Adventures in making with Milight

milightI got a Milight smart LED lightbulb last week for a project I’ve been working on.

Out of the box, the Milight quickly lived up to its marketing description: “Milight is an incredibly, smart, energy efficient, multicolour LED lightbulb that can be controlled by your smartphone.” Setting the light up is extremely simple as long as you follow the instructions carefully. Obviously the light doesn’t have its own screen so there are a couple of steps involved in getting it connected to your WiFi network. Once it’s connected you can download an app which allows you to turn the light on or off remotely, to set its colour and brightness and fire off some pre-set disco effects. I did learn one lesson on the way that’s worth sharing: I bought a cheap clamp-on lamp for the bulb from the local $2-shop, it’s made of metal and it took me far too long to realise that the metal shade was blocking the WiFi signals to the bulb.

I went for the Milight simply because it is relatively cheap. For $80 on Ebay I got a bulb, a remote and the required WiFi bridge as a package. If I wanted to add on more bulbs I wouldn’t need another remote or WiFi bridge. Now I know that’s not a cheap light bulb but I bought it with a specific project in mind, and it’s a lot cheaper than buying the Philips Hue package which does pretty much the same thing but is several times more expensive.

So, to the project. You see I have a brother-in-law who lives in Spain and regularly calls on Skype. Because the computer he calls has headphones attached, we regularly don’t hear the ring and miss his calls. Thus my thought was to make a light flash when he’s calling. It was a good thought, but didn’t turn out as neatly as I would have liked. The Milight, it turns out, does not play nice with either Zapier or IFTTT – and that would have been a clear advantage in buying the more expensive Hue which has endless recipes available on IFTTT. Anyway, I then dug into a drawer and pulled out my poor, neglected Ninjablock. In theory the Ninjablock has an app that works with the Milight, but it appears that I’m not the only one neglecting the Ninjablock so getting it working through the forlorn and unloved dashboard proved beyond me.

In the end I had to go for a poor workaround. I wrote a web page with a big button on it for my brother-in-law to press when calling us. That, via Zapier and the Ninjablock, turns on a WiFi enabled wall switch which fires up the bulb which is pre-set to the disco-flashing mode. It’s not as neat as I want but it works.

So as a general comment if you just want a WiFi connected bulb I can recommend the Milight. But if you’re looking for something to do some easy making with it’s probably not your best bet – it will do everything you can envisage if you’re prepared to do some real programming, but there’s no simple and neatly packaged making solution.

And my project in action? Friday night and my brother-in-law pressed the button in Spain. That set off the flashing light here in Sydney… which was entirely ignored by my computer-game-playing children. So the project for this week is to modify the system so that when the button in Spain gets pressed it sets off a siren, or perhaps turns off the kids computers…

By the way it’s worth noting that the Milight is also marketed as the Easybulb and the Limitless LED, as far as I can see they are all exactly the same thing. That’s handy to know when looking for instructions and help.

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