Smart Bulbs Bring Entertainment to Lighting
LED bulbs controllable by an app demonstrate the possibilities of merging lighting and electronics.
 
The new version of Philips hue allows its smart bulbs to act as "informational gateways," providing visual cues related to data such as weather, stock prices, sports scores, e-mail, social media and more.

A new generation of bulbs, dubbed “Smart” LEDs, provides more than just function; it takes entertainment seriously, too.

These bulbs fit into standard medium-screw sockets and are programmed through an app that is installed on a smartphone or tablet connected to Wi-Fi. For most, a “bridge” sets up the connection to the wireless router and sends signals to all of the bulbs connected to the system, allowing the user to turn the lights on and off, dim them, flash them, change the color, or set timers and alerts, all via the app.

“The key thing here is entertainment,” says Terry McGowan, the American Lighting Assn.’s Director of Engineering & Technology. “Merging lighting and electronics is a natural fit, especially with LED, but people aren’t using these smart bulbs to read by, they’re using them for the control and decorative effects they’re capable of.”

According to McGowan, the capability to change the color of an LED white light product is a powerful feature of these smart bulbs. Users can easily select their preferred warm or cool color temperature and change that preference at will. The light output of smart bulbs on the market now is in sync with the LED replacement bulbs for 40 or 60W incandescent equivalents, at roughly 400 or 800 lumens.  

Several companies offer Smart LEDs including Samsung, Greenwave Reality, Insteon, iLumi, LIFX and Philips Consumer Luminaires, which launched its highly-buzzed-about and recently updated hue system through the Apple store in October 2012.

The team behind LIFX launched a Kickstarter campaign in September 2012 and raised more than $1.3 million in funds, far exceeding its goal of $100,000. McGowan says this is a testament to the fact that people are ready for this product in the marketplace.

“I think because many lighting showrooms don’t know what to do with a smart bulb and because they don’t see the demand for it, they’re not interested in carrying it,” McGowan explains. “Part of my job is to make sure showrooms are aware of trends and technology like this and to make sure they’re making an educated decision about whether or not to carry a certain item. If a showroom specialized in a product like this it could be a real draw for consumers who have heard about it and want to try it out.”
 

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