And make sure there are plenty of colors, too… and not too expensive.
LIFX is a forthcoming smart lighting system that, in a way, reinvents the light bulb. It's an LED bulb controlled by an app that allows users to remotely adjust the brightness and hue of the light. It can also be set to a timer, or coordinated with other LIFX bulbs to create specific mood lighting. Oh, and it's programmable.
If at first this sounds silly, you haven’t thought about it hard enough. Once the third-party market takes hold, the possibilities are pretty much endless. Here are some ideas the people at LIFX have worked on: remote operation, automatic on/off switching, music visualization, security system integration, even a “sunrise” program that gradually brightens a room when you wake up. Furthermore, the app that works with LIFX allows users to delegate specific bulbs to create lighting systems that control groups of bulbs—or an entire room.
Of course, that kind of control is going to cost you a shiny penny. Each bulb costs $79, making it an extravagant gadget for folks who aren’t actively planning parties, organizing events, or just showing off to the neighbors. But for artists, musicians, event planners, businesses, and well-to-do homeowners interested in a unique lighting system, this is about as cool as it gets. And the best part? LIFX is planning to release an API shortly, and already more than 100 third-party developers have registered.
I talked to LIFX’s Andrew Birt at CE Week, and he told me some household brands have expressed interest in integrating their platforms with a smart lighting rig.
“From alarm companies that want you to be able to simulate your lighting based on your real behavior when you're on vacation, down to simpler integrations like getting a light to notify you of events in real-time: your sports team scoring a goal, or potentially dangerous weather via an integration with weather applications—the possibilities really excite us.”
If you know anything about this fledgling market you know that LIFX is not the first “smart bulb.” Philips has a product called Hue that works more or less the same—it’s operated remotely, can change luminosity, and be set to a timer. When asked about the difference, Andrew explained that, unlike Hue, LIFX is hubless, meaning you don’t have to plug it into a router, or spend extra dime on the set-up.
“You just buy one bulb, plug it in, and you're good to go,” he said. “When you add new bulbs the software passes through the credentials via mesh, meaning one-time set-up for hundreds of bulbs. The other major advantage is RGB-W, meaning brighter lumens.”
Either product is going to be expensive, especially if you want to deck an entire room with smart bulbs—let alone a house. Still, we’re interested to see how artists, musicians, businesses, restaurants, and home owners take to smart lighting—whichever brand is at the forefront. And, hopefully, demand will bring the cost down.