Smart Light Bulbs Help You Save Money


Our phones are getting smarter. Our thermostats, as well as the rest of our houses, are getting smarter. Cars are smart enough for some functions to be operated by voice command. Why can’t we have a smart light bulb?

The Origin of the Vocca Light Bulb

We’ve been interacting with our light bulbs through some sort of mechanical switch for more than a century, although it is probably the most inefficient way to control it. We took a step forward in the ’80s, (or was it the ’70s) with that hilariously forward-thinking device that used audio signals to control switches and outlets.

We called that wondrous invention The Clapper. Remember? Just clap your hands to turn a light on or off. However, the Clapper was lacking in both elegance and efficiency. Make a sound resembling a clap and the attached switch or outlet would energize, sometimes at inopportune moments. The Vocca, from ActiVocal, takes that a step further into the 21st Century.

Using Smartphone Apps Is Unwieldy

There are a number of solutions out there that will allow you to control lights using your smartphone. However, these can be unwieldy, having to locate the app, then the proper page within the app. The people over at ActiVocal came up with the idea of using your voice to control lights. How cool is that idea? They’ve done that with their Vocca smart light bulb controller.

What Is the Vocca?

I’ve got to admit, the Vocca isn’t a smart light bulb, not really. In appearance it’s actually quite a bit like the light-activated sockets we used to use to turn lights on and off when it got light or dark. It’s a socket that is screwed into a standard E27 light socket and then has a light bulb with a standard base, LED, incandescent, or fluorescent, screwed into it. The standard E27 light bulb base is the kind you use in most light fixtures in your house.

How Does This “Smart Light Bulb” Work?

The Vocca base has a microphone built in. The unit is pre-programmed with a control word or phrase (Vocca, switch light), something that isn’t going to be said in normal everyday conversation. Once you have it screwed into the light socket and a bulb installed, just speak the “magic words” and watch the lights come on. If you don’t like the default control word, you can make your own. Imagine impressing your friends when you walk into a dark room: “Computer! Lights!” You won’t need a professional to install it, just your fingers. Be sure to use a tissue, napkin, or towel when touching the bulb, to keep the oils and acids on your fingers from reducing the life of the light bulb.

Sounds Gimmicky, Right?

Wrong! Ask anyone that’s walked into a darkened room full of furniture with their hands full of bags or boxes. I’m guessing that many of you have some similar experiences to recount. Maybe that darkened room was the basement with the light switch at the bottom of the stairs. Imagine taking your first step onto that darkened stairway and being able to magically illuminate your path down the stairs just by saying a word or three. Parents of young children can program the Vocca to turn on when the bedroom door is opened and the words “Mommy, I’m scared.” are spoken.

Vocca Doesn’t Take the Place of Wall Switches

Although you can, technically do away with wall switches using the Vocca switch, any light connected to a switch can still be operated using that switch. So, if you’re right by the light switch and need to turn the light on or off, you can. Also, the company states the microphone in the device has a range of about 15 feet, so if the light is more than 15 feet away from the switch, you’ll actually need the switch still.

Yes, There is Also a Smartphone Interface

We’ve almost gotten to the point where if something doesn’t talk to a smartphone it isn’t “fancy enough” or “modern enough” for us. The company advertises that they’ve also got mobile (Android and iOS at the moment) apps to control the Vocca with. This allows you to light up the walkway or house when you come home in the dark, since you’re going to be quite a bit farther than 15 feet from the Vocca unit in most cases.

I have to admit that their statement about the lights still acting normally with the light switch a little confusing. I’m guessing that the light switch has to be left in the on position for the device to work, unless remote power has to be run to it, which makes their statement about no professional help needed incorrect. I’m guessing that you would have to turn the switch off and then back on to override the Vocca device. Looking through their site, they have a couple of pretty cool looking products that I’m going to think about for my parents.

Photo Credit: Mob Mob