:
Devices communicate with each other over a point-to-point, low-bitrate radio link at 433MHz or 868MHz. This is proprietary protocol that is not compatible with other home automation technologies. These frequencies have quite good range but there is no mesh-networking employed to ensure coverage throughout your home. There are dumb repeaters to address coverage issues though.
One of the things we like about the LightwaveRF range is the fact that not only are the components good to look at but, they also come in a wide range of finishes:
LightwaveRF is available on the market under a number of brand names. It may be also branded as JSJS Designs or Siemens.
There are LightwaveRF wall switches to replace 1, 2, 3 and 4-gang light switches.
There are also battery-powered remote switches (no mians power connection or switching), to allow switches to be placed in places where there is no mains wiring.
The product range includes a single channel 250W dimmer switch, which does not require a neutral connection. This should ensure it works in all UK homes. It requires a resistive load on start-up such as a 20W halogen bulb or a ballast module.
Mood Lighting Controller
The ability to lock and disable sockets is very useful. It can be used to control children's access to games consoles and DVD players (assuming they can't plug it in somewhere else). From what we have seen, these switches are a squeeze to fit in 25mm deep wall boxes.
LightwaveRF have developed their own dimmable CFL bulb rated at 20W and available in ES (screw in) and BC (bayonet) form. This bulb has the control electronics built into the base. This is very clever in our view. Despite the additional size, this is zero effort automation. The only downside (of LightwaveRF) is that you can't query the bulb to know if it is on or not.
LightwaveRF produce a wide range of remote controls. These are one of those things that we don't think you should ever need for smart home automation though. Whilst reote controls can provide button to support scenes and other similar functions, they can get lost and a fixed button in the right location is usually a much better solution. Remote controls are useful (if secure) to operate things from outside or within a car though, e.g security gates.
The WiFiLink controller is oddly named, as it is not connected using Wi-Fi. It basically enables three things:
- The ability to interface your LightwaveRF equipment to other devices and modules on your home network, so as to add a layer of intelligence to what is otherwise fairly basic automation. In this respect it is pretty much as essential item.
- It enables remote control via the web console and Smartphone and tablet apps.
- It acts as a receiver for the electrical energy monitoring deviceand also displays some energy usage information.
The WiFiLink means that LightwaveRF cannot be integrated easily into a larger system, as there are no publically exposed interfaces. Having said that, the protocol used has been reverse engineered.
There is an iOS app available in the Apple Apps Store. The iOS doesn't get good ratings (3 out of 5). The comments imply that many users don't understand how the technology works though, with many expecting indicators in the app as to whether devices are on or off. This is one flaw with LightwaveRF. You can never know this remotely.
There is an Android app available in the Google Play Store. The Android app does get good ratings (2.5 out of 5 with 40 ratings).
LightwaveRF is a very interesting entry level product set for home automation but, it doesn't have the technical capabilities to make it a robust and resilient technology for smart home automation in our view. It also has some major limitations in terms of range, querying status and external interfaces. That said, it looks a very promising entry-level technology and the obvious replacement of X10.
- Probably the most stylish suite of home automation components currently on the market.
- Competitively priced.
- Good range of products and modules for automation, though sensors are core functionality only.
- Available in a range of finishes to match your home.
- One-way communications means there are no acknowledgements or status requests. This may arrive as an update later as it claimed to be supported by the protocol but, it hasn't arrived yet.
- The one-way communication also means that devices can't report battery status.
- Point to point radio means it has limited range, without using repeaters.
- No published APIs to enable integration with other systems (though the interfaces have been reverse engineered and published on-line).
- The remote control capbility has a dependency on the LightwaveRF server in the cloud.
- Currently limited to 8 rooms only.
- LightwaveRF is the only developer of the hardware, which has limited the range of devices and its growth.
- Automated Home have done an in-depth review.