Here's a Bright Idea: Smart Bulbs for Better Lighting

A normal lightbulb tends to come in 1 colour and one brightness level. But now new LED (light-emitting diode) lightbulbs promise to become any colour and any brightness at any moment you prefer. And best of all, they may be controlled by the phone from your pocket.

The current generation of long-life bulbs — these squiggly tube bulbs — are frugal with electricity and last quite a while. But the colour they cast can be harsh and cold, not always what you need lighting your house.

The capacity to personalize color can dramatically improve an area’s look, your state of mind and your own performance, for lack of a better word. Studies indicate that light can influence mood, productivity and eyestrain. By optimizing your lighting for your activities in the area — reading, working, relaxing, enjoyable etc — you can actually live better and enjoy your own house longer.

LED bulbs are reduced energy and continue for decades. And a few of the most innovative ones are actually enjoyable to use.


Philips Hue Lightbulb Starter Bundle – $199.95

Offered from the Apple Store, the Philips Hue LED three-bulb starter package includes three bulbs, a base station and an ethernet cable to attach them to the network.

These bulbs are all controlled with an app available for iOS and Android devices. As soon as you fire up the app, an automobile find feature finds the bulbs that are plugged in, and you can pair them much as you might pair a Bluetooth headset to your phone.

One the installation is done, you can use your cellphone to turn the brightness of each bulb up or down, and alter the colors by dragging your finger over a picture. You can even place each bulb on a timer, to flip on and off when you choose. One fun but useless feature is that when you shake your phone, the selected bulb changes colour randomly.

You can also save your colour schemes into the cloud (on Philips’ website). Or you can pick from one of four Philips colour schemes.


LIFX Lightbulb

LIFX is another interesting phone-controlled LED lighting idea. The developers are attempting to get funding via Kickstarter, so the item is neither accessible today nor sure to hit the market at all. But the developers say they will have bulbs available on the market in March 2013.

LIFX bulbs screw into regular lightbulb fittings however possess their own built-in ability to attach to a home’s Wi-Fi system. Like the Philips merchandise, LIFX bulbs are all expected to encourage both iOS and Android phones.

The programmers say that they also aim to create bulb-controlling software for Windows and Mac. The included smart phone app would enable you to personalize lightness, colour and timing. The bulbs may even pulsate to the beat of music, the creators state.

LIFX bulbs have no base station; installation is simply screwing them firing up the app.

Lumen Smart Bulb

Yet another crowd-funded project is named Lumen, which includes the Lumen Smart Bulb.

Lumen differs mainly in its networking. Rather than communicating via a house Wi-Fi system, the system interacts with the bulb right over short-range Bluetooth standards. That means that you would not control it from a distance over the net. But in addition, it means the cost would be lower.

A connected iOS app would provide four presets: Party Mode, Sleep Mode, Wake Mode and Ambient Mode. You would also use the signature interface to run your finger over a colour palette, using the bulbs altering color so.

What Is Next for Smart Lighting?

The most interesting thing about smart bulbs is that software companies are able to make all kinds of interesting software to control them. For instance, envision a digital flash application that replaces the camera flash on your phone. You can set it to decorate all the bulbs in the area with white light right now that you take a picture.

Another likely app idea is that you can take a picture of a page at a magazine or somebody’s real house and essentially tell your lightbulbs: “Give me lighting or colour scheme.” And here is perhaps the best idea of all: Designers can create lighting colour schemes you can download to try in your own house.

The bottom line is that smart bulbs turn your lighting into an app. And also the thing about programs is that anything is possible.

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