Interview: why adding inexpensive WiFi lights to the Innr zigbee smart lighting range?

9 minutes à lire

WiFi range October 2020

More and more affordable products are penetrating the market dominance of premium suppliers like Philips Hue and Innr. This increases price pressure on the European market and flattens market entry barriers.

Some of the users are content with the basic functions of smart light. Basic functions are already provided by lamps with a WiFi module. The advantages are obvious: users do not need any Zigbee bridges and therefore smart, inexpensive solutions appeal to bargain hunters and people with a controllable light requirement of less than 10 lamps.

Signal icon WiFi

What new is that the WiFi market segment is currently the focus of the Dutch lighting expert Innr. In the demanding sector, Innr still relies on Zigbee solutions and prefers them, but also relies on product offers whose systems can be controlled immediately via app. What opportunities and risks are associated with this?

We talk to the two Innr founders Rob Timmer and Jeroen Dalderop about the background to adding WiFi products to the proven Zigbee portfolio.

Q: The announcement of Innr’s WiFi products comes as a surprise to outsiders. Since when has the plan existed to offer more or less in-house competition and which target group does Innr have in focus?

Our market research shows that most buyers of Zigbee lamps use them in combination with a Philips Hue system. So they expand their existing system. But we also see that there is a growing group of consumers who do not yet have smart lighting. They are interested in smart lighting, but do not immediately want to invest in an expensive Hue system. This is therefore a different target group, which is also more price sensitive. These consumers prefer to buy a few affordable WiFi lamps first, for which they do not need a bridge. This way, they can try to find out how smart lighting works for them, without any effort. Innr would like to be able to serve this second target group with a solution.

Q: Innr is a constant in technology-oriented markets such as Germany. Isn’t this position endangered by the fact that you are also entering the low-budget segment and thus technically downgraded? Will Zigbee technology remain a fixture?

Indeed, we see in Germany that Zigbee is the dominant system. We also expect it to remain that way. Because users who plan to install a lot of smart lighting are always best off with Zigbee. Innr’s product range will therefore always continue to emphasize Zigbee. We now offer an opportunity to enter the world of smart lighting even more easily for new users.

WiFi Bulb colour E27 features

Q: In which areas do Zigbee products remain superior to those that communicate directly with the router via the app? When is it advisable to include cheaper WiFi lamps in a purchase decision?

Zigbee products do not use your existing WiFi network, but all your Zigbee products together form a separate mesh network. In such a network, each light transmits the wireless signals to its neighbour. For example, a light that is very far from the bridge will still receive all commands via the other lights. The more lights you have, the better the Zigbee mesh network will be.

This works differently with WiFi. Each light talks to the router separately. And the more WiFi lights you have, the busier your router will get. As a result, Zigbee is always preferable for large systems. But if you only planning on having a few smart lights at home, WiFi is a great and easy alternative. Our advice is therefore to use WiFi up to systems of ten lights. But if you use or want to use more than ten lights, we recommend Zigbee.

Very important: if you start with Innr WiFi lights, you can later expand your system with a new Innr bridge and Zigbee lamps. The WiFi and Zigbee lights can then both be operated with the same new app we’re launching with the WiFi lights, you won’t notice any difference.

Q: Are the new WiFi products comparable to the Zigbee line in terms of hardware quality? Do you only differ in the modules used?

The Innr Zigbee lights don’t just have another wireless module. They also have better lighting specifications than the Innr WiFi lamps. They can more beautiful display different grades of white and the intensity of the colours is even better than with WiFi.

Q: Will today’s products be available in both flavours? That means: are E27, E14 and GU10 light sources in white and RGB versions planned?

We will start with two types of E27 bulbs (White and White & Colour). In the near future we will also offer E14 and GU10 colour lamps in our WiFi range. We keep the range a bit more limited than in Zigbee, because our advice remains that users with a large lighting system are best advised to choose Zigbee.

Innr for WiFi app iPhone

Q: Will the well-known Innr app be expanded to include WiFi functionality or how is it designed?

Innr has developed a completely new app for WiFi. For now, this app is exclusively to control the Innr WiFi lights. In 2021, we will launch a new Innr Zigbee bridge. With this new bridge, also the Zigbee lights can be controlled with this app. From that moment, you can seamlessly use the new app to control Zigbee products with an Innr Zigbee bridge combined with the Innr WiFi bulbs.

Our system is not based on Tuya. We have two main reasons for this:

  1. Tuya is simply not good enough for enlightenment. Think of important functions, such as being able to adjust the lighting in an entire room at the same time. Or comfort functions such as a wake-up function. This is not possible with Tuya. But our mission is that we make the comfort of smart lighting accessible to everyone. That is why you will find such functions in the Innr app.
  2. We find the lack of privacy protection at Tuya unacceptable. If you use Tuya, you accept that your data will be used by third parties, and that your data may also be stored outside the EU. In addition, you automatically agree to an agreement under Chinese law.

We find that intolerable. If you use the Innr app, you have an agreement with Innr Lighting in the Netherlands. We promise that your data will not be sold to anyone and that your data will remain on servers in Germany.

Q: What general improvements can I expect with a new Innr app? For example, are lighting effects planned?

Naturally, we have also built in new light effects in our new app. Think of a wake-up function where you wake up comfortably with the light of a sunrise. First warm red, then increasingly whiter and brighter. But we also have some fun light effects, such as the effect of a fireplace.

But more importantly, the app is now much more focused on making the comfort of smart lighting as simple as possible. So that you have the perfect light in your home all day long. For example with automations, scenes and routines for getting up, working, relaxing and sleeping. But also with a complete program that automatically activates those routines. You can easily adjust that program to your daily routine with a few clicks. Since many people are expected to work from home, is this more relevant than ever

Q: How will the European market shares be split this year with regard to Zigbee and WiFi basis? What distribution do you expect in the next two years?

Our data shows that Germany is a real Zigbee country. This standard has an 80% market share in Germany. But in the UK, WiFi now makes up 50% of the market. Also in the USA we see that WiFi is now bigger than Zigbee.

We expect that WiFi will initially grow even further, because many affordable entry-level products work on WiFi. But if consumers want to provide their entire home with smart lighting, they will end up with Zigbee products again. That is why we expect that the market for the better smart bulbs, smart luminaires and smart switches will also continue to grow, and that products in that segment will mainly work on the basis of Zigbee.

U:Product ManagementInstallation Manuals - Z30 versionsFL 120 C en FL 140 C US versions

Q: Signify is also targeting the WiFi market with its Wiz Connected brand. How does Innr position itself in the competitive environment? What are the advantages of Innr solutions from the consumer’s point of view?

Signify has purchased a platform with Wiz that works completely separately from Philips Hue. Wiz lamps cannot be combined with Hue lamps, there is no ‘upgrade route’. Innr has opted to create a single platform for both WiFi products and Zigbee products. You can now start with a few WiFi lamps and if you like it, expand it next year with an Innr bridge and Zigbee garden lighting for example. You can then operate both products in the same app, without noticing a difference in use. The Innr system is therefore more expandable and future-proof. We see that as an important advantage.

WiFi Bulb white E27 2-pack compostition

Q: The Innr brand is known to a broader group of buyers in the Netherlands, the German-speaking area, France and England. Should the expansion to include WiFi products also have a leverage effect for expansion into other countries, such as the USA?

Absolutely. Innr has built up a good position in the market for Zigbee lighting in recent years. We have found that WiFi products are very popular in the markets where Innr is not yet very well represented. Such as the USA for example. We see the WiFi range as an important weapon to build a stronger position in those countries as well.

Jorg Mühlenberg- PR Executive