Things I wish I’d known before I bought Ikea's TRÅDFRI smart lighting

I don’t think much of Philips Hue. I bought them thinking I’d like them, but they had a few problems that I ranted about:

    • If you turned them off at the power, when you turned them on again they came on at full brightness.

    • To use the app on your phone, you had to give up a lot of privacy. For instance, you had to give the app permission to take photos any time it wanted as well as let it know your exact location at all times. And while Android says apps should ask for permission only before taking the action, and should handle being denied permission gracefully, the Hue app just asked every time it started, and it quit if it was denied any permissions.

Now, lest you think I’m a grumpy old curmudgeon (OK, I am) who hates everything, Ikea’s TRÅDFRI are a joy in comparison. Really, unlike Hue there’s not much I wish I knew before buying them.

The TRÅDFRI Gateway Kit costs £69 which is comparable enough to what I paid for the Hue kit (and it comes with a dinky wee remote control that would cost extra with Hue). But the Ikea stuff is better, and simpler.

For a start, the bulbs remember their settings when they’re powered off. This is a big deal - Philips obviously want you to spend a fortune on replacing all your existing switches, but the Ikea system just works with what you've already got.

The app does ask for camera permission so it can scan the QR code on the back of the hub. But you can disable the permission immediately afterwards and the app doesn’t complain, or you can just deny permission to the camera and enter the code by hand. I’ve tried both on different devices, and neither has complained about not having access to the camera after setup. Nor has it ever asked for location access on either device.

I can see why someone said TRÅDFRI was ‘IoT done right’. They've got a lot of things right - including a lot of the security stuff. Unlike Hue, it’s just not designed to be accessible from the internet. If you want to use the app, you have to be on the same local network. Simple and effective. You can set up schedules for the lights to come on when you’re away, but you won’t be able to control the lights remotely.

I like that approach. I can control things remotely if I really want using my Raspberry Pi. There’s no API documentation as far as I know, but the wonderful geeks of the internet had discovered it uses standard protocols, and then gone on to figure out the proper parameters, and setting up a couple of bash scripts to turn my lights on or off was trivial.

Overall I’m pretty impressed with the TRÅDFRI system, even if I'm still not sure how to pronounce it.

Tags: Weird Interweb Stuff
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