LIFX Developer Zone

Ultimate LIFX house

I’m in the process of building a new house and I plan to use over 100 lifx bulbs throughout.

12 x Colour 1000’s
12 x BR30’s
60 x GU10’s
73m of Z Strip
5 Beams

I’m planning to install a killer Unifi system for the most awesome smart/automated home.

Anyone have any experience/advise for a house with so many lifx devices?
I’ll post progress with the build here.

I put 170 A19 lifx in a house in high hats with 15 UniFi APs. Don’t put them in high hats.

What is a high hat and what happened?

I used IC-rated halo ceiling fixtures that have a wide variety of trim(s). Insulation Contact rated cans are a metal cylinder (that you see) embedded in a metal box. So basically a light in the cylinder part could be on fire (a 2700k filament is running at 4440°F) and be well contained because the cylinder doesn’t contact the enclosing box. A Lifx bulb in a metal can inside a metal box might be legal but tough to get wifi in there.

So when you ask Lifx support “what kind of ceiling fixture should I use” they respond:

I can’t comment on fixtures, but I can comment on considerations re: network architecture.

NB: This is not a brag, just background, so you’ve context, challenge where necessary, ask questions, or engage in deeper discussion that may be of benefit.

One thing about LIFX: they are noisy as hell. I need to review the LAN protocol in more detail but one thing is for certain: I am not going to be using the LIFX app other than to onboard lights. Even the HomeKit/Google/Amazon integration will be offloaded, namely to Home Assistant.

This numerous advantages, not least, I can basically use any component I want from any vendor, including devices I create myself from the very same boards that are in LIFX largely (ESP32/ESP12) and it’s all harmonious (in theory).

What you need to begin thinking about is how you’re going to deal with that many clients.

I’m not going to get into a pissing match about which access points are better other than to state this from my own evaluation of Ubiquiti: the APs use OEM (that is, off the shelf, same as an ASUS or Netgear) design. Their schtick is ease of use, not density. They’ve no original patents when it comes to radio design or programmable radios. Basically in a noisy, 2.4G environment, with 802.11ac Wave 2 MU-MIMO being our best available IEEE standard right now, I don’t think Ubiquiti is a good choice as I’ve personally ripped them out of deployments because 100 clients across three APs was bringing the 2.4G spectrum to its knees.

If you’re going with Ubiquiti, buy the absolute best AP they sell: Ubiquiti UniFi AP AC HD. That’s an 802.11ac Wave 2 MU-MIMO 4x4:4 spatial stream AP.

Also note that 2.4G is an extremely limited spectrum with three non-overlapping channels: 1, 6 and 11.

Advice from the LIFX team has been to:

  • Use 20MHz channel width only (or you’ll get even less than three channels).
  • If >3 APs ensure you’re limiting your cell size or your APs are smart enough to adjust their tx power dynamically.
  • Turn off WMM (Wireless Multimedia Extensions).
  • Use separate SSIDs for your LIFX lights that are segmented into broadcast domains (i.e., separate VLANs) with separate subnets. I have four SSIDs with discrete subnets and VLANs just for LIFX, and I block access to the external cloud API as I leverage Home Assistant / HomeKit to remote control them (I can’t imagine how much they must hammer LIFX’s web API when remotely accessed).
  • Learn what IGMP is and implement it as per best practice for your switching and APs (hint, it optimises multicast and frees up precious air time).
  • Don’t allow flooded broadcasts between subnets.
  • Do allow directed broadcasts or you’ll have trouble with light discovery.
  • You’ll need a firewall, APs, or a dedicated service that runs Avahi that has an interface in every single SSID you create so mDNS is propagated correctly or you’ll have issues with light discovery and HomeKit won’t work at all.
  • Consider Home Assistant and use the LIFX component, using the app for onboarding only (you probably don’t even need the app if you’re handy with a scripting language to leverage the LAN protocol or API).
  • Subscribe to the beta firmware channel. There have been some recent improvements that should (I haven’t tested them) make improvements for large installs and also stop the app from polling as often as it does, tying up precious airtime.
  • Understand every knob your APs/controller/switches are capable of turning and specifically what they do.
  • Do not turn on features you don’t understand. If something is enabled, then read the manual, ask questions, speak to the vendor or reseller you purchased your kit from until you do understand it.

I’d budget 30-40 clients max per AP, and yes I know the figures Ubiquiti quote. Marketing nonsense and a technical impossibility (e.g., 500 clients per AP with a reasonable expectation of performance).

Grab Net Spot or a similar piece of wireless survey software. Aim for -35 to -60 dBm, preferably -55. It’s hard to achieve, but with a pre-survey before purchase you’ll have a good heat map of where things are at and might even decide that Ubiquiti is the wrong product for you.

I’m currently redesigning my network arch and I’ve 100+ connected units (i.e., 5 tiles = 5 connected units, 1 x Z controller = 1 connected unit, 1 downlight = 1 connected).

Basically anything that consumes an IP address.

After a site survey of the new place my family moved into, literally three times the size of my old house (double storey, 800m^2), I need four APs to cover indoors and a fifth for outside.

Initially I was going with wireless mesh, but much to my surprise given their reputation and a handy find that there is such a thing as Ethernet of Coax, I’m using a combo of TP-Link AV2000 Ethernet over Power (I get around 1.5Gbps) and Actiontec MoCA 2.5 Ethernet over Coax that uses the existing TV coaxial cabling linking upstairs/downstairs, giving me the perfect wired backbone to place the APs (mesh would’ve been fine mind you).

I went with Ruckus R720 WAPs, I used to have a mix of R600/500s but MU-MIMO Wave 2 was a must given 802.11ax is not ready for prime time (which is a shame as it solves a lot of interference issues and specifically focuses on IoT improvements).

Irrespective of whether I went R720s or something cheaper, I surveyed my house using several models of AP, most Ruckus, but bottom line is I need four units minimum (I worked for Brocade for 3 years and I’m happy to challenge anyone to find a better AP - I’ve tried Meraki, Ubiquiti, Meru, Xirrus, Cisco Aironet, you name it, Ruckus wins).

This is to service a network of approximately 200-300 hosts (devices with an IP address, both wired and wireless) that include lighting, other IoT, micro services via containers in k8s, monolithic VMs, three WAN links (two cellular and one HFC) and 20 ARM64 Odroid HC2s to form a GlusterFS cluster.

If you want to talk about high-end kit, the R720 is about as high-end as it gets with a street price of $2200 per AP (I paid around 25% of that). They are 802.11ac Wave 2 MU-MIMO 4x4:4 and are specifically designed for IoT (you can get a USB Zigbee/BTLE module that plugs into the WAPs USB port). To give you an idea of how big these bastards are, they weigh 1.2KG / 2.65 lb compared with my older generation Ruckus R500/R600s that come in at 25% of that. Basically, they are up to the task.

I come from a network and wireless engineer background and my day to day is being a “generalist” - I’m a solution architect/sales engineer. I live and breathe infrastructure, cloud-native, and more recently, IoT, with a specific focus on making the “smart home” a reality.

Smart to me = invisible tech that does what I program it do to flawlessley with minimal intervention and services that are capable of self-healing (ergo service mesh).

I’m also inclined to build my own stuff, so Aliexpress is my favourite website on the planet :slight_smile:

Soldering iron, BGA rework kit, hot glue, 3D printers, Xiaomi kit, Raspberry Pis, you name it.

Basically I’m not your typical consumer, on the other hand, I’ve done little to help others in similar situations to my own because it didn’t seem that too many people (if any) were discussing sizeable installs. There might be some posts I’ve missed (in fact there definitely are) as I don’t often post, but I’ve been a LIFX user for over two years now.

The trouble started when I hit around 40 units and just got worse from there.

I have a mix of every single product that LIFX sell, or have sold in the past.

3 x 5 Tile Kits, 2 x Beam Kits, 10 x Z controllers, 56 100mm Downlights, 10 GU10, 10 A60+, 10 BR30+.

I gave my LIFX Minis to my friends that were anti-IoT as gifts for their new born kids. They are now too LIFX fans - it’s amazing what a dimmable bulb will do to a person.

At present, my wireless is down as I’m deploying a new design.

My LIFX exclusively were misbehaving badly (non-response, latent, or otherwise just unreliable, especially when it came to automations). I had a single SSID with all the lighting on it and it was sitting at around 80 connected lights.

I could see LAN commands going out and the lights doing nothing in response.

Effectively I’m on the same journey as you right now and am happy to discuss or answer any questions you may have. I’ll probably start a github project to be honest, as documentation, IP management, testing etc., all needs to be standardised and if I can create useful collateral, or better yet, tooling/best practise guides in the process for those with bigger installs, all the better.

2 Likes

OMG!!! Your reply is totally awesome!

I’m no where near as techy as you, but I’m learning fast. I need to re-read you reply/advise a few more times, then I’m sure I will have some sensible questions.

Good luck with your project. I’ll keep posting progress here for now.

Good luck with your project @NoVolumeSwitch.

How did you solve the “switch” problem which you discuss a while back in My Wife will remove all LIFX bulbs if I don’t get a Proper Switch!?