The world in which ordinary household articles can interact with you via the Internet has come closer with several manufacturers introducing Internet-connected smart light bulbs. They are expensive, but are much more than the traditional bulb consisting of a loop of wire that heats up.
Containing LEDs and miniature computer processors, they produce light efficiently and emit exactly the light you want at any particular time. Depending on the manufacturer, the system can put the kind of control rock bands have over lighting in your living room and let you change the light bulb settings, even when you’re not at home.
Smart Light Bulbs
The smart light bulbs fit into your regular sockets and need no special connections. The Next Web reviews the Philips Hue bulbs while Wired has a review of GreenWave bulbs. They are about the size of regular light bulbs, but contain LEDs to produce light. LEDs need low voltage DC power, so the body of each bulb has the required electronic power supply.
What makes these LED bulbs smart is the computer chip that controls the power supply and that has an antenna linking it to your home WiFI network. You need a wireless router and a High Speed Internet connection to take advantage of all the features of the bulbs. Once you go through a simple setup procedure, you can access the smart light bulbs from your computer or mobile device and control how they work.
The smart bulbs have the same high efficiency as other LED lights. Regular light bulbs have to heat the filament to produce light, so they waste a lot of energy. LEDs produce light electronically and don’t produce as much heat. Typical LED lights use about one-fifth to one-eighth of the power of incandescent bulbs, so 8-watt LED lights offered as smart bulbs are the equivalent of 40-watt incandescent bulbs.
The timer controls on smart light bulbs bring complete home automation one step closer. You can program the bulbs to switch on and off automatically, but unlike regular bulbs, you can switch them on and off by accessing the system via a website over the Internet.
If you’ve programmed your lights for your time away from home but your plans have changed, you can change the timer settings or turn the bulbs on and off manually. You can also vary the timing, so the house appears more lived-in.
All smart light bulbs systems let you vary the intensity of the lights remotely, but some also let you choose the light colors. They come with a remote control, but are designed for operation from your computer or mobile device. Typically you can log into a control panel that allows you to vary the brightness of each bulb and the color it produces.
Some systems have pre-set moods such as “beach” or “sunset,” which adjust groups of smart bulbs with a combination of colors and brightness that mimics the light you might expect for the pre-set theme. They allow you to create your own pre-sets and save them, or adjust bulbs individually.
Even more important than efficiency for some applications is the long lifetime of the bulbs. Depending on how much you use them, LED lights last between 15 and 30 years. When the cost of replacement light bulbs and the work of replacing bulbs in difficult-to-reach locations is factored in, these relatively expensive bulbs can make economic sense.
For applications where you need different colored lights, installing the type of smart LED bulb that can change color lets you choose a semi-permanent installation rather than one with easy access for changing bulbs.
Smart Light Bulbs Advantages
A typical convenient use of the smart light bulbs could be if you are sitting at home doing work on a tablet computer. As darkness falls, you might want to turn on a few lights and you can switch on a white light from the tablet. Later you switch to a book and you can use your tablet to switch to a warmer, but brighter, light.
Still later, a partner might join you and you can switch to a more romantic lighting with your tablet. When someone arrives, you can switch on the outside light for them. If you have to go down to the basement, you can switch on the lights before you go, and not have to find the light switch in the dark.
While these applications may seem trivial, there are additional possibilities in store. Some systems allow you to add other devices, such as smart plugs. With a smart plug, you can control any device or appliance. Eventually builders may be able to save substantial amounts by eliminating switches altogether and only running power cables through the home. Switching will be wireless and you can switch everything on and off from wherever you are, or use a wireless switch that you can place anywhere within your home.
Smart light bulbs are smart for the environment, smart for you and smart for everyone.
Photo credit: Wi2_Photography